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under constructionSometimes the hardest part of content development is finding something to say. You not only need content that engages and entertains your audience, but also something that communicates important brand messages and could possibly be of interest to new audiences. Whether your job is as a marketer, a social media manager or a blogger, building content that resonates with your audience is a constant need. Here are a few ways to conceptualize your content streams to help you develop relevant content more easily.

The good news? You don't have to work as hard on your content streams as you think you do!

 

By breaking your content into three development streams, known as the Three Cs or 3 Cs, you can better understand where your content is coming from, how you can keep your content mix fresh and interesting to your audience, and what content you need to create fresh and what you can pull from other sources. Let's break down the Three Cs of content: Creation, Cultivation, and Curation.

Creation

Content creation is the type of content development familiar to most of us. It's also the most mentally and creatively draining, and the most time-consuming, because it requires you to physically create all aspects of the content - message, words, images, everything. The tradeoff is, that like all things wholly-developed, it's also the most flexible. You don't have to worry about fitting someone else's ideas or messages to your audience. Creation, because it's coming from you as a marketer, social media manager, or blogger, should always be on-message. There's no concern about it being inappropriate for your audience, or difficult for them to align to your brand. Similarly, with created content that's "owned" by your brand, there's less concern that information contained within the content will be obsolete or feature broken links.

Cultivation

Cultivation is one type of content creation that fosters strong interactivity with your current audience, while simultaneously opening your brand to exploration by larger affinity audiences. Cultivated content typically relies on audiences to either provide direct input to the composition of the content, or to reply to cues within the content with their own responses. Popular examples of this are "mailbag" articles (audience letters/emails/posts regarding previous content), or topic articles (where audiences are given a topic or theme and asked to respond with stories/anecdotes/ideas related to the topic) for written content, and photo contests for visual content. Similarly, for social media, asking a question and encouraging followers to put their answers beneath the post or in a response post can encourage further conversation and ideas for additional or future content. Utilizing cultivation is an easy way of crowdsourcing information that is relevant to your users, making it a good tool for the content developer's toolkit, but it's not without challenges. Caveats with cultivation include making sure submitted content is appropriate for your audience and monitoring against violations of your brand standards and usage guidelines.

Curation

In any good museum, curators pull together artifacts compiled from several disparate or unrelated sources that tell a small part of a larger exhibit's story. In the same way, content curation can use materials gathered from other sources - news, current events, other brands, thought leaders, etc - to further enhance or build your company's brand story or marketing messaging. Curation requires careful consideration - after all, you don't want to put out curated content that could be misunderstood and inadvertently harm your brand - but if done well can be a great reinforcement of both created and cultivated content and a brand's marketing message.

Keeping a good mix of the Three Cs can help you keep your sanity while still ensuring your brand is pushing out interesting, relevant, and engaging content to your audience. By characterizing each content piece as either created, cultivated or curated, you can involve audience and the wider public in your community without losing sight of your main message. Content development with the three Cs give you the time you need to tend to those other Cs - Communication, Campaigns, and Community!