The Power of Curation: ShareThis’ Paul Lentz’s Checklist for Success

Mia Quagliarello / November 13, 2017

What’s the link between sharing and curation—and how can publishers of all sizes take advantage of the power of curation to get more eyes on their content? That’s what we discussed with Paul Lentz, SVP of Publisher and Business Operations for ShareThis, a widget that lets people share any content on the Web with friends via email, social channels, text message, etc. (Flipboard is a partner.) Lentz’s mandate is to help publishers grow and engage their audiences through social media; he believes curation is the underpinning of all that—”it’s how you build the component parts of what you look like to the rest of the world.”

But what are the components of the “component parts”? Lentz walked us through his thoughts and best practices, including what it takes to create content that audiences will love and want to share. With social traffic gaining on search traffic these days, it’s advice you can’t ignore.

✅   Share content to get a temperature on what works for your audience—then do more of that. Sharing helps publishers see what content is engaging people. “That’s a very powerful signal for content creators,” says Lentz. “It allows them to understand how to reach more people like that user and how to continue to serve the audiences they most want to serve.”

✅   Promote the act of sharing itself. ShareThis is all about enabling readers to curate on behalf of publishers. “Our advice to publishers is to make [the social buttons] really persistent—persistent within a scrollable page and non-invasive to the experience,” says Lentz. And don’t forget to be “mobile-first”—that is, build and share mobile-friendly and mobile-oriented destinations. “These simple things can be pretty impactful.”

✅   Get cozy with your social-referral data. “That’s going to tell you where your audience is congregating off of your property—and you want to meet them there,” he explains. Analyze what’s resonating with your Facebook audience, then use those insights to inform your future initiatives. Repeat for each social channel. “You can tell very easily if you have a user base that’s more of a lean-back, consume video kind of audience [versus an audience that’s more] lean forward, reading, clicking through articles or looking at info graphics and things like that,” says Lentz. “It’s about knowing the type of content you produce and where your audience tends to gather away from your property.”

✅   Watch social trump search. It used to be the case that search was the biggest back-door source of traffic to websites. Not anymore: shares from social networks are now gaining on search traffic.  “That’s been a pretty steep change in the whole publishing industry,” says Lentz. When he started working at ShareThis six years ago, he says a typical metrics insight would be: “If you’re not seeing half the traffic you see from search via social, you really need to start focusing on social.” And then in the last two years, he’s observed the conversation goes more like this: “Oh, your side-door traffic accounts for around 80% of your traffic and that’s all coming from social?”

✅   Stay focused on what’s right for your audience. Lentz cautions publishers not to overreact and fall for every new shiny thing that comes along. “You have a social strategy, stick with it!” he advises. “If you know your audience, you know where they’re gathering, you know the type of your content that resonates with that audience.”

✅   Think about the authenticity of the ecosystem around your content. “It’s all curation,” points out Lentz, “whether it happens to be original content that’s supposed to be news if you’re a news site, or the advertisement that goes alongside of it, or the next article they want me to read. It’s all in a package that ought to be relevant to me as a reader—it needs to speak from the editorial voice of that publication. And that is seamless when it’s done well because there’s resonance…When that authenticity is delivered, and in the right packaging for that platform, that is when you’ve really crushed it.”

✅   Ask yourself: Does it resonate emotionally? “It could be a product, it could be content, it could be a news story that I’m particularly attached to—it’s more about emotional connection than it is about any kind of either static or abstract quality,” says Lentz. “It doesn’t have to be an image, it doesn’t have to be video, it doesn’t have to be big text or little text—it has to be more about how that connection is made.”

~MiaQ is reading “The Career Guide