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One Way to Automate Your Online Marketing Efforts

October 31, 2011
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/220628

One Way to Automate Your Online Marketing EffortsIf news breaks about your business or the industry that your business is in, you most likely want to react, and be seen reacting, to it as soon as possible. Companies try to stay on both sides of this web marketing race by being so-called "thought leaders" in their industries, producing complex, deeply-produced and ultimately pricey Web content that tracks industry and company news.

But this thought leadership strategy has a downside: Creating the content for even a modest blog is a full-time job, not to mention maintaining a Twitter feed and a Facebook page, while scanning the Web for news. But there is at least one tool that aims to streamline the way businesses produce and publish content to support their Web marketing efforts.

Curata is an online search curation and content posting tool that automatically gathers relevant articles and links from the Web and posts that content to a company's Website. It was launched last year, by Cambridge, Mass.-based marketing solutions firm HiveFire Inc.

Related: 10 Tips for Better Content Marketing

Considering how critical having an engaging Web news presence can be for businesses, we tested a trial version of Curata. For about six weeks, we applied Curata's capabilities to a sports technology blog we created ourselves by hand. Here's what we found:

What is it: Curata is a combination search engine and Web publishing service that digs out relevant nuggets of online information -- similar to how Google finds news items, but only more sophisticated. The site, which is hosted by Curata and operates similarly to popular web publishing tools like TypePad, allows for original company blogs and other content to be mixed with the found online material.

The service can then publish all this content back out to Facebook, Twitter, various email newsletter services and other content syndication tools. In our testing, we had Curata curate for sports technology news. And the service found relevant stories that were then published alongside our own blogs, as well as a mix of our Twitter feeds.

The service is managed with an easy-to-use Web dashboard. Simple search terms, relevant links for like content and other parameters are entered. Once set up, the company says it takes 20 minutes a day of human support to manage tasks such as adjusting search terms for best results, authorizing the publishing of articles found by the service and creating quick bits of original content.

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Curata isn't inexpensive, though. Pricing starts at $1,500 on a month-to-month basis, although that can be reduced to $1,350 per month with quarterly payments or $1,000 per month if you pay for an entire year in advance. This tool is squarely aimed at firms that can invest real money in Web marketing and could see Curata as a staffing or outsourcing replacement.

What's smart: During our test period, we found that Curata could explore the hidden currents of the Internet we scarcely knew existed. Day in and day out it fished the Web's deepest trenches and pulled out fascinating bits of news we did not find on Google, Bing or Yahoo!

Curata also has created a clean, simple and professional-looking Website with no special coding knowledge needed. It let us easily mix in our own writing and other material.

The learning curve also is minimal. We found Curata generated a lot of high-quality results with minimal trial and error, and was faster and easier than manually sifting through multiple RSS feeds, news alerts and searching for posts.

What's not smart: Curata curates and publishes nicely, but does it make you a legitimate thought leader? We're not so sure.

We found that Curata's basic functions -- including content search, Web publishing and the syndication of material over email -- were automatic. But we had to be careful that the material it found suited our readers. Particularly for specific industry niches, many of the stories Curata found were not relevant. And our sense was while Curata could find relevant industry news and post it to an attractive Website, it took real human effort to make sure the service stayed on message.

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The company says its search algorithms can learn over time to improve user results. It said results improve after about 50 posts on a given topic.

Another downfall is the process of migrating existing content to the Curata host site. If you have an existing company blog, for instance, you'll probably have to migrate your previous posts to the service by hand.

Then comes the big question: Does Curata really produce the deep, well-researched content that will legitimately impress potential customers? Though Curata can improve how content gets produced, high-quality original content will still need to be created, which takes effort and money.

Bottom line: Curata is worth a look for firms committed to establishing a thought leadership position online. But for the price -- a minimum of $12,000 per year -- firms might want to consider whether there is enough return on the investment. For smaller firms, Curata might be overkill and isn't a replacement for creating compelling, original content.