Why Third Party Content is Integral to Your Social Media Program

Whether you’re just beginning to build a social following for a small business or jumping into a robust, enterprise-wide social machine, the fact is that the most successful social programs present a balanced mix of messaging and content. As with the majority of things in life, repetition is boring, and yes, it will kill your social media program. It’s common sense to not harangue your audience with the same message over and over: “Follow me!” “Register!” “Buy this!”. Part of that is developing a multifaceted, “Always On” content strategy to feed your social channels  and an integral part of it is incorporating third party content.

Third party content, a.k.a. curated content, is content published on your social media channels that is not from your own website or blog. We’re talking about leveraging content that already exists, strategically choosing and curating the right blogs and articles to support your brand and key messages. The objective here is to move away from the “me, me, me” messaging that dominates so many brand channels and convey a nuanced feed of content for your audience to consume.

There are hard and fast rules when using 3rd party content such as you must always give credit to the author or publication, but that is obvious (or should be). The other rules aren’t always obvious, and they present the stumbling blocks that many social media strategists have run into when looking for content to populate a social calendar.

Rule #1: It Must Have Value

The first question to ask when considering third party content is: “Does this content offer something of value to my audience?” Users choose to follow brands on social media for various reasons beyond loving a specific product. Oftentimes, it’s because the channel delivers helpful advice and news that adds value to their own knowledge base. By taking the time to comment or offer industry insight on any given piece of content, you are also establishing expertise and credibility.

For example, if your organization is a cloud security company, the natural go-to for third party content would be articles and blogs that appeal to your audience: customers, vendors, and other cloud providers. Strengthen your bottom line – select content that discusses the safety of cloud storage, news items about advancements in the space, blogs on how to migrate your data into the cloud, and other such valuable targeted pieces of content.

Rule #2: Choose from a Reputable Source

The truth is that some sources are better than others, and you don’t want to stake your brand’s reputation on the word of an unknown blogger. Good sources vary by industry but you can always rely on publications like WSJ, New York Times, Harvard Businesss Review and other sources like business community websites such as Business2Community. Industry specific websites and publications can be great too, such as TechCrunch and Venture Beat. It’s important to ask yourself if aligning your brand with a particular source will bolster or harm your brand.

Rule #3: Consider Timeliness

Notice that here I said you must consider timeliness, instead of it must be timely. There is an important distinction because something can be timely without being brand new. There aren’t concrete rules about expiration dates when it comes to sharing 3rd party content, so use common sense. News items that report on specific events have a much shorter shelf life than articles or blogs solving for a problem that many people in your industry face. For the former, make sure it was published within the last two months. For the latter, I’d choose 6 months as the cutoff mark. The most important factor is not when a piece of content was published, it is what the message of the content is. Don’t get caught up in only choosing content that’s hot off the press and miss out on older, better content that is still very relevant.

Rule #4: Don’t Promote the Competition

It’s more and more frequent for companies to run sponsored content campaigns, where the blog or article is designed to position the organization as a credible industry leader while promoting a specific all to action. The call to action is often hidden or buried: “To learn more, register for our webinar…” “Read more of our findings in this whitepaper…” “Join me at this upcoming conference…” etc. If you’re in a hypercompetitive industry, it’s critical to comb through the copy carefully and ensure that you’re not accidentally promoting someone else’s agenda. Even if you don’t see a call to action, double check to make sure the author isn’t an executive from a competing organization.

Rule #5: Don’t be Afraid to Stray

Many companies are focused on developing products and services in hyper-niche markets, which means that there isn’t always a wide pool of third party content specifically about that topic. This is when it’s important to go back to Rule #1 and remember that social channels are all about your audience.

Say your organization develops cloud software for the human resources industry, specifically around recruiting. Chances are there won’t be 10 relevant, timely articles from reputable sources per week for you to choose from. It’s ok to stray from content that checks every single box. Go ahead and throw in content about the latest trends in recruiting even if it’s not technology specific, because it will be of interest to your followers who are HR practitioners. Choose news about cloud security, even if it’s not about HR, because it will be of interest to your CTO audience. See where I’m going with this? Casting a wider net will allow you to demonstrate the breadth and depth of the topics relevant to your audiences and organization.

Let’s Talk Tools!

I would be remiss if I didn’t include a short section around tools that will make your life easier when it comes to curating 3rd party content for your channels. Here are a few of my top picks:


Feedly is an all-time favorite tool of mine for finding timely articles on topics for you to share. On Feedly, you can find content and organize it by categories. Search using keywords relevant to your message, and Feedly will deliver a list of websites or blogs that have the content you’re looking for. You can then select the publications and create a curated follow list that automatically populates with the latest published content. You won’t ever have to manually check each website ever again!


BuzzSumo lets you research a keyword to find out what content people are sharing the most. When you know what content is most popular, you have a much better chance of overall engagement. You can also use the search results to see who else is posting about that topic, view your competition and track how others use social media.

Hootsuite Suggested Content Feature

If you’re already using HootSuite to organize and publish your social calendar, it’s only natural that you check out the Suggested Content feature. It’s designed to bring you the most relevant content from across the web and social media based on the topics you’ve interacted with in the past. HootSuite analyzes your Twitter post history and recommends relevant articles based on what you, your friends and followers have liked.

What are your favorite tools and tips for curating third party content? Share in the comments below!