Content Creation, Curation, and Aggregation: How are They Different and What's Best for Your Brand

    June 30 2021

    Content curation and aggregation are everywhere on social media. You’ve already seen it. Content curation can take the form of multiple people in your network resharing an infographic with a call to action. Content aggregation, likely in the form of someone resharing TikToks on their Instagram Stories, is what any brand, business, or creator crave: more eyes on their work – but only if done correctly. 

    But what’s the difference between creating original content vs. curation or aggregating content? 

    In this blog post, we distinguish between content creation, content curation, content aggregation, and the dos and don’ts to resharing content to ensure you’re following creative content ethics.

    Spot the Difference: Content Creation vs. Curation vs. Aggregation 

    Creating relevant, entertaining, and highly shareable content is a goal for any content creator. More than likes, social media managers and business owners want their content reshared to reach new audiences or customers. 

    However, there’s been an uptick in stolen content that’s passed off as someone else’s or not credited to the original creator. Not only does this unethical share affect the original creator and their work, but it undermines their authority in a space that’s already so hard to break through. 

    It is up to everyone on the internet to take the responsibility to hold themselves and other creators accountable for ethical content sharing. Here we distinguish between the three ways content can be created, curated, or aggregated. 

    Content creation is the process of generating topic ideas for your buyer persona, creating written or visual content around those ideas, and making that information accessible to your audience as a blog, video, infographic, or other formats. 

    Content curation is the process of finding, organizing, annotating, and sharing valuable and relevant content with your audience that benefits them.

    • Sharing of relevant content that interests your audience
    • Sharing content that drives engagement and keeps conversations going
    • Adding your opinion to the shared content along with a visual makeover

    Content aggregation is the process of gathering content from different sources online and putting it in one easy-to-find place; syndicating someone else's content that you found from their feed. 

    Understanding the difference between each content approach is important for your brand management. It ensures you maintain a code of ethics across your platform where creators receive the recognition they deserve. You gain credibility and authority for your thoughtful command of curation, and your audience derives value from your distribution and aggregation of content.

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    Understanding Creative Content Ethics

    With any creative process, it’s important to be mindful of what constitutes ethical creation. Ethical content management requires transparency and respect when taking inspiration from or repurposing content from a creator that isn’t yourself. More often than not, underrepresented or historically marginalized creators fall victim to creative and intellectual theft at the hands of larger brands –  who profit from reproducing or mimicking the lesser-known creatives’ work.

    With appropriate crediting, original creators can reach a new and or wider audience through the brand’s platform. But if you’re a creator, how do you get another account to give appropriate credit? We spoke with Gabby Layne, founder of the marketing agency Strut Communications, who shared this insight: 

    “The lines between inspiration, reference, and plain-out copying can become so skewed on social media. Many people don't quite yet realize how unethical it is to reshare someone else's content without their permission. I always recommend reaching out to the owner of the account directly to address the issue. Try to use this as an opportunity to educate them and kindly request for them to remove the post. If they are not responsive or refuse to remove the post, the next step would be to report it so that the platform can remove it.” 

    Thoughtfully citing content or inspiration sources is not only the right thing to do, but it fosters a community rooted in support, empowerment, and growth for all creators.  When we fail to credit the source of inspiration for our original content or share user-generated content, we unwittingly commit an act of erasure – marginalizing creative communities and jeopardizing their source of financial income, cultural influence, and creative integrity. 

    Best Practices for Ethical Content Management 

    If you’re looking to curate or reshare content on your own social media channels, here’s how to approach it thoughtfully. Here are our dos and don’ts for creating or sharing content. 

    Content Dos
    • Do ask the creator’s permission before sharing
    • Do credit the original creator, even if you change the design format, etc
    • Do tag the creator in the post and caption
    • Do add your own commentary or voice to complement the original content, i.e., a new original caption + creator tag
    • Do establish ethical parameters for amplifying any user-generated content on your channels 
      • Regular post - credit with tags should likely suffice; double-check with the original source 
      • Paid/promoted post - connect with the creator and discuss terms explicitly when the content becomes a part of a monetized campaign. Time limits and compensation for their work should be a part of the discussion. 
    Content Don'ts
    • Don’t rebrand a creator’s content as your own, i.e., changing a font or title, but maintaining undeniably similar elements 
    • Don’t post content if you can’t find/attribute the original creator. If you must, always include a call to action to the audience in a caption to help crowdsource origin or use a tool like Google Lens to find the origin
    • Don’t use others’ content to promote your own brand or campaign 

    Is All Exposure Good Exposure for Creators? 

    Not quite. Leading expert on content creation, curation, and aggregation –Gabby Layne – shared this take: 

    “All exposure is not good exposure by any means. If another platform shares your content to promote its own products or services that you will not get any profits from, that is not good exposure. If a platform that does not align with your core values shares your content, that is not good exposure. If a platform uses your content completely out of context to make statements or claims, you don't agree with or promote, that is not good exposure. In this age of social media, exposure is an important factor for creators to grow their businesses or be considered for opportunities. But that doesn't mean that exposure should come at the cost of the integrity of their work.”

    For additional help, Gabby shared some steps creators can take to safeguard their work from unethical curation and aggregation: 

    “Whenever possible, we should include our social media handles along with staying well informed about each platform's terms of use so we can know what rights we have in the event that our content is unethically used without our permission. For example, Instagram's Terms of Use state that users are not allowed to post content that violates someone else's intellectual property rights. This tells you that if someone does unethically use your content without your permission, you can report it to Instagram so that it can be removed.”

    Social media is a wonderful source of content inspiration and education but should never be used at the expense of another creator. To practice ethical content management, make sure you understand the difference between content creation vs. curation and content aggregation, give credit where credit is due, and hold others accountable who don't.  Ethical content management is just one of the ways to help ensure every creator is given the same opportunity and equity online.


    Gabby Layne is the founder of Strut Communications, a marketing agency that helps WOC entrepreneurs share their brand stories through content marketing and public relations strategy. To learn more about Strut Communications, check out her Instagram & website

    Learn more about Carrie Boswell, on PLANOLY

    Carrie Boswell

    Carrie Boswell is the Digital Marketing Content Specialist at PLANOLY. She is always finding ways to include pop culture and the Gen Z perspective into the content we create for marketers and small business owners.

    More by Carrie Boswell

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