Content Marketing Needs to Create, Curate + Listen: 3 Ways Use Lists in Your Blog Posts

Last week, I responded to a comment post by @WordWhacker (Linda Bernstein) on a blog post on collaborative curation written by @Casudi (Caroline Di Diego) on her Inclined to Design blog.

I met Linda in New York this summer and we discussed how she could use Listly and despite this, she was asking where Listly sat in the Curation / Aggregation space.

I’d recently read several of Linda’s list posts, so I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t seeing Listly as a creation tool. That was my first revelation. Below are four creation list posts from Linda, from her work blogging on the boomer site They are “creation” because they are original content – they are not curated from other content (they do still involve choice, but all writing does).

Nick Kellet Nick Kellet
Listly Curator Listly Curator
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Creation Style List Post by @workwhacker

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I’d also had a conversation with Linda in #toolschat around using Listly as a tool to list the most popular Twitter chats. That example was really a crowdsourcing problem, for which Listly is also ideally suited. That was my 2nd revelation. Is it clear that Listly is collaborative? Is it clear Listly is a way to listen to your audience and let people contribute?

Linda is a writer, a blogger and a journalism lecturer. We’d talked about using Listly to capture input from her students.

Listly is about lists

Listly at its core is about lists. Lists are great for organizing, collecting and sharing ideas. Traditionally lists are static and personal.

We see people

  • Publish lists on their blogs.
  • Make Twitter Lists to curate listes of interesting people to follow.
  • Create video playlists and collections of slidedecks.
  • We see people bookmarking interesting links to help their blog research.

Lists are a very broad and flexible construct. That’s why we use so many lists to organize our lives. They fit the task.

Traditionally we don’t expect blog post lists to change over time. We don’t expect to be able to contribute or collaborate. In many ways that’s the core opportunity Shyam saw in creating Listly.

We are often asked to comment in blog, but the contributions are dispersed and duplicated across many comments. In this model there is no master list created. There is engagement, but collectively there is no reuable asset. Distilling all this free-form unstructured information takes time and effort – ie busy people don’t / won’t derive utility from these comments.

We focus on the utility of lists. We focus on removing or distributing the effort needed to manage a list.  We focus on Lists as a content marketing platform. We focus on unifying lists.

  • Lists as content curation.
  • Lists as playlists (slides, videos, audio, images).
  • Lists as ordered collections.
  • Lists as embeddable content.
  • Lists as suggestion boxes.

We focus on List Posts inside your blog posts and lists inside your web pages. We focus on interactivity and engagement. We aim to demonstrate lists are an essential content marketing platform.

Listly is not a traditional destination content site.  Our goal is to drive traffic directly to your blog/website. We’d rather you have the traffic than us, but you will always get additional traffic because your list content is hosted on Listly.

That should not be an alien concept to any content marketers. We all know the value of hosting our content on a media specific content site. We all know the value of using Youtube to host our videos. We know the value of using Slideshare to host out slidedecks. We know these platforms help our content get found.

The difference between Listly, Slideshare and Youtube is simple. With Listly, your content keeps changing after publishing. Slidedecks don’t change, videos don’t change. Listly lists keep changing. That is significant. It changes the lifecycle of content. It retains and grows your investment in content. To me that is one significant element of marketing nirvana. Listly keeps your content relevant, or rather the community does.

Unlike traditional HTML lists, Listly adds a unique twist – embedding, crowd contribution and moderation. We make lists into interactive, social, communal objects. They are highly reusable. We extend the traditional meaning of sharing.

We make your original content transportable and reusable. Lists are not just collections of links and abstracts of content, they are also content themselves. They can be embedded and they continue to change and be enhanced over time.

So I found myself seeing Linda’s struggle. How does Listly play a role in the tasks of Creation, Curation and Aggregation?

Appreciating psychology, human motivation and habit helps you get the maximum human engagement from your lists. That’s something I’ve learned from many conversations. What emerged from Linda’s questioning was the thought that we could be clearer on intent – or rather list makers could be clearer with their intent. Let me explain.

Three Options

When it comes to making lists, you need to keep it simple.  You need to let people know what you want and why. Be clear to communicate your goal. What do you need from your readers? Ask them one thing.

When making a List you also need to decide if what you want is to create, curate or listen.

Create, Curate & Listen 3 Ways Use Lists in Your Blog Posts

Creation: When you write this type of list, you are writing a list of thoughts. You are creating original content. You are using a list because lists are easy to skim and consume. Lists make great shareable content. This is classical creative writing. You don’t need to link to any other content, but of course you can. Sure people can still add to your list, but that’s hard. It will take a subject matter expert to contribute or someone with a deep passion for the topic.  This list can be designed as a complete story or you can solicit input to keep your list alive and relevant as time passes.

Here’s three example of creation lists

Curation: You are gathering, sorting and presenting a series of links to existing content and adding opinion and commentary in the process. This is pure curation. You are making choices and connections. You are leading your reader down a path. You are using existing content as your building blocks. You can extract quotes and titles from source content in accordance with fair use. Add opinion, but don’t expect massive crowd contribution unless there are obvious and simple suggestions or omissions. Of course if you curate a complete list of options you can ask people to rank and vote for their favorites.

When you create this type of list using Listly, people will get to play your content inline (in the case of videos or slide decks) or they can click on the link to the source content. If you are aiming to tell a complete story, don’t expect lots of contribution.

Here’s three examples of curated lists

Listening: You create this type of list when you are seeking feedback, you are asking for help, you are wanting people to contribute. You are seeking either or both content and opinion. Another term for this is crowdsourcing. Begin with just a token idea. A short list. It’s best to start with a couple of things on your list, because oddly, people don’t like empty pages. Nobody likes to be the first to comment, give them something to go on and you’re more likely to get them participating.

I’d been thinking about Creation vs Curation and how they vary, but I’d missed this third element – listening. Collecting feedback, asking questions, checking out priorities, seeking ideas. I guess some people call it crowdsourcing. I’d previously thought of crowdsourcing as different dimension.

Listening is something that Listly excels at. This post explains why.

Here’s three example of lists that listen

Many people use Listly more as a curation and as a crowdsourcing/listening tool. One mistake people make here is to put all they know into their list. They try to be helpful, but end up hindering. They leave no room for their community to contribute. It looks like the list creator doesn’t really want or need help. Of course, this could be the case.

List owners can mix “Listen” with “Creation” and “Curation”. This can be very confusing and can prevent you from reaching your goal.

But if you are asking for help, beware. People are sensitive to being asked for a contribution under false pretences. People sniff a rat, even if one is not present. They forget the basics of human motivation.

So when you do ask for help, do:

  • Leave room for the average person to be able to contribute.
  • Make it clear that everyone can contribute, not just the so called “experts”. Make your list accessible.
  • Clarify that you are trying to discover and validate what people want.

This approach works best when you pass more control and power to the community. Trust and give credit to your audience.

I covered a lot of this in a prior post: 21 tips on Crowdsourcing for Community Engagement. I hope I’m now adding a layer of clarity that was perhaps missing in this post.

Successful crowd contributions happen when people get input from many people early on. People contribute most to busy lists, just like everyone wants to go to the busiest restaurants. You create that type of environment by leaving people room to contribute. We all need room and freedom. We don’t like to be made to feel stupid of incompetent by being given too many parameters or guidelines so strict that you feel it makes your contribution useless.

It’s also worth noting that we contribute to people we like or admire. We help people who influence us, or people who we think could be influential in our world. Famous people will get more input. It’s just a fact of human nature. Also note that a great list can in itself be influential.

The Concept of Creation Lists

When I think about it, creation is a less common use case, I think that’s just a function of focus and time. But, I’ve been pondering why this is. Is this a product issue or an education issue? Are we simply not communicating this is a possible use? Are people just not seeing good examples to inspire them?

Listly is often discovered via embedded Lists on a variety of blogs or via SEO.  People copy the use-cases they see when they make their own lists. Since most of the lists that are embedded currently are curation lists, most of the new lists we see are also curation lists. I also think curating takes less effort and that impacts people’s behaviour.

Choosing Why You Make a List

The easiest step in list creation is deciding whether you will be creating, curating or listening. Our focus, in all three cases, is for you to embed your lists directly in your blog and for your to encourage others to do the same. Listly offers a simple way to distribute both your content and your data capture. You can listen to input on your list from anywhere where people embed your lists. The Create/Curate/Listen model makes it simpler to explain why you need to be clear in communicating your objectives.

You can take any approach you like, but if you want people to engage, it’s always better to keep it simple. Try to do one thing. Share your goals and people will know how to act.

The magic is that you can use one tool for all three tasks. My advice is that when you make a list, make sure it’s just one kind of list – with a single goal.
Some lists should focus on creation and sharing original thought, some lists should focus on curating the world as you see it, some lists are simply your chance to listen and to ask for feedback. You can get input and engagement on every kind of list, but if you have a clear goal, you will be more successful.

I’m glad I took the time to respond to Linda’s comment. It helped organize my thinking. Make sure you take time to think about the “room” you are leaving people. Think carefully about how people feel and what it will take for them to contribute. We all want engagement and contribution, but it’s easy to not think about the effort and the motivations. Make it easy. Take baby steps. Remember you are reteaching your community to contribute and not just comment on a blog post. Many of us are change averse.

For many people you need to repeat your story. You need to exist over time. People need to slowly diffuse an idea into their brain. They need to get comfortable, they need to find the time and they need motivation or reward.

How about you? What questions do you have about Listly that we haven’t answered yet?

NIck Kellet (130 Posts)

Nick’s ventures range from a visual segmentation tool sold to SAP, to an award winning board game. Today, Nick is co-founder of Listly, raising the profile of lists to be on par with Slideshare & YouTube.