Footnotes: Content Generation and Curation

Last week, participants in the Detroit Social Media Academy learned about content generation and curation, a topic at the heart of any effective social media strategy. Above are the slides, and below are some important take-aways for thinking about your own content… Take a peek and let us know what you're up to when it comes to content creation and curation!
  1. Content is a connecting force. Think about the classic Jewish study model of chevruta: two people hover over a text, dissecting it, questioning it, comparing it to other sources and their own lives. In the process, they not only develop a deeper relationship with that text and Jewish tradition, but with one another. The text is the connector. That's what good content can do online, in a way that's broader, public, and potentially more inclusive.
  2. Always start with your goals. You have to know what you're trying to accomplish in order to choose the right content – and, by extension, the kinds of conversations – that will help you and your community get there.
  3. Always remember your audience. The people you are trying to reach have their own self-interest, for better or for worse. Practice empathy. If you can tease out the sweet spot, the overlap between what you want to accomplish and what they want for themselves, you'll be able to choose, develop, and share content that's both meaningful to your audience and relevant to your goals.
  4. Events as opportunities for content generation. Pictures, videos, and quotes are all quick, easy things you can grab at an event and make effective content. Think through what else might work for your event, who will be responsible for capturing it, and how you can share it.
  5. Crowdsourcing for content generation. It's important to be transparent about your intentions, but putting a question or enticing message out on social media, then using the responses as a blog post or as another type of content (collect images or links, turn the responses into a graphic, etc.), is a great way to build community and momentum online AND generate meaningful content.
  6. Blog parties for content creation. Some communities are experimenting with hosting IRL (in real life) parties specifically geared towards sharing and documenting stories. Again, you need to be transparent about your intentions, but getting together a small group (and a few laptops) for some wine, cheese, and storytelling can make for a fun opportunity to both build community on the ground and unearth great stories to share.
  7. Have evergreen/recipe content ready to share anytime. Much of the content we share is event or time specific; but having content that's appropriate anytime is a useful way to keep at the front of your audience's mind more often. That way, when you ask them to attend an event or give a donation, it's not coming out of the blue – they've already been in conversation with you and are ready to listen. Lists, recommendations, interviews, profiles, etc., can all be great options, but think about what might work for your community.
  8. Reframe what you're already doing. Be conscious about what you're sharing (get permission for photos, etc.), but anytime you can capitalize on the things you're already doing, or capture moments in real time (think mobile!), you're putting together an authentic experience for your audience and building trust.
  9. Content curation. A curator is a sense-maker. She's someone who knows what's out there, finds the best of it (again, based on her goals and her community), and puts it together in a way that makes a meaningful experience. This means sharing your voice, explaining key points, asking good questions, being attentive to the responses. It means being very aware of what's available and what might be useful to your community. Finding, framing, and sharing other people's content in a way that speaks to who you are and what your community wants is the real opportunity behind content curation. It's a fun, though sometimes challenging, way to build your reputation online.
  10. Curation begins with listening. Listen for good content shared by others. Listen to your community. Listen for responses and be ready and willing to shift and reset if something isn't working.
  11. Next steps? Time to try something new! Listen, plan, and jump in and have fun!

How do you create and find great content to share with your community? What else would you like to know about content generation and curation?

Carefully Curating Content


As a parent volunteer who is not at Shulamith School for Girls of Brooklyn every day, being admin of the school’s Facebook page is a fun challenge. Initially I shared interesting online articles, and links from Facebook Pages that I already followed, on topics I thought would interest other parents like me. After we were accepted to the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy, our Facebook Likes and interactions increased tremendously as I learned to curate, not just find, the content to share. We created a POST Plan that helped us figure out our target audience, and then used Facebook Insights to figure out which posts were most popular. We then created a schedule to post about those topics. 

Shulamith School for Girls of Brooklyn originally created a Facebook Page in 2012 to share photos of the recent school dinner. Posts were few and far between before we joined the Academy. As we learned from the Academy coach, webinars, and Sharefests, I began posting more regularly and began paying attention to Facebook Insights. (For more on using Insights to figure out which posts work best, see the fantastic article by another Academy participant, here:

Now I search for and save the images and articles that appeal to our parent body, our alumni and donors, and potential Shulamith families who want to see what our school is all about. So, in addition to posting photos of school events that our principal emails or shares via DropBox, I schedule carefully curated content 3 days a week. On Monday, our followers know to expect a Middot Monday post about encouraging positive character traits in our children. Tuesday Tips and Teachable Thursday posts are about parenting and education tips that families can use at home. Additionally, on Wednesday I welcome everyone who Liked the Page since the previous Wednesday.

I search for interesting articles all over the web. Three times a week I spend about half an hour visiting websites and Facebook Pages to look for new material for our Page. I started following educational tweets on Twitter, even though our school is not on Twitter yet. I curate stories from sites like Edutopia, HuffPost Parents, The New York Times,,, and even the IDF Facebook Page (because our school is uniquely Zionist in Brooklyn). When I find something that will interest our parents and other followers, I save the links to so I can track which links were actually clicked after I share them on Facebook. Keeping track of Insights and clicks helps me look for more of what our followers want to see. For instance, articles on teaching children about finances were viewed more than articles about the impact of the lack of sleep.

Like the other Academy participants, I also found that posts with photos or videos of our students were viewed, commented on, and shared more often. A Welcome Wednesday post can reach 75 to 100 of our followers. Adding a photo of six girls in the hallway boosts that to over 200 views. Vintage class photos from the 1960s-80s each received hundreds of views, and alumni reconnected on our Page.

Thanks to the JDS Social Media Academy, our Likes increased from 49 to almost 200. We’ve reconnected with alumni and watched new friendships form in Facebook Comments. When I go to school for parent-teacher night and other events, parents come up to me to thank me for sharing such interesting articles. They say they look forward to checking Shulamith’s Facebook posts every day. Carefully curating content pays off!

Tova Ovits is a freelance editor with a daughter graduating from Shulamith School for Girls of Brooklyn. She volunteered to be Shulamith’s Team Leader for the JDS Social Media Academy for the 2012-13 school year.

The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. The 2012-13 nationwide cohort of 20 schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation.  Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here this spring with the tag #jdsacademy

The 2013-14 cohort is currently in formation. If your school or community is interested in more information, please contact Lisa Colton.