Harnessing the content community buzz

What can the past teach us about better content curation? Step up countryside-lore and a bee hive...

By: Nicola Robey,   2 minutes


Illustration by Clifford Harper/

Lassoing trends. Chasing the next new thing. Fixing our telescopes firmly forward. When it comes to curating a content community, it seems natural to have our sights set on pre-empting the future – whether it’s complex algorithms, audience analysis or delving into data. But what would happen if we were to look to the past instead?

Stepping away from modern day technology trappings, I spent an afternoon Feed with Red Sky at Night: The Book of Lost Countryside Wisdom, by Jane Struthers, delving into the traditional lore that has imbued our countryside for thousands of years.

This is thinking so far removed from our current mindsets that it’s sadly on the verge of extinction, as we paw at our phones with reckless abandon. But it’s also thinking we could still really learn from, to create better ways of working today and tomorrow.

My inspiration for this sprung from a fragile community, whose care and upkeep is laced with tradition and superstition, and whose very existence we depend upon to function in our modern world: the honeybee.

What does an antiquated apiarist approach have to do with curating a content community now?

Bees were relied on heavily in the past  – not only to pollinate crops and provide honey, but to make wax for candles so that people could see after the sun set. Because they were highly valued, a strict handling etiquette emerged. So what does this antiquated apiarist approach have to do with curating a content community now?

Here are five lessons adapted from beekeeping lore that we can bear in mind when handling our delicate content audiences:

Keep them in the loop: One of a beekeeper’s most important tasks was to keep his bees informed of any news that took place in the family – as it was deemed essential to keep them up-to-date. If a beekeeper failed to tell their hive about a wedding celebration (and of course leave them a piece of wedding cake), the penalty could be waking up to an empty hive and an unpollinated veg patch. The same is true of your audience. Keeping them regularly updated with your news, will help them keep you on their radar, building a valuable relationship.

A silent hive is cause for concern. Learn from the bees, and provide a constant hum of activity, in a regular content stream.

Make noise: A silent hive is a cause for concern, as it could mean that bees will swarm, whereas a constant buzz means all is well. So learn from the bees, and provide a constant hum of activity, in a regular content stream. Silence can make you look stagnant.

Be polite: If bees heard you swearing near the hive, it was thought they’d up sticks and leave. Unless you’ve built your persona on being edgy, like these guys, try to be polite. Especially when it comes to curating social media responses, always be courteous and understanding – there’s nothing worse than a negative response following a negative response.

Don’t compete too much: Bees know that everyone can survive in an environment if they’re respectful; that the garden has enough food for everyone, including other species. Which is why bees don’t compete head-on with each other. So instead of trying to directly compete with other businesses in your sector, why not mark yourself out by doing something altogether different? And appreciate that there’s room for everyone to flourish.

Be a sharer: When bees go foraging, they also pollinate crops, which continues the lifecycle of others.  So when you’re considering how much to share, be generous (and read Clare’s Feed on sharing discoveries). When other people benefit through your generosity you’ll reap the rewards, because they’ll come to see you as a valued and trusted source of information.


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