Exploring online consumer curation as user-generated content: A framework and agenda for future research, with implications for brand management

Jessica Babin (Department of Marketing, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, USA)
John Hulland (Department of Marketing, University System of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)

Spanish Journal of Marketing - ESIC

ISSN: 2444-9709

Article publication date: 6 November 2019

Issue publication date: 20 December 2019



Some consumers are engaged in online curation, a type of user-generated content, in ways that can be impactful for brands. An example of online curation includes organizing themed collections of product images on Pinterest. The purpose of this paper is to present a framework of online consumer curation, introducing this topic to the marketing literature.


Through the analysis of the business and academic literature, as well as a careful study of many examples of online consumer curation, the authors present a framework for understanding online consumer curation.


The actions taken by online consumer curators are similar to those of museum or art gallery curators: acquiring, selecting, organizing and displaying content for an audience. The motivations for consumers to engage in online curation include building/displaying their identities and making social connections with their online audience. One outcome possible for the audience that views the curation is gaining access to carefully selected and recommended content.

Research limitations/implications

As online consumer curation is a new area of research, the authors suggest several marketing- and brand-relevant propositions that can be addressed in future research.

Practical implications

As consumers are frequently using product images and brand symbols in their online curation, it is important for marketing academics and practitioners to understand their actions.


The aim of the paper is to present a thorough introduction to the idea of online consumer curation by outlining relevant examples, providing a framework for understanding this activity and its implications for brand management, and listing ideas for future research.


Algunos consumidores se dedican a la “curación” en línea, un tipo de contenido generado por el usuario (UGC), de manera que pueden ser impactantes para las marcas. Un ejemplo de “curación” en línea incluye la organización de colecciones temáticas de imágenes de productos en Pinterest. El propósito de esta investigación es presentar un marco sobre la “curación” del consumidor en línea, introduciendo este tema en la literatura de marketing.


A través de nuestro análisis de la literatura académica y empresarial, así como del estudio cuidadoso de muchos ejemplos de “curación” de los consumidores en línea, presentamos un marco para comprender la “curación” de los consumidores en línea.


Las acciones realizadas por los “curadores” son similares a las de sus homólogos en museos o galerías de arte: adquirir, seleccionar, organizar y mostrar contenido para una audiencia. Las motivaciones para que los consumidores participen en la “curación” en línea incluyen construir/mostrar sus identidades y establecer conexiones sociales con su audiencia en línea. Un resultado posible para la audiencia que ve la “curación” es obtener acceso a contenido cuidadosamente seleccionado y recomendado.

Implicaciones teóricas

Como la “curación” en línea es una nueva área de investigación, sugerimos varias propuestas relevantes de marketing y marca que pueden abordarse en futuras investigaciones.

Implicaciones prácticas

Como los consumidores utilizan con frecuencia imágenes de productos y símbolos de marca en su “curación” en línea, es importante que los académicos y profesionales de marketing comprendan sus acciones.


La investigación presenta una introducción exhaustiva a la idea de la “curación” del consumidor en línea describiendo ejemplos relevantes, proporcionando un marco para comprender esta actividad y sus implicaciones para la gestión de la marca, y enumerando ideas para futuras investigaciones.

Palabras clave

“Curación” del consumidor en línea, Comportamiento del consumidor en línea, Contenido generado por el usuario, Gestión de marca



Babin, J. and Hulland, J. (2019), "Exploring online consumer curation as user-generated content: A framework and agenda for future research, with implications for brand management", Spanish Journal of Marketing - ESIC, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 325-338. https://doi.org/10.1108/SJME-07-2019-0053



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Jessica Babin and John Hulland.


Published in Spanish Journal of Marketing – ESIC. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode

1. Introduction

The word “curation” has escaped the art gallery and museum hall to find its way into common vernacular. Examples of curation by consumers are easily found, especially in the online context, where consumers are carefully selecting and displaying content. For example, people can curate vacation photos on Instagram, a wish list of gift ideas on Pinterest, a selection of favorite mystery novels on Goodreads or a playlist of road trip songs on Spotify.

Curation previously referred to a specific function within the world of arts and museums; a traditional curator is tasked with preserving art history, selecting new art pieces, and making choices about arranging and displaying art (Jeffries and Groves, 2014). Curation, as it is defined today, has much in common with the original meaning; curation refers to the act of “selecting, organizing or presenting options (e.g. online content, merchandise, information, etc.), typically with the use of professional or expert knowledge” (www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/curate).

As the word has gained in popularity, it raises the question of why curation, both as a term and activity, is trending. First, the rise in attention paid to curation can be partially attributed to the data overload that characterizes today’s world, with more information available online to consumers than any individual is able to examine in a lifetime. Curation provides a response to this overwhelming amount of content on the internet as curators simplify the information search process for others (Van Buskirk, 2010).

Further, as a response to the vast amount of data available, much of the internet has become algorithmically-based. The vast majority of what consumers find online, including product recommendations, suggested social media connections and search results, is driven by algorithms (Bhaskar, 2016b). Writer Ben Yagoda (2011) explains, “‘Curating’ the word and curating the phenomenon suggest a welcome recognition that some situations demand expert taste and judgment.” Thus, curation is a response not only to the overwhelming amount of data available on the internet, including product options and brands but also to the algorithm-driven world that has developed as a result of that data. Curation adds back a human touch, including subjective judgment, into a world that has become oversaturated (Bhaskar, 2016a).

Consumers have an interesting and important role to play in curating content online, an activity that can be relevant to marketers. With a focus on marketing-relevant curation, we are most concerned with curation related to products and brands, rather than other types of content (e.g. news). Consumer curation related to products and brands is a specific type of user-generated content (UGC). Online UGC covers a range of activities, including posting on social media (e.g. Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets), leaving a review on a retailer’s website (e.g. Amazon product reviews) and uploading a consumer-produced advertisement (e.g. YouTube beauty vloggers) (Smith et al., 2012).

Consumers who engage in online UGC can also be categorized as influencers or opinion leaders. However, consumer curator is a distinct sub-category of online UGC participants. Curation differs from other types of UGC; inherent in the activity of curation is the combination of brands into a single display, rather than offering a standalone opinion on a brand, as is the case with other types of UGC (e.g. Twitter tweets and YouTube product reviews). Despite the attention given to UGC in the literature, very little academic research has addressed specifically addressed consumer curation. Outside of marketing, some work has touched on the relevance and consequences of online curation activities for news/journalism (Villi et al., 2012) and tourism (Miralbell et al., 2014).

As a type of UGC, consumer curation is important to study with a focus on both the curators and their audience. By understanding consumer curation, a firm may be able to uncover better metrics of its brand engagement, to see brand associations held in the minds of consumers, and to identify potential firm partners for future co-branding. Curators act as recommenders of content to others, so a focus on the viewing audience is also important. A study of consumer curation would allow firms to understand how their brand image is, perhaps, being impacted by online curation or to identify influential curators with whom to partner for sponsored content.

In this paper, we define online consumer curation as the process of acquiring, selecting, organizing and displaying one or more items of online content for some audience. This definition of online consumer curation is informed by both the classical definition of the term, used solely within the museum/arts world, and the expanded meaning of the term used in modern conversation. Using this definition of curation, we introduce the phenomenon of online consumer curation as it relates to marketing by providing several relevant examples. Then, we propose a four-step process of online consumer curation (i.e. acquiring, selecting, organizing and displaying content for an audience) and discuss motivations for consumers to engage in curation activity, potential outcomes for the audience, and the role of firms as facilitators of curation. Research questions related to online consumer curation and its implications for marketing and branding are also provided to spur future research.

2. Examples of online consumer curation

Though consumer curation can exist in the physical world (e.g. consumers assemble outfits and decorate their homes), we focus here on the digital world. Examples of online consumer creation abound. Much of this online consumer curation takes place on social media sites (e.g. Instagram and Pinterest) but it is not exclusively a social media phenomenon. Below, we provide several examples of consumers actively curating images (both photography and online images), text and audio files. These examples include curated product images on the online forum Reddit, social media site Pinterest and social shopping site Polyvore, as well as curated songs on the music streaming application Spotify. These four examples in particular have been selected to highlight the different platforms where consumers are curating (e.g. social shopping sites and entertainment streaming applications), the different types of content being curated (e.g. owned products and desired products) and a range of ways that the content is presented (e.g. personal photography and internet images).

It is important to note that examples of consumer curation include both those who have a financial incentive to produce curated content (e.g. a sponsored post on Instagram) and consumers who curate for free. For some social media influencers and celebrities, it is possible to monetize their curation efforts but we still consider this consumer curation, differentiated from firm curation (e.g. Zara’s page on Pinterest), which we will describe in more detail later.

2.1 Everyday carry

On one thread of the online forum Reddit, 196,000 subscribers share their “everyday carry” (“EDC”) items, the essentials including pocketknives, pens, and wallets that they use (and carry with themselves) daily (www.reddit.com/r/edc). Users not only post a photo of their arranged assortment of items (i.e. curated displays) but also comment on one another’s chosen items. This type of curation differs from other examples of online curation in that the consumers actually own the items that they curate. The EDC phenomenon exists outside of Reddit as well; for example, on the website Flickr, a photography-sharing website, one page devoted to EDC has close to 2,000 members (www.flickr.com/groups/901575@N23).

2.2 Pinterest

The most popular curation-based social network site is Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/), which allows users to organize boards consisting of collections of “pins,” typically photos or other images (Griffith, 2015). Pinterest allows users to not only curate pins to serve personal organization purposes but also to send social signals to others (Hall and Zarro, 2012). The popularity of this site has inspired some social media research. For example, Lamberton and Stephen (2016) highlight the increasing number of consumers who curate product recommendations on sites like Pinterest. Curators portray their unique perspectives by displaying interesting content for others to see (Zhong et al., 2013). Thus, consumers may undertake curation efforts to assist fellow website users in discovering useful or enjoyable content from the great amount of existing online content.

2.3 Social shopping websites

In addition to social media platforms (e.g. Reddit and Pinterest), one significant area where consumers are actively curating is on social shopping sites, websites that combine online shopping and social networking (e.g. Polyvore, Fancy and Wanelo). On such sites, consumers are often able to select and organize (i.e. curate) fashion products into themed lists/boards, interact with one another’s curated content (e.g. providing likes or comments), and either purchase directly on the site or “click-through” to make purchases from a retail partner. The phenomenon of “social shopping” sites has been ongoing since the mid-2000s (Tedeschi, 2006). Not a uniquely western phenomenon, consumers across the world are active on social shopping sites (e.g. LimeRoad in India). In 2014, the top 500 retailers earned $3.3bn from social shopping, a figure that is likely to increase (Smith, 2015). Further, the reach of consumer-curated displays extends beyond the specific social shopping sites as curated lists/boards can also be shared on other social media sites. Some research has addressed consumer activity on social shopping sites. For example, Olbrich and Holsing (2011) find that curated fashion collages (called by these researchers “styles”) enhance consumer browsing behaviors on a social shopping site.

2.4 Spotify

Not only are consumers curating products but also they are curating other types of digital content, including music. Spotify is a streaming music application with 170 million monthly active users and 75 million paying subscribers (Spotify, 2018). One important feature on Spotify is user-curated playlists, of which there are over 2 billion (Popper, 2015).

3. A consumer curation framework

Careful examination of many consumer curation instances suggests that the curation process entails four significant steps as follows: acquiring, selecting, organizing and displaying content for an audience (Figure 1). First, a consumer acquires the content to be curated from different places on the internet. Second, he/she carefully selects the specific items of content to be curated. Third, the consumer organizes the content into an assembled grouping. Finally, the curated content is displayed for an audience. After discussing the four steps of the consumer curation process, we detail several possible motivations for consumers to engage in curation. We propose that the main motivations for consumers to engage in this curation activity include crafting a personal identity, displaying/presenting a personal identity, and social interaction.

The steps of acquiring and selecting are both concerned with what the consumer is curating. Online, examples can be found of consumers curating all types of digital content, namely, photographs of their owned items, brand images, product images, text, audio files (including songs) and video files. Consumers are actively displaying items they have purchased (e.g. Reddit EDC), curating items they wish to own (e.g. Pinterest “wish list”) and also arranging digital content for the benefit of others (e.g. Spotify playlist for a yoga class).

Both organizing and displaying, the two final steps in the consumer curation process, are concerned with where the curation will take place. A consumer must decide if he/she wants to post on a public website (e.g. Reddit) or on a private account on social media (e.g. Instagram account set to private so only he/she approved followers will see it). Interestingly, the size of the audience can impact what a person would choose to share. Barasch and Berger (2014) find that consumers broadcasting to a large audience are more likely to act in self-preservational ways, sharing content that makes them look good.

3.1 Acquiring

Though consumers have a greater ability to curate online than ever before, the behavior of consumer curation, beginning with the step of acquisition, is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the precursor to the modern museum, the original home of the curator, is “kunst- und wunderkammer,” (cabinet of art and marvels), a display of thoughtfully gathered and arranged curiosities. Such cabinets were popular in the homes of Europeans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, to display their acquisitions from the worlds of art, nature and science (Koeppe, 2002). In the same way that people in the past obtained unique articles for display in their homes, people today have the ability to carefully select and display the objects, entertainment, and general content that surrounds their lives (Rose, 2013).

Online, consumers can curate images of items regardless of whether they own the item. In examples of consumers curating their owned items (e.g. EDC on Reddit), it is interesting to note that this four-step process begins with purchase, rather than ending with purchase as an outcome, as is the case in many consumer behavior models. For other types of online curation in which the items are not necessarily actually owned by the consumer, he/she may gather content from many different places online. For example, on Pinterest, one can curate with items that have been used by others on the site or pull in images from elsewhere on the internet (e.g. retailer’s websites).

This first step of curation has some aspects in common with collecting behavior (e.g. collecting art or coins), though it differs in several important ways. In both collecting and curating, consumers may be concerned about acquiring items, perhaps, as a reflection of their identities or taste. Some research has begun to differentiate curating from collecting. For example, Min and Williams (2017) contrast curating versus collecting physical items and find that curators have different acquisition and display goals, relative to collectors.

3.2 Selecting

The items that were acquired in the first step are then carefully sifted through as the consumer selects the ones chosen to move forward in the curation process. In doing so, this selection process reflects a consumer’s qualitative taste or judgment as he/she chooses specific items (Rosenbaum, 2011; Bhaskar, 2016b). Content curators are not the producers of content but rather use their particular point-of-view to select content created by others (Villi et al., 2012). Thus, in the step of selection, the consumer is using him/her subjective judgment to choose items, which then reflect his/her taste and skill at curation.

3.3 Organizing

Once the pieces of content have been selected, the consumer must organize them into an assembly. This “organizing” step of the curation process, in which the curator works to assemble multiple items together, is undertaken privately, in advance of the public posting of the curated display.

In addition to the acquisition and selection steps, in which a consumer can demonstrate his/her taste, the consumer can also portray creativity in assembling the content. For example, on Polyvore, consumers show a lot of creativity in the way they arrange the curated outfits, sometimes even including text (e.g. an inspirational quote), images (e.g. celebrity) or other non-fashion accessories for the outfit (e.g. Starbucks bottled Frappuccino).

By assembling items together in the creation of a display, consumers are creating associations among the pieces of content that they curate, including brands. When consumers post a display online with more than one brand, it can have an effect like cobranding, creating relationships between brands (Schau and Gilly, 2003). Thus, juxtaposing brands in this way can be consequential. A heterogeneous mix of brands, including mass market and luxury brands together, can be more revealing, an opinion expressed in Harper’s Bazaar by Jenna Lyons, the previous president of J. Crew (Wolfe, 2008).

3.4 Displaying

The outcome of curation is a display of some kind that is visible to either real or implied others, though displays can differ in terms of how publicly they are presented. Consistent with the original museum context of the activity of “curation,” the outcome of curation efforts by online consumers can also be termed a “display.” Museum curators are charged with arranging and organizing displays to connect with and inform visitors to the museum. In the same way, curating consumers spend time and energy to create displays for the possibility of benefitting or influencing an audience, which is the implicit goal of curation.

3.5 Motivation

The above four-step consumer curation process begs the question, why do consumers engage in curation behavior? As mentioned, some consumers monetize their efforts (e.g. social media influencers who are paid by the company to promote products) but many consumers are performing this curatorial work for free. Thus, what utility are consumers receiving from spending their time and energy to curate? Research into similar online activities to curation (e.g. engaging in word-of-mouth online, posting on personal websites) and research into peoples’ relationships with branded content point to three main motivations for consumers to curate online as follows: crafting a personal identity, displaying/presenting a personal identity and social interaction.

People carefully choose to surround themselves with objects, including digital content, to craft and reflect their identities. In particular, the importance of consumers’ relationships with brands to their personal identities has been studied in depth by marketing researchers (Fournier, 1998; Ahuvia, 2005). For example, consumers can use their brand choices to construct an identity (Escalas and Bettman, 2005). Belk (1988) asserts that issues of identity are essential in understanding consumption, and that one’s possessions can be a way through which a person uncovers and defines his/her identity. In this way, one’s identity is constructed through the curation of particular products or brands. Similarly, one of the founders of Polyvore, Pasha Sadri, explained that curating an outfit is highly integrated with a consumer’s identity (Jacobs, 2010).

Because curating is about using one’s qualitative judgment, it communicates something about the curator’s personal or social identity. Thus, the literature on self-presentation (Goffman, 1959) and the construct of the extended self (Belk, 1988) is foundational to understanding curation behavior. In an update to the idea of the “extended self” for the digital age, Belk (2013) re-affirms the importance of the extended self-construct in modern times; for example, the ability of consumers to publish their music playlists online turns the private act of acquiring music into a public act. Indeed, people have the ability to publically express their identities to a wider online audience than ever before. Schau and Gilly (2003) also invoke the literature on self-presentation in their study of the motivations for creating and maintaining personal websites. Thus, it has been established that online activities, including curation, can be motivated by the desire to display one’s identity.

Finally, because of the inherent social aspects of curation (displays are intended for an audience), social connection is a final important motivator for consumers to engage in curation. We can turn to research on online word-of-mouth (eWOM) to understand the social drivers at work in curation. A desire for social interaction has been found as the main motivation for participating in eWOM (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004). In a study of content providers on a site like Twitter who do not gain financially from their efforts, researchers contrasted two potential motivators as follows: intrinsic utility and inherent enjoyment of doing the activity or image-related utility, being motivated by others’ perceptions of the activity, akin to status seeking (Toubia and Stephen, 2013). Toubia and Stephen (2013) find that noncommercial users of Twitter are more likely driven by image-related utility. These results likely generalize to online consumer curation activities as well.

3.6 Outcome

Online curators serve as endorsers and recommenders of content (Villi et al., 2012). The outcome of a consumer curation as it connects with its audience may take two main forms as follows: serving as a recommendation for others to consume the same curated content and influencing others to also curate with the same pieces of content. For example, an influential display of curated songs (e.g. a public Spotify playlist) may lead to a viewer’s approval/enjoyment of the curated content (i.e. listening to it themselves) or the viewer’s mimicking behavior (i.e. using the same songs or artists in their own public playlists).

These outcomes raise the question of why an audience would want to view curations. Holt (2002, p. 87) explains that due to time and energy constraints, consumers are turning to “cultural infomediaries,” noting that “consumers want to author their lives but they increasingly are looking for ghostwriters to help them out.” People want access to the best content, from the overwhelming number of options available and may seek curations to uncover it. As mentioned previously, much of the internet, including product recommendations on retailers like Amazon.com, for example, is driven by algorithms. Researchers have found that exploring links (e.g. YouTube videos) recommended by a person’s social network leads to more efficient and enjoyable search process, rather than just following algorithmically-induced recommended links (Goldenberg et al., 2012). Thus, the human aspect of curation can be important as well.

4. The role of firms in consumer curation

Curation by firms may play a role for some consumers in helping them to craft and display their identities. Several researchers note that it is becoming increasingly important for marketers to recognize their role in facilitating consumers’ “identity projects,” a term often used by researchers in discussing the construction of personal and social identities (Deighton and Kornfeld, 2009). Brands can provide the cultural materials necessary for consumers to use in their identity projects (Holt, 2002).

Within the world of consumer curation, we can see the use of brands and products as building blocks to build or reflect a consumer’s identity when they are used in curations. In this way, firms offer themselves as facilitators for curating consumers. One example of firms being helpful facilitators of consumer curation can be found on social shopping sites, where firms can not only upload images to the platform of their items to be used by curators but also can try to engage consumers. For example, brands can hold contests that encourage consumers to curate using their item images. One example of this is the brand coach, which sponsored a curation contest on Polyvore. There were 3,692 entries into the contest that garnered over 100,000 “likes” (Corcoran, 2010).

5. Suggestions for future research

Above, we outlined the four-step consumer curation framework and discussed the motivations of the curator, outcomes for the audience, and the role of firms as facilitators. The following suggestions for future research are focused on the relevance of this topic for marketers and brand managers. Given the limited research to date on curation in marketing and the growing importance of this phenomenon, we propose several areas worthy of further inquiry, categorized into those more relevant for strategic brand management or consumer behavior.

5.1 Strategic brand management

  • Firms may also be able to uncover consumer preferences for particular products from online consumer curation. The fashion brand Diane von Furstenberg used consumer behavior information from a contest they sponsored on the social shopping site Polyvore to identify items with the most potential to be popular in the upcoming season (Corcoran, 2010). Research should address how closely online consumer curation maps onto product purchases, to provide direction for firms hoping to use this metric. This would add to the literature on tying social media activities to actual purchases (Yadav et al., 2013).

  • Research could address the possibility that curating consumers may have a higher level of brand engagement with the brands they use in their curations, one of the many positive outcomes of interest to firms. Olbrich and Holsing (2011) suggest that such activities can build brand awareness and product loyalty. As curation activity is a behavioral metric, visible to firms, it would be possible to then gauge attitudinal measures by this visible behavior.

  • We suggest that one way for firms to bring value to consumers (and can also benefit the firm) is by helping facilitate curation. However, much remains to be discovered regarding how firms can be appropriate and efficient facilitators of curation, especially operating in consumer-centric social media spaces, where much of the curation activity is taking place. Firms should move forward with the caveat that social media is a consumer space, not originally intended for brands (Fournier and Avery, 2011). Research can address “best practices” for firms wishing to participate in curation.

  • Inherent in the activity of curation is the combination of brands into a single display, rather than offering a standalone opinion on a brand, as is the case with other types of UGC (e.g. Twitter tweets and YouTube product reviews). Knowing the other brands and products alongside, which the focal brand is often being curated should be of interest to marketers. Marketers desire tight control over their brand image (Park et al., 1986), which can certainly be affected by the ways in which it is being used in consumers’ curation activities. This type of research would also add nuance to the UGC literature, as consumer curation offers a different lens through which to view the potential impact of UGC when it includes more than one focal brand/product.

5.2 Consumer behavior

  • One very interesting way in which the use of brands online differs from offline use is that consumers have no financial or physical constraints in using brands to express themselves. Though consumers can curate items they actually own, they are not constrained to do so, giving them greater freedom to use any online images of products or brands that they choose to express their identities (Schau and Gilly, 2003). Thus, researchers could study how consumers choose to express themselves without the limitations that previously constrained offline curators.

  • In addition to studying the impact of curation behavior on the curator himself/herself (e.g. increased brand engagement), research should address the impact of curated displays on the audiences that view them. The motivation for curation also includes influencing others in presenting themselves with products or brands, possibly inciting mimicking behavior. Thus, the ways in which consumers are curating displays may affect not only the curator himself/herself but also the viewer of the curated display.

  • Curation is about adding qualitative judgment to the careful selecting and arranging of content created by others. By choosing specific items to include in a display and arranging them in a certain way, online curators are portraying meaning through their choices (Blight, 2013). Thus, there is information portrayed through the act of curation (e.g. a demonstration of the curator’s style or taste). Further research can explore what information the viewing audience is gathering from a curated display.

  • We identified three potential motivations for consumers to curate as follows: crafting a personal identity, displaying/presenting a personal identity and social interaction. However, it would be interesting for research to probe the darker side of consumer curation behavior; perhaps, narcissism or hubris are motivations for some consumers to curate. Further, other personal factors may play into the decision to curate; further research can address individual differences that affect “who” is curating.

6. Conclusion

Curation as both an activity and a word is everywhere. Interestingly, the proliferation of the word “curation” has led to many commentators bemoaning the use (and perhaps, over-use) of the word. Simon (2012) explains:

In recent years, the word ‘curate’ has been plucked out of museums and pasted onto everything from cosmetics, furniture and fashion lines to recipes, music- and photo-sharing websites and cat videos.

However, as long as people face an overwhelming amount of information, product options and online content, the role of the curator will remain vital. Consumers can play a role in helping one another by uncovering the best online content, providing a quality filter as they sift through massive amounts of information (Rosenbaum, 2014).

The phenomenon of online consumer curation is very relevant for firms wishing to better manage brands and represents an interesting and understudied area of modern marketing. The study of online consumer curation is relevant to firms that wish to understand how their brands are being used by online curators (e.g. revealing brand associations) and what impact the curation activity is having on the viewing audience (e.g. influencing the brand’s image).


The four steps of online consumer curation

Figure 1.

The four steps of online consumer curation


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Corresponding author

John Hulland can be contacted at: jhulland@uga.edu