In your and my line of work -" building effective communication possibilities by ensuring search engines become paths to our sites -- staying on top of the latest developments is just beneath good enough; we have to somehow stay ahead of the news, the trends, the rumors. A time-consuming job if ever there was one " and until you hit that big news item, a low ROI one at that.
Super Tech Consultants
Thats where bright people in-the-know come in. People Chris Brogan, Louis Gray, Dave Winer, Anil Dash, Darren Rowse, Gina Trapani, Jeff Huber (Google engineer), Jeff Jarvis (Journalism professor, blogger, writer at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism), and a slew of others.
Their job is to follow whats happening, listen to the rumors, get the facts " and then from there try to figure out if an upcoming social site like Diaspora is the next big thing, and youd better get ready, or not.
In short: they observe trends and the emergence of trends and use that knowledge to their and their clients best.
Theyre worth their weight in gold and although they dont actually charge that, they dont come cheap.
We have at least 30 of them working for us.
What They Do For Us
Spot trends. Scout the distant lands for technology today that will change how your customers interact with you tomorrow.
Talent hunt: they find some of the absolute brightest people on the web (which, in turn, we put to work for us again).
Share strategy improvements as they feed back top notch marketing advice. Improve our analytics by passing on what their teams of specialist said and do.
Find new, efficient ways to reach our (and your) goals faster, better by means of new tools they suggest.
How It Works
At least once a day I look into the hand-crafted communiqus from these tech consultants, industry leaders and other brainiacs.
Because every day those people scan and read hundreds of blog and news feeds " and share every item of particular interest. And they do so for free.
What I do is I open Google Reader.
You can receive news and blog feeds in Google Reader. Some infomaniacs show off just how many feeds they follow.
I follow hardly any.
Instead, my reader opens up on a page called People you follow.
Yup. I follow (that is: receive information from) 980 people " and I regularly add new experts to listen to.
When any of these people " all of them very bright " spot an item of interest in their reader, they hit a Share button which instantly sends the item to anyone whos following them. Thats me.
They can share the story as is or leave a note with it. In turn I can Like the story.
Between the Likes and Shares Google Reader learns what items I am interested in. It can then help me do my job better by suggesting news items and sources that might be of interest to me " or I can use that machine learning to have the items people share with me sorted not by First In, Last Out but By Magic (read: Google puts the stuff it knows you like first)
Items I choose to open are as various as Ask Better Questions (shared by Jonathan Fields; author, SXSW speaker, a practical business philosopher), Ex HP CEO Forgoes Severance; Lawsuit Avoided (shared by Breanne Potter, a very smart person who writes the wonderfully engaging Critical Thinkers), and Quora added Posts, a microblogging feature (shared by tech spotter Louis Gray).
The smartest people. The best content curation.
Spotting Importance & Hot Trends
Some items bubble by several times over a period of time. These are ehhh. maybe items but you notice how the item rolls through the group and how it keeps catching peoples attention; how people keep sharing it.
The really good stuff? One glance tells it all.
See those items where multiple people said to themselves hey, this is good stuff, I better share this? Those items are usually very relevant to the topics I follow. A trick that makes you go uhh! why didnt I think of that!; a tool thats just too good; a way of looking at things that changes everything youre going to do for your site today " or, as often happens, the most essential you have to know this news in the industries I follow.
How This Works For You
Figure out why youre doing this. Whats your information intention?
For now, lets say you want to use outside expert knowledge to make your company better.
Provided you already have a Google Reader account, heres what you do
Find your first industry leader or expert whose opinion you respect and/or agree with.
You can search from your friends manager page via people names, email, or keywords.
Once you find someone, click on follow but also open their profile in a new tab.
With their full Google Profile open, look for information that tells you who else is following this person " and who the person is following.
Clicking either of those links brings up a little window with a list of names.
Both lists are valuable in their own accord. As I like the material Steve Rubel comes up with, its very likely Ill enjoy reading what his contacts have to say, what they are sharing with him.
Likewise the people following obviously share a same set of interests so from this list too I can pick people.
You can preview peoples profile and see what they share, either via their linked Google Reader account or by looking at their Google Buzz stream, but Ive found its more efficient to follow a number and then remove those who dont fit your information needs.
Super Bonus Benefit
Anytime I want to know what the meta-brain thinks about a topic, what it finds important or remarkable, I simply do a search to see what the experts I follow have found:
As before, I can see double-plus remarkable items by spotting how many people are sharing them.