Posted to Leigh Carver's blog on October 1st, 2013

A Marketer’s Guide to Timely Trendspotting

One of the most important things that we as marketers do is keep on top of trends. The speed at which a marketer spots new stories, viral posts, and behaviors is what separates the good from the elite. So how can you be quicker to spot trends in your industry’s news cycle?

As a writer, it's my job to always know what's going on in all of my clients' industries. From healthcare to technology to HR and beyond, keeping my finger to the pulse of each industry is crucial to doing my job right. And, with the proper tools and mindset, it's also an easy process that only takes up a few minutes throughout the day.

Habit: Exercise discipline.

Tool: Timer.

Being disciplined about how you spend your time is difficult. Willpower is a muscle, after all, and discipline is the result of willpower. To make this easier for yourself, set aside a few minutes every few hours for scanning the news headlines, and set a timer. When your timer rings, you're done reading news. This should keep you from getting caught up in articles that aren't that important to you-- and if there's nothing newsworthy, turn off your timer and save that "flex time" for later in the day as a sort of reward. A free online resource that you can keep open on a separate tab is, pictured to the right.

Habit: Know the difference between learning and distracting.

Tool: Twitter lists.

Social media is a great example of this-- Twitter most especially. Depending on the industry, Twitter may or may not be an appropriate tool to use to keep atop newsworthy topics. Is Twitter often responsible for breaking news? Absolutely. But, for my client who specializes in moving cargo across the North American continent, Twitter is more a source of distraction than news. If your useful tool could easily become a distraction, figure out a way to keep that from happening. For example, with Twitter, I use lists to keep my Tweet browsing topical.

Habit: Remove temptations.

Tool: Feedly.

You have to be totally honest with yourself about whether you're really spending your time well. Reading the news is important, yes-- but you need to know where to draw the line between reading the news for your own knowledge and entertainment, and whether you're reading the news for your client's sake. Sometimes, it can be easy to convince yourself that you're reading some wacky headline because "well obviously this is in my industry, so I need to know about it." But do you really?

A great example of this is Mashable, which I love to read. However, several months ago I had to remove Mashable from my Feedly newsreader, which I keep strictly topical for each of my client industries. Do I have a client in tech and does Mashable write great information about tech? Absolutely. Mashable is more often a source of (enjoyable) distraction for me, rather than being a source of valuable information for my clients. Though I might get my next big news story from Mashable, it's more likely that I'll be tempted into wasting time. By removing the temptation, I work more efficiently.

Habit: Be prepared to explore.

Tool: Prismatic.

One of the things I do each day when I read the news is keep an eye out for potential new tools. The setup I have now works well-- I use Feedly to organize into lists by industry, and I use Prismatic to find new blogs and add them to my Feedly account. I came across both of these tools in articles I read, and checked out. I am constantly signing up for new content tools and testing them out, though very few stick. But it's this willingness to explore new tools, new blogs, and even new industries that keep me at the top of my game for my clients.

What habits have you developed for keeping on top of the news? What tools do you use to stay in the know? Let's talk in the comments.

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