How to keep up with the most knowledgable people in your industry

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Today, more than ever, knowledge is power. However, getting accurate, up to date information about issues that impact your business and industry is far more complicated than it once was.

Gone are the days when a quick flick through the business pages and the odd networking event could keep you up to date on the latest developments. Staying abreast of industry news and emerging trends in the online era requires new strategies for sourcing news, a regular commitment to staying in touch and a fresh understanding of how knowledge is now shared.

The ever-increasing importance of ‘traditional’ websites, social media and information technology means a whole new skill set is required to stay on top of developments affecting your business. From Twitter to RSS, newsgroups to Google Alerts, a brave new world of information gathering options exists to make sure you never get left out of the loop.

The key insight regarding all of these tools is that, more and more, knowledge is shared in an active way, through engagement and interaction. This means that social media is now a vital part of keeping up with the latest news and information. The people that have the knowledge you need about your industry are not just in the business pages anymore, they’re having discussions about best practice on Twitter, posting on their and others’ blogs about the latest technology, discussing new ideas on Facebook, participating in industry debates on Google+ and/or sharing their key insights through ‘webinars’, downloadable white papers and other online avenues.

At the same time as social media is taking on a bigger role, traditional media sources are becoming more and more diversified. Finding what you need amidst an ever-growing range of e-magazines, websites, TV news videos and radio show podcasts, for example, can be made easy through the use of Google Alerts and RSS feed updates from a wide range of online sources. These tools can send regular updates, be it on news affecting your industry or the latest post from a blog that mentions your business – straight to your email or even your mobile phone.

To make sure you’re keeping up with the most knowledgeable in your industry make sure you cast a wide net so you glean information from a range of sources relevant to you and your clients. Consider doing the following:

  • Follow opinion leaders on Twitter.
  • “Like” other relevant businesses and businesspeople.
  • Attend industry conferences, seminars and other events.
  • Listen to/watch webinars, podcasts, vlogs, TEDx talks, etc.
  • Set up an RSS feed of publications and blogs to automatically receive updates.
  • Subscribe to forum discussions.
  • Set up Google Alerts (be sure to include key clients and competitors as keywords).
  • Subscribe to e-newsletters.
  • Build your LinkedIn contact base.
  • Join LinkedIn groups relevant to your business.
  • Grow your Google+ circles

Then – most importantly! – make sure you not only network via these comms avenues but also initiate, comment on and participate in ‘thought leadership’ conversations that occur. Having good contacts in your industry (and interested in your industry) is more important than ever in an era where knowledge is social… interacting in a two-way discussion is even more crucial.

All this new information will require a system to manage it. You should set priorities for what you need to know and set aside regular time to spend on information gathering. Delegating responsibility to staff can be a great way to make sure that keeping up to date doesn’t edge out the time you need to devote to day to day business operations.

You will also need to set a clear strategy and goals for how you will manage all this new information and how you will respond. In an increasingly social business world, more and more people are going to want to talk to you and keeping up conversations can take time and effort.

It takes some organisation but by finding ways to effectively manage your information gathering – and the conversation participation that’s needed to optimise your results – your business can stay on the cutting edge of your industry.