I pay attention to what smart people pay attention to.

I moderated a panel on social media yesterday for IPN, and got really deep into using facebook and twitter (especially twitter) to monetize, serve customers, learn market data, generate sales and get referrals.  We missed however one of the core uses of social media — understanding more about people’s habits, in particular about their attention profiles.

I get real-time and relevant data from following the folks that I see as leading thinkers in their field, and this is primarily how I learn about trends in my industry, or in tangential industries, that I can capitalize. By utilizing tools like delicious and twitter, I can see what smart people pay attention to.  By lowering the bar (and the risk) for them to publish information, they are more willing to share — and that’s something you can benefit from.

If you turn on the fire-hose and consume the active sharing of information from 10-20 sources, you’ll see your rate of learning jump up. If you were one of the people who weren’t on twitter at the talk, let me ask you to do the following things to test this theory.

  1. Signup for an account at twitter and get an RSS reader (I suggest google reader)
  2. Identify a topic you’d benefit from learning more about, like, marketing using social media.
  3. Search for 3-5 experts in this field who use twitter, and follow them (for social media marketing, let’s say @jacobm @jeffwidman and @garyvee). Read every tweet. My tip is to get it sent to your phone.
  4. Note if any of them have blogs, if so, subscribe to them in google reader (Jacob, Jeff, and Garyvee all do).  Also look for the more traditional leaders in this space who aren’t really using twitter yet (like Seth Godin) and subscribe to them as well.   note: do not use this opportunity to subscribe to topic-specific blogs or twitter accounts, as these can have overwhelming volume and generally just parrot back what the leaders have already known for hours/days/months. If it’s really important, one of the people you’re following will talk about it.
  5. Now, identify if any of them are using Delicious to share bookmarks. If so, subscribe to an RSS feed of their posts in google reader.  Jacob does. So does Jeff.

It shouldn’t be too much. It’s rare that individuals post more than 1-2 blog posts a day, 1-10 tweets a day, or 5-10 bookmarks a day.  If it’s impossible for you to follow along you can cut people out and remove the noisy folks.

For the advanced class, rinse and repeat the above with twitter, youtube, vimeo, tumblr, etc. Look for where people on the forefront are sharing what their attention is on and make it your priority to pay attention to that as well.

Do this for a week, and I think why you’ll see it’s one of the most powerful tools to quickly gauge what an industry is working on at that moment, and what tips can you pickup from the thinking of experts.