Lee Odden

11 Ways to Get Smarter & Stay Current in a World of Social Information Overload

Lee Odden     Online Marketing

online marketingOnline Marketing is all about information. And people. Making connections that solve marketing problems in today’s environment of social and technological innovation can be challenging. Like many readers of this blog, a big part of what I do as an Internet Marketer centers around being able to consume large amounts of information or better, the right information, synthesizing it and using insights to help others make sense of the challenges and opportunities they face with marketing on the web.

As an author, frequent speaker at industry conferences, advisor to clients and the people who serve our clients, there’s a sense of urgency for me to stay current and to understand what current events in the digital marketing world mean in the context of individual situations. It’s not enough to observe that news events and trends are happening, but to understand what those observations mean as it relates to impact on business, on customers and how to continue the pursuit of successful online marketing.

Simply finding and sharing news ala basic “curation” is a cheap commodity. Value comes from identifying bigger picture patterns and synthesizing that information into practical business advice.  I like what Christian Adams said in a G+ thread, “When you have information overload across multiple channels you start to pick up on common threads and trending topics”. This is the essence of curation that creates value and there’s no substitute for human filtering.

In Avinash Kaushik’s recent post, “The 2015 Digital Marketing Rule Book. Change or Perish” one of his 7 Rules for Digital Marketing Revolutionaries concerns the need for marketing practitioners (which is applicable to professionals in any industry) to extend their expertise beyond core skills. “You can no longer be good at just one thing, or two. It is a 10-thing world now (and maybe a 20-thing world soon).”

As a professional, it’s essential for you to filter signal from a mass of noise to grow expertise in your core discipline as well as others. The question is, where do you get the information to stay current? How do you filter out the noise?

After writing most of this post I tried the new quick video post feature on my Google+ account to ping the smart connections I have there for their ideas on how to stay current. While some people still use RSS via Google Reader, usage of the traditional RSS feed has been displaced by Twitter lists, Google+ circles and more so what Shel Holtz called “curated collections” like what you can find at SmartBrief and PR Daily newsletters. Other curated news services mentioned include paper.li, Percolate, news.me, Pulse, FlipBoard and the recently acquired Summify. Trunk.ly is another useful service that works with Twitter but is being shut down.

Below is a screenshot and here’s a link to see everyone’s full comments. Thanks to Shel Holtz, Scott Duehlmeier, Christopher Drinkut, Ash Buckles, Christian Adams and Corey McNeil for chiming in.

stay current google+

While I’ve been able to gain a lot of knowledge and insight over the past 14 years of being in this business, I know that I’m only getting a fraction of what I’d like to know. Every day is a learning experience. Every day is massive piece of humble pie working with a great team at our agency. Transparency, competition and information availability means earning your stripes every day. I think that perspective works pretty well as evidenced by the growth and quality of our team and client roster.

There are many people who have asked me how I stay current and on top of what’s important in the online marketing and PR world. Some of what I do is scheduled and methodical. Some is more intuitive and opportunistic. Both types of activities are guided by a pursuit of wisdom and an interest in being able to provide high value insight to others that will help our business grow. I have a feeling some of our readers are in the same boat: wanting to find ways to stay informed and several steps ahead.

Here are a few of the things that I do to stay current and on top of not only what’s  happening in the Search, Social Media, PR and Content Marketing world, but what it means for developing relationships, solving problems and growing the business.

1. Read social feeds & email. I typically do this between 4:30 and 6am. I’ll bookmark articles & media for later use and reading, taking notes on each item. I’ll also queue up Tweets and other social sharing with social networks.  Many of the tips, tactics and news I share publicly are the things I share internally, except with added insight. Evernote ROCKS for managing this.

2. Meet with my right hand marketer.  You may have noticed Ashley posting here frequently. She’s our Marketing Manager here at TopRank Online Marketing and we regularly discuss all sorts of content, social media, email, event, website, blog and book related topics – every day.

3. Meet with our group of Account Managers on tactical case studies, observations/insights into successes with client Content, Social, Email, PPC, SEO programs. We also discuss situations that need resolving. It’s great to see the AMs working together to identify solutions. Our AMs are project managers and consultants that directly interact with both clients and internal subject matter experts. They are on the front-lines of what it means to develop online marketing strategy, make recommendations, oversee implementation, measure results and work to identify new opportunities. Their insights into daily marketing problems and solutions is priceless.

4. Review our own Analytics & Reports: I’ve been watching key metrics related to our blog and website for a very long time. Traffic, links, search data, time on site, inquiries and other goal page activity paint an interesting picture when overlaid with external KPIs like social shares, comments, links and media mentions.

5. Marketing TopRank – On a regular basis I work with our marketing manager, Ashley Zeckman on developing our online marketing approach and having things tested out to see what we might scale or adjust for better performance with our own agency’s marketing. Being able to test online marketing, SEO and Social Media Marketing tactics out on our own sites has been incredibly valuable over the years when it comes to creating first-hand knowledge that can be shared with staff and clients.

6. Talk with Customers – Every time I get to talk to one of our clients, I learn invaluable lessons about how they see search, social and content marketing contributing to the success of their business.

7. Research & Write – Between blogging over 2,500 times and writing numerous contributed articles, I have found that developing writing skills has been one of the most profitable things I’ve ever done.  I’ve been writing a book (Optimize) over the past few months, which has taken considerable time in addition to daily work. The process of writing a book is not for the faint of heart, but it has made me smarter and more strategic in how I view modern online marketing strategy.

8. Research & Presentations – Another profitable investment (in terms of knowledge and for our business) has been speaking at events. The research and preparation for presentations requires an understanding of the subject matter that extends far beyond day to day familiarity.  Packaging content to be relevant to specific audiences as well as educational and entertaining means thinking that content through. The process helps create mental models for explaining key concepts and can serve as a basis for many other forms of content creation.

9. Research and Training – One of the big initiatives I have this year is to develop internal training beyond the things we’ve established so far. Identifying external sources of training such as industry conferences and workshops for our team to attend as well as building our own workshops for internal use and for our clients is another situation that calls for thoughtful consideration, planning and packaging. Related to presentations, I’m also involved with providing SEO or Social SEO to other agencies (especially PR agencies) and marketing communications departments within companies. Collecting case studies, examples and keeping tactics current keeps me on my mental toes.

10. Connect with Industry Peers – In the time I’ve been publicly active in the internet marketing and PR world, I’ve been able to make some incredible connections with amazingly smart people. Outside of working with our internal team of consultants, there is no substitute when it comes to gaining high value information than connecting with other professionals that are as passionate and fanatical about marketing and online business as you are.

11. Revisit Social Streams – This is a later in the evening activity but it’s a good way to end the work part of the day and get ideas for the next. Using Google Reader, Hootsuite, Disqus and other tools, identify any new articles worth reading, cluster them together according to theme and take notes. I’ll take time to focus on mainstream media publications, not just industry blogs and news websites.

Another approach to staying current is to form a mastermind group. I first head of this from reading Napoleon Hill many years ago and it’s even more powerful now. Find likeminded professionals and agree to connect on collective and individual areas of focus. A mastermind is not only about sharing information but working with each other to achieve goals.

I don’t do all these things every day of course, but it represents a number of the things that have been instrumental in keeping me close to tactics as well as in line with more strategic perspectives on new events and industry changes.  Would reading my email and social feeds for 10 min a day be a better alternative to free up time for other business tasks? Maybe, but then I wouldn’t be able to output as much as I do or bring as much value that results in better service to customers, a healthier social network and a growing business.

If staying current and informed is essential for your job, how do you keep up to date? How do you make each day a positive learning experience?


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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. What strikes me as most interesting is that many marketers still go the entire day without doing a single one of these things. The ground is moving beneath us, and those that don’t become more proactive in staying current won’t evolve with the space. Great post, Lee!

    • “The ground is moving beneath us..” spot on Josh. If one is in a position to be a source of knowledge, it’s essential to stay current and relevant without getting distracted. A challenge for sure. And if one cannot do these things themselves, then find others who can and filter the signal accordingly.

  2. Hello Lee,
    Thanks for sharing your process. I receive your daily post via email and do my best to read it each day along with several other people I find interesting or important to listen to. Interesting to note though, I saw this first on G+. 

    It’s true, the earth is moving beneath our feet, and I find it harder and harder to keep up. Currently I’m doing 1, 10 and 11 daily while also immersing myself (to get caught up) in some of the tools you mention to improve my knowledge and build a team at the company I currently work at.

    In previous roles managing and also owning a business, I did much of what you discuss in 2, 3, 4 and 6. I do miss that part but I expect that I’ll be doing this again very shortly, and with a entirely new and fresh perspective on marketing.

    My goal is #8. 

    Humble pie is a culinary delight when your mind is open and you surround yourself with like-minded, bright people who want to make a difference. I’ll pass your post along.

    My best.

    • Brilliant: “Humble pie is a culinary delight when your mind is open and you surround yourself with like-minded, bright people who want to make a difference. ” cheers

  3. Great post Lee…in the ever-changing world of information gathering, it is nice to see what is/has been working for others. One of the main reasons I like how networks are set up…love all the collaboration.    

  4. Recently added your blog to my RSS – finally found great content through search trial and error! My undergrad degree is in Statistics and I want to segue into a job related to online content marketing analytics. Do you have any current book suggestions? Or should I read through the archives of this blog for online articles/posts/etc. Looking for something meaty…

    p.s. this is Lauren, not Nicole. Open ID put in her name for some reason

    • Hi Lauren. I’d recommend checking out Avinash Kaushik’s blog linked in the post above.

      As for books: Check Amazon or BN.com for Jim Sterne, Marshall Sponder, Matthew A. Russell, Brian Clifton, Eric T. Peterson and of course, Avinash.

    • You should try following online content marketing analytics on Trapit.  Trapit is the best way I know to start exploring a topic.  It’s like an RSS reader that automatically finds posts for you.  It will find many quality blog posts written on the topic in the last month, with no spam.  

      As you give it feedback on its recommendations, it will learn what you’re looking for. This way, you’ll find a lot of good articles, in addition to finding some good blogs to follow.

  5. Avatar ArticleGuys says

    Totally agree.

    Sifting through all the information out there and giving people only the best nuggets you’ve found and distilling it into something they can use to improve their situation (Whether in business or in their personal lives) is HIGHLY valuable in this day and age.

    And it’s those people who are able to do that well (like yourself) that become industry leaders and the “go to” guy or gal.

    An interesting tangent to explore: gathering information just for the purposes of “just in case” and entertainment versus taking action and getting information as it’s needed based on what problems/challenges you’re facing at the moment.

  6. Nice post and some good process.  You should try http://www.gist.com.  We built the product to solve many of these issues, especially when your job is very “people” or relationship-centic.

  7. It’s humiliating to try to keep up! We are all behind and try to chase, read, learn and foresee what the future holds! Very tricky indeed and there is then the challenge of cultures dealing with the European citadelle as opposed to the US chariot marching West to the discovery of the new “digital marketing worlds”! Thank you for writing content! You are in my RSS Feeds and I try to read the most important but I do not get up at 4:30 like you do: impressive and thank you again…

  8. Thanks Lee for sharing best informative article. I really happy to read this article. I get your day-to-day publish via contact and do my best to study it each day along with several other individuals I like or essential to pay attention to. Exciting to be aware though, I saw this first on G+.

  9. Such a great 11 way. It is great information for me. I really happy to read this post. Great Work.

  10. The world is changing so fast today; news becomes old news frighteningly fast. And there’s just so much news out there to find. I rely heavily on Google Reader, but I like your other suggestions.
    marketing on internet</a

  11. The era of sharepocalypse.. as they’d say.  Staying current these days is like being omnipresent and it’s still a work in progress for me.  I agree with you when it comes to writing skills and the challenge here is how to craft words so it can compel your readers to act..?  Sounds easy, but it takes mastery.  Thanks for the tips!

  12. Lee, good question and good post. You noted the use of Evernote, but I wonder about documenting ‘finds’. Is Evernote all that you use for cataloging? Is it really possible or practical in such a fasted paced industry? Tactics seem to come and go; it would be nice to look back over a period of time and see tactics and their results. Maybe that’s what the blog posts do partially. Collectively, we don’t seem to be bookmarking the way we used to do. Thanks for the perspective!

    • Hey Christopher, I use Evernote as one step in my content curation efforts. As for tactics and their results, that’s something else entirely. We’re actively compiling marketing tactics and business examples with results that are reported on in the news and from other sources. Am hoping to launch that monster list of examples soon. 

      I still use browser bookmarks for some things, social bookmarks for others, auto-curation tools and blogging. It might be a convoluted system, but seems to be working 🙂

    • Hey Christopher, I use Evernote as one step in my content curation efforts. As for tactics and their results, that’s something else entirely. We’re actively compiling marketing tactics and business examples with results that are reported on in the news and from other sources. Am hoping to launch that monster list of examples soon. 

      I still use browser bookmarks for some things, social bookmarks for others, auto-curation tools and blogging. It might be a convoluted system, but seems to be working 🙂

  13. Very insightfull. It seems all of a sudden this type of articles on information overload are popping up everywhere.  I am certainly going to use evernote. Didn’t know it existed and something I really really need.

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