Whether you need to monitor your competitors, stay on top of industry trends, or keep tabs on your own online reputation, keeping up to date is easy if you know where and how to look. We live in a 24-hour news cycle world that changes at the speed of light. And while keeping up with the Kardashians is not essential to your business (or your life), keeping up with your competitors and industry is!

To stay competitive and smart you need to know about things as they happen—this is the way it is and it’s not going to change anytime soon. The good news is that even though the Internet is a place of information overload and unreliable sources, it also offers some great strategic planning and monitoring tools that are completely free and easy to access.

If you set up a feed reader (like Google Reader or Feed Demon) and add a few good RSS feeds, you can check in on industry news instantly once or twice a day just as easily as checking your email inbox.

If you have never used a feed reader or RSS feeds, it’s time you learned…seriously. Start with the simple step-by-step guide on RSS feeds and feed readers from CNET.
Some great places to grab RSS news feeds on your competitors, industry and yourself:

Alltop

This news aggregator site pulls in news and commentary, and sorts it by industry and keyword. Let’s say you are a leadership development coach (like me!) and want to keep tabs on the most influential blogs and news sources on the topic of leadership. You would go to their leadership news feed, copy the URL and add it to your feed reader. Then you will get up-to-date news on that topic right in your reader dashboard, without having to scour tons of websites and blogs.

Google News Alerts

Keep track of industry, brand and product news the moment it happens through Google—Yahoo also if you want to be extra diligent. Setting up a news alert is easy. Just go to Google News (from Google.com, click on “News” in the upper left) and do a search. Search for your company name, your competitors’ names, product/service or industry trade organization names. Once the search results page appears you can copy the URL into your feed reader or scroll to the bottom and click on “set up an alert” to have the results sent to your email inbox automatically daily, weekly or as it happens. Or you could click on “Add section to my Google News page” to add the news to your own custom Google homepage you create through your Google/Gmail account (this is a good alternative to setting up a feed reader).

LinkedIn Groups

There are tens of thousands of groups on LinkedIn, and if you haven’t joined any of them you are missing out. LinkedIn Groups can be one of the best sources for industry news, and the best part is there’s usually almost no “fluff” or useless banter going on in the groups. Most are closely monitored and moderated to make sure the info is useful and current and not overrun with SPAM! It takes a little time to find the best groups for your industry, and you may end up leaving a few after viewing some discussions—some groups might not be the right industry segment and some might be too focused on career networking. But once you find the three to five groups that are central to your industry, you can set your email preferences so you receive news and discussion updates daily or weekly.

It goes without saying that you should also subscribe to RSS feeds from industry and competitor websites and blogs.

Once you have the reader set up (it takes just a few minutes) and have your feeds loaded in, staying on top of essential business news and trends is as easy as scanning the headlines in your reader.

Howard Shore is a leadership development coach who works with companies that need leadership development and strategic business coaching. Based in Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group, Inc. provides strategic planning tools and management coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about leadership development coaching through AGI, please visit activategroupinc.com, contact Howard at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

Business Coach, Business Coaching, Strategic Plan

About Howard M. Shore

Howard M. Shore is a Certified Gazelles Coach, Certified Public Accountant Certified Executive Coach, Certified Behavioral Analyst, Certified Values Analyst, and Certified Attributes Index Analyst. He has earned Bachelor and MBA degrees from Florida International University, and completed advanced executive programs at Harvard Law School and the University of Chicago.