Can you anticipate the next big trend in your industry before it’s too late to take advantage of it?
There is no silver bullet when it comes to spotting trends. Trends reveal themselves over time from a variety of places. Spotting a growing pattern means you must have your eye on multiple sources long enough to notice changes. This takes some intentionality, but it doesn’t have to tie up all of your time.
With the right tools, spotting trends in your industry can be a lot easier.
As a blogger in the world of transformational travel, I follow like-minded bloggers online and develop personal relationships with other travelers who share my values. Why? Because these folks filter all the overwhelming noise and deliver me information that I actually care about.
Often, I’ll start to hear more and more about a particular destination from various bloggers and travelers who aren’t connected to each other. This is the first inkling of a trend.
A handful of bloggers will visit the same spot and write about it. Then I’ll hear a former student of mine raving about their recent trip to the same place. Next, two different friends on Facebook are sharing pictures from this place.
These are destinations that, not too long ago, had almost no tourism to speak of. No one particularly wanted to go there. But pretty soon, the destination became almost mainstream.
Costa Rica became a very hot destination several years ago. Then Croatia was getting a lot of attention. In a recent trip to Ecuador, every long-term traveler we met had either just come from Colombia or was planning to go there. And every one of them loved it. This happens to be the same country I was hearing about from bloggers, my former student, and my friends on Facebook. With improvements in safety and development, Colombia has apparently surged in popularity among budget travelers and “digital nomads” (people who work online and live abroad for months at a time).
When I’m tuned in to the people I care most about and all of them are talking about the same thing, I know it’s worth paying attention to. The result of uncovering this growing trend for Colombia is that now it’s at the top of my list. I can be sure to travel there while it’s still relatively “untouched”—before it becomes overly touristy and travel prices get inflated.
But just how do you go about setting yourself up to spot trends?
Choose Your Sources
Just as it took multiple sources—bloggers, Facebook, word of mouth—to realize that the time is ripe to visit Colombia, spotting a trend in other industries is much the same.
As you put together a list of blogs, news sites, social media channels, and other sources, here are some tips to help you hone in and filter extraneous content:
Follow Trustworthy Thought Leaders
When selecting your sources for news and information, find reputable resources you can trust. These are people who are experts in their field, brands whose information you find to be reliable and valuable.
I follow a number of travel bloggers who have been in the business for years. Most of them I’ve found through other people I follow or trust. When their blogs are too gimmicky or inauthentic, I stop reading. Be selective and filter out the noise.
Find People or Brands That Share Your Goals and Values
Since independent, slow, and cultural travel is more my style, I don’t follow any luxury travel brands. I want to hear from like-minded folks who are doing the type of travel I am more likely to be interested in. Likewise, you can narrow down the types of sources you follow within your industry by filtering out those that don’t share your goals and values.
Keep Your Competitors Close
When gathering like-minded sources, don’t forget about your competitors. They are likely to be the most closely matched when it comes to jumping on trends in your industry.
Look Outside Your Industry
In addition to watching what’s going on in your own niche, it often pays to expand your horizons. Our world is so interconnected, true trends pop up everywhere. Keeping an eye on developments in other fields can sometimes be key in predicting changes closer to home.
4 Digital Tools for Spotting Trends In Your Industry
Once you’ve started a list of potential sources and brands you want to follow, it’s time to optimize your trend-spotting with a few tools.
- Google News and Alerts
This first point is really two tools. Google News allows you to create a stream of news stories for a specific keyword, person, or brand while Google Alerts will notify you every time that keyword is mentioned on the web.
To harness the Google News tool, follow these simple steps:
- Go to http://news.google.com
- Click the black down arrow on the right side of the search bar to pull up Advanced Search options
- Enter a search term you want to track
- If relevant, include where in the article you want to search for the term, a date range, and any specific periodical sources or locations.
- Your search will pull up recent news stories related to the search term
- For further filtering options, click the “Search tools” button to adjust your news source (Blogs or All News), time frame, and whether the results should be sorted by relevance or date.
You can keep track of these alerts in your feedly. To do this, copy and paste the URL from your search to add it as another content source. That way, whenever a new article with your search terms is published, you’ll see it in your Feedly reading list.
For detailed instructions on how to set up Google News sources directly in Feedly Pro, check out this tutorial.
To use Google Alerts, do the following:
- Go to http://www.google.com/alerts
- Enter a search term
- Click on the “Show options” dropdown
- Specify any restrictions you want on type of sources, language, region, and number of results.
With Google Alerts, you can opt to get immediate notifications. Alternatively, you can add the stream of alerts to an RSS reader, like Feedly, and check in on your own time.
To do this, where it says “Deliver to,” select “RSS feed.” Then click the “Create alert” button. Next, click on the RSS feed icon to view the feed URL for your Google Alert. Copy this URL (it will start with http://www.google.com/alerts/feeds…) and paste it into your search bar in feedly. Press enter and you’ll be able to add the feed to your reading list.
- Twitter Lists
For minute-by-minute trends, Twitter may be the best source of breaking news. Although Twitter can be a noisy world, with Twitter Lists, you have the power to filter the input down to what really matters to you.
Create lists for Twitter accounts of people or brands who share your interests, or who are thought leaders and influencers in your field. That way you can stay on top of their updates without the feed getting cluttered by irrelevant tweets.
If you’d like those influencers to know you’re paying attention to them, then keep the list public. You can also make a list private, which comes in handy if you’re following accounts that include your competition, for example.
To create a Twitter list, follow these steps:
- Click on your profile image in the header (once you’re logged in to Twitter)
- Click on “Lists” from the dropdown that appears (alternatively, you can type in http://twitter.com/yourusername/lists to get to the same page)
- Here you should see any lists you’ve already created or subscribed to
- Click the “Create new list” button
- Type in a name, description of the list, and select whether it should be public or private
- To add Twitter accounts to the list, go to each individual user’s profile page
- On the user’s profile page, click the gear icon and select “add or remove from lists”
- From the pop up box, check the box for the list you want their tweets to show up in
- Repeat the last three steps for each Twitter account you want in your list
- Online Forums
Most industries have online forums where stakeholders are exchanging information, asking questions, and expressing opinions. For the travel industry, forums on Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet are a prime example. These sites are another great resource for gaining insight and picking up on potential trends.
One of the largest and most popular social news forums is Reddit. Touted as “the front page to the internet,” every link and conversation is curated by a highly engaged community. Smaller communities, called sub-Reddits, are built around specific interests. Users will post news stories for that particular topic, and the community will vote them up or down.
Find one or two sub-Reddits that fit your industry, and you’ll be tapped into the most popular conversations and topics in that field. It’s another way to get an up-to-date pulse of what’s hot and what’s not and what might be coming down the pipeline.
It may be no surprise for you to hear me suggest feedly!
For your own, hand-picked blogs and websites, you can use feedly to quickly and easily curate a reading list. Here are a few tips for getting your feedly primed for trendspotting:
- Use the search bar in the top right or the Add Content button to find and subscribe to new feeds by pasting in a URL.
- Use the Chrome extension or a Feedly bookmarklet to add feeds to your reading list from any web page.
- Type a topic (example: social media) into the feedly search bar to look up suggested sites from other feedly users
- With feedly Pro, you can use the Power Search, including hashtags (example: #socialmedia) to help you find specific stories related to that topic.
- Notice the popularity rating of the articles coming through your feed to see which ideas are getting more traction
- To discover new sources you may not have known about, you can check out the Shared Collections from other users who have recommended similar content
You can also integrate the above suggestions—online forums and Google Alerts—into your feedly so there is only one place to read all of your content and don’t have to switch from site to site.
Posted by Michelle Chang, feedly contributor