Keeping your finger on the (digital) pulse

Whether you are building your own presence, or representing a brand or employer online, it’s useful to know what people are saying! Keeping up with all those possible places you should look for news or mentions can be pretty laborious and when things are busy, it’s difficult to keep up with this work unless you have some decent tooling in place. There are some great automation offerings around but here’s my very basic strategy.

TL;DR a bookmarks folder in my browser to open a bunch of saved searches all at once.

I created a folder of bookmarks in my browser, which is Firefox; it has support to open all the links in a folder at once. These are saved searches for all the things I like to keep an eye on. They are things like:

  • Search for newest issues across our whole GitHub org so we don’t miss something on one of our smaller or less-used repos because it was lost in a big raft of email notifications. The same for pull requests.

  • Searches on StackOverflow, Reddit and HackerNews to see what people are saying. I wouldn’t recommend diving into the middle of all the conversations here, but more to hear the general sentiment. I don’t have a search on Twitter since I basically live there full time anyway, but you might find it useful.

  • Dashboards for whatever the main metrics are for your team, for example I look at both Google Analytics and the GitHub stats for our docs project to understand how people access and read the content, and also how they engage/contribute to it.

Keep all the searches very narrow and specific – I should take my own advice on this since I have a few too many tags in my StackOverflow search and it makes for FAR too many results when I just want to check things quickly. Sort the results so that the newest are first and only the last 30 days are included if that’s an option, there is no point seeing the same 2-year-old post every week.

Now set a 30 minute meeting in your calendar every week to check on things, quickly open the bookmarks collection, and then go through seeing what’s happening. If there are followup actions then do anything that takes 3 minutes or less immediately, such as sharing it with your team channel, or replying with a comment. For anything more, instead take the time to create a ticket linking to what you found and describing what action should be taken. For me that’s often “uh oh, should we have some documentation about this thing?” type tickets, and I really enjoy being able to go back to a question later and offer both some knowledge and also a link. Even if it’s too late for the original poster, sites like StackOverflow bring our collective knowledge together in a public place for the next person to use, so it’s always worth adding whatever you have!

Just like answering a StackOverflow question, this post came to you when I was giving some advice to someone doing a similar role to mine. A folder of bookmarks isn’t rocket science, but it game them a quick start into one tiny part of their day to day job – and sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest difference! What are your “really not rocket science” tips that you’d share? Tell me, I want them all :)

Also published on Medium.

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