I have this sign posted above my desk. Although Flannery O'Connor (a native Georgian, by the way) probably meant it to indicate how she personally ordered her thoughts, it serves as a constant reminder for me that reading is an absolutely essential (and perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT) component to any kind of writing but specifically blogs.
Reasons why reading is just as important as writing:
1) You can keep an eye on your closest partners and competitors (if you have any)
2) You can keep up on online and industry trends
3) It will help you assess what works and what doesn’t work in blogging
4) It can help you establish a voice for yourself or your association
Unfortunately one of the most widely used blog readers, the Google Reader, is on its way out. There are several alternatives out there, but if you’re just getting used to scoping out the blogger community, there are several ways to get started.
1) Newsletters from vendors and industry insiders
If you’re a MemberClicks customer, for example, you should receive a regular E-mail newsletter from us. Many other companies and associations put out regular newsletters with interesting subject matter, including Associations Now. Although it’s not exactly the same as reading a blog regularly, newsletters are a great way to get your hands on some relevant content.
2) Cruise social media
Pay attention to groups and individuals who post relevant links or content. You also have the option to follow insiders on Facebook and Twitter without directly connecting to them. If social media is part of your regular routine, take a moment to seek out and follow some movers and shakers or participate in LinkedIn groups or Google+ communities.
3) Ask your members
When in doubt, ask ask ask. Find out where your members get their knowledge and what they read regularly. Keep in mind that even though blogs are more frequently updated, your best sources for information might be print publications like newspapers and magazines.
4) Pay attention on Fridays
It’s kind of an unspoken rule in the blogosphere: send a shout out on Fridays. You may have seen the Twitter hashtag #FF standing for “Follow Friday” where users share their favorite tweeters. It’s also a MemberClicks habit, and very popular with many other bloggers as well to post a link sharing blog on Fridays. It’s a great way to find out who has material worth reading and gather a quick sampling of content you may be interested in.
It’s a lot to ask: fitting in yet another task to your daily routine, especially one that requires so much time and attention. But start small! Expanding the scope of your reading material will help you achieve many associations goals, and the first one will be the quality of your blog and social media content.