In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of content out there to be consumed.  While much of it is inane dribble (obviously not this post), way too much of it is really good too.  We could become full-time scholars of “the Internet”, learning more than we would ever need to know and wasting the time necessary to implement it.

I must not be the only one with the content overload problem because some nice folks have built technologies to help me be a more productive content consumer and digester.

Buffer

I once said that there’s nothing that I hated paying for more than parking, bar cover charges, and apps (not the before-dinner kind).  I’ll spend $12 on a martini or $400 on a pair of Ferragamo heels, but $2.99 for an app is typically not going to happen.

Enter Buffer.  I first signed up for the free Buffer web app and was instantly impressed by their Firefox and Chrome plug-in.  I read a lot of articles every day, often back to back, and I don’t want my Twitter stream to be a huge rush of news links and then nothing.  Also, I’m too lazy to copy and paste in to Hootsuite or Seesmic and then schedule the tweet.  I realize that takes only a few minutes but it’s still cumbersome enough to discourage me from using it.

Now, when I read an article that I like and think my followers will find interesting, I right click and go to “Buffer this page”.  Buffer even adds the title and link immediately in a pop-up and then I can choose to edit and post now or “buffer”.  To “buffer” means to put it in the queue for later and tweet at a pre-set schedule so your followers are getting meaningful content from you at regular intervals.

Buffer also has analytics so you can see what types of tweets were best received.

In comes the paying part.  I didn’t have to pay but I liked Buffer so much that I paid for the $10/month version so that I could Buffer to my individual Twitter account as well as to our two business accounts.  While I don’t directly believe that number of followers = revenue, I do think there is something to be said for reach as a metric and thought-leadership.  I can say that both businesses have seen a substantial rise in followers and reach in the last month.

Summify

Summify smartly pulls from any of your attached social media accounts (Twitter, Google Reader, Facebook) and shows you a digest of the important stories for the day amongst your connections (this is pulled based on the Summify algorithm).  I have it set up to send me an email each morning with the top 6 stories of the previous day.

Do I miss a bunch of great articles?  Sure, but again the goal is not to learn as much as possible but rather to keep my head from exploding.

You can also make your Summify account smarter by applying filters for information that you no longer want.  I’ve been using the app for the last two months and I’ve never set up a filter because I think the algorithm typically gets it right.  Summify is also free; it was just acquired by Twitter in January.

Zite

I use the Zite app on my iPad to introduce me to articles that are within the categories that I enjoy, but might not necessarily read all of the time.  Since Zite has a pre-set category list, you are actually charged with making it much smarter about your individual preferences by thumbing up or thumbing down the articles that you read.

For example, a category as wide as “Luxury Lifestyle” could include anything from golf to Ferraris to fig flatbread.  Much more than with Summify, I have to train my Zite account to show me more of certain stories (say, about fashion or luxury travel) and less about things like cooking.  In its FAQs, Zite says that it taps in to Google Reader and my Twitter stream to better understand what I want to read.

Zite is also a free app and I currently use it more to show me interesting peripheral news than what I pull from Summify.

How are you staying on top of the content overload?

Alexandra Gibson is the Managing Director for OttoPilot Media, an inbound marketing firm based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the SVP for Aspen Associates, an FF&E procurement company in the hospitality industry.  She wrote her first business plan at age 11…she’s been entrepreneurially intolerable since then. Be sure to follow her on Twitter- @gibsondm