Another question from the old mailbag (or conference bag, as the case may be)*:

What are your tips for using social media for idea generation?

If you’re following the right people and topics, subscribing to the right newsletters or RSS feeds, you’ll find no shortage of ideas, whether you’re looking for topics to write about or strategies for your business/career. That’s why I don’t start the day without doing a fair bit of reading.

I use Linkedin’s status feature like I do Twitter. But I also use the Answers feature to see what people are wondering about (good inspiration for product or service development) or to get feedback on my own ideas. Groups also are a place to get and vet ideas. For instance, a month or so ago, I noticed a particularly vibrant group discussion on how to write better fund-raising letters. I realized I had all the component parts to create a short packet and course on the topic. Sure, that stuff had been lying around in various places for a year or so, but it took a discussion on Linkedin to trigger the a-ha moment that I could combine the content for a nice solution. (You can check out the packet here) BTW, AskInc. provides similar inspiration for me.

Facebook: This is a great way to see what people like you are thinking about, and to monitor the meme of the moment in your social set. For me, personally, it’s the least useful of the social media from a business standpoint, but that’s probably because I use it expressly to keep up with friends. Your results will probably differ.

Twitter: Because I follow people in the industries I cover or who are experts on topics I care about, checking my feed every morning (and throughout the day) helps me develop blog topics, new information to add to presentations, information that will help me serve my clients better, and learn about news and events. It’s also informative to check out the trending topics to get ideas for possible news/trend hooks. Yesterday, I noticed a film festival had announced its 2011 line-up. This gave me an idea to write an article about Local 600 members with films in the event, so I RT’d asking union members to DM me if they were going. Might turn into a paid assignment from the union’s mag.

Blogs & Newsletters: I haven’t cottoned to RSS feeds yet, so I use email subscriptions to keep up with bloggers and other sources of great information. I read Chris Brogan and Seth Godin daily. Both give me tons of ideas for how to improve my own business and life, as well as actionable stuff for my clients. I also get regular newsletters from several top schools of business, industry analyst firms, professional organizations and other people and organizations of interest. Back in December, Brogan challenged his readers to come up with three words that would guide them for through 2011, tape them to your desk and share them with others. I came up with Connect, Integrate and Finish. As part of “integrate”, I decided to use my blog as pre-writing and testing for bigger projects I was working on like some new classes and a book. Not earth-shattering, sure, but if he hadn’t inspired me to do the words, who knows how long it would have taken me to get around to it? And every day I look at those words, I come up with new ways to work on them.

Of course, there are a ton of other social media channels that might be good for idea generation that I just don’t use. Who’s got some additional sources?

* Here's yesterday's question-and-answer.