How to write great, data-driven roundup blog posts

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My friend Chris Brogan inveighed, appropriately, against the lack of creativity and insight in the average roundup post recently:

“Dear round up post writers: stop it. It’s lazy. Write your own damned post. I mean those ones where lazy people email me to help them write their post by giving my take on some topic everyone else has blogged about already.”

This specific kind of roundup post isn’t generally helpful because, as Chris points out, everyone else has already offered commentary on the topic. So how might you construct a better roundup post?

If everyone’s already blogged about it – why not simply quantify those posts and round that up? Here’s a very straightforward approach:

  1. Examine a hashtag or keyword relating to the topic you want to round up.
  2. Download the social media content related to that hashtag.
  3. Remove obvious junk, then score the remaining content.
  4. Summarize and offer commentary and original insights on the top performing content.

That’s the formula for a solid roundup. Let’s look at an example roundup. Suppose I wanted to round up the week in marketing technology.

Step 1: Hashtag or keyword.

I’d use the hashtag #MarTech, since that’s what the majority of folks blogging about it use. If you’re not sure, 90 seconds of searching on Twitter will give you a sense of the landscape and the most common hashtags and jargon in your topic.

Step 2: Download.

Using the Twitter API (or the social API of your choice), extract the #MarTech hashtag and export to an Excel spreadsheet. You can use anything from your own custom hand-crafted API code (at the low price of $0 plus your time) or really expensive social media monitoring tools to do this – there’s software for nearly any price point except “I’m unwilling to pay money or do the work”.


Above, I set up a workflow which connects to Twitter, grabs the #MarTech hashtag, and restricts the data to the last week so that the output is the best of the previous 7 days.

Step 3: Clean and Score.

Using the visualization software of your choice, from simple Google Sheets to powerhouses like Tableau, clean up and score your collection of social media updates. Below, I picked the highest number of actual retweets as well as a retweet rate (retweets/number of followers):


Feel free to choose the algorithm or methodology that makes the most sense for your audience.

Step 4: Summarize and offer commentary.

Based on the clean list, here are the week’s 3 most shared content pieces on the topic of marketing technology. Scott Brinker offers his insights about MarTech stacks:

He also examines 5 characteristics of the agile digital marketing department, for those considering agile methodology:

Jay Famico shares Kerry Cunningham’s predictive analytics piece on the top 3 B2B marketing challenges – too many inquiries, too few inquiries, and terrible quality inquires:

I could obviously keep going for some time. However, this is how to do a roundup well, on topics and timeframes that are relevant, and not need to pester folks for content they’ve already written.

The above summary, from beginning to end, took me exactly 11 minutes to generate, and most of that was waiting for the Twitter API.

Rely on Data to Round Up Well

Instead of relying on people, rely on data you already have or can easily access. Once you’ve got a system set up, you can crank out relevant, informative roundups easily with stories you know people want to read and share. Your roundups will be better, and your influencers will thank you for not asking them to repeat the same thing over and over again.

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