Over the last 2 years, as part of my own pursuit of happiness, I’ve realized that filtering out the negative news that our culture seems to be addicted to has had a lasting impact on my daily satisfaction levels. After filtering out the content that is involuntarily served up for me, I realized that I had a different decision that I needed to make. Namely, “what do I actually want to read, hear, and see on a regular basis?” More recently, I started getting frustrated by the number of emails in my inbox that I was getting from various sources that I had voluntarily subscribed to. I have a hard time shutting down for the day if I know that there are “unreads” in my email inboxes. Some of the time, the emails would be great – super focused and leading me to consider changes to a routine or a way of thinking about the author’s content. The rest of the time, I’d felt that “man, I’m never getting that 22 seconds of my life back” feeling that you get after you do a quick scan of the content and decide that what you saw wasn’t worthy of your attention.
I thought it would be great if there were a way that I could have a hub where all these updates would go, all while keeping them out of my inbox so I could access them during specified times. While brushing up on my SEO basics by combing through Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing book, it became clear to me that RSS feeds were the solution to my problem. I was excited because now I could custom tailor my news and set up my own personal newspaper for life and business. Now, my “discovery” of RSS feeds is clearly behind the times – they date back to the days when Netscape was the browser of choice – so I’ll ask you to bear with me. First, I’ll walk you through how to leverage the feeds personally, and then, we’ll explore some ways to use them to your advantage in your business.
Discovering an RSS Feed
There are lots of simple ways to get set up with an RSS feed. My preferred conduit is Google Reader, as it integrates with the Chrome Browser (and has some good apps in their app store) and has a simply designed app for my phone. Most of the other major players have their own RSS hubs though. Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL all have a version that integrate with their personal email clients, and most 2007 and 2010 versions of Office allow you to set up a feed that goes right into your inbox.
Now, once you’ve got your feed set up (Did I mention that your personal newspaper is now searchable?) there are several things you can do to make the information you’re getting more impactful:
- Separate out the various feeds in your life into folders (many of you probably already to this with your email inbox, same principle):
- Set aside time each week to clean house
- Nothing gets more frustrating than seeing that you have over 150 articles to get caught up on.
- Do a quick (< 7 minute scan) each day and decide what you want to read, and then mark the rest as read.
- Find out if your phone has an app for your feed. This comes in handy at the strangest times, but it definitely comes in handy.
Some tips to keep it from getting overwhelming:
- When you initially sign up for a feed, take 20-30 minutes to go through “new” and “past” posts.
- Decide what to do with an article immediately after you read it.
- This can include emailing it to the person you thought of
- Sharing it using social media
- Spending 3 minutes to write down the most important points somewhere
- If you find a source isn’t delivering what you hoped it would, GET RID OF IT. Don’t wait for gems that won’t come. Replace it with something that you enjoy reading regularly.
- With most services as you are subscribing to the feed, it will tell you how many people are already subscribed to the feed, and about how many posts per week the content originator is putting out. Use this information to decide if the feed is something that will get overwhelming or not, or if perhaps there aren’t enough viewing the content to make it relevant.
The final thing that you need to do in order to make the content that you’re reading worthwhile, is to figure out what the next step with it is. After you’ve read through an article chances are that it won’t have as long lasting an effect as you would like if you just read it and forget about it. Given that I’m managing a lot of different subscriptions that are all important to me, I like to make sure that after my quick scan, I’ll go back and read the articles that caught my attention, or that I starred or flagged to be read later. My next action steps could then be as follows:
- Send that recipe that I saw to someone who I know appreciates a good meal
- Email off an interesting article to a few people with a quick summary of why it’s worth their time to read
- Copy the link to the article into the appropriate section of my MS OneNote so when I’m thinking about a certain topic, I can quickly pull it up with the relevant link
In the first two cases, it usually elicits some kind of response or discussion. I really value the discussions, because they help me to further refine my own thoughts on the article, or how it might somehow be implemented in my life to my benefit. The key thing is not to keep the good information a secret. Even if it is something that may not be addressed at the time, having the seed in your mind can usually help to sprout a great insight at some unexpected point down the road.
Using an RSS feed to your advantage
Now, you as an individual are empowered to read personally and professionally insightful feeds. Switching gears, let’s explore the powerful implications for a few different areas of your marketing activities. First off, it’s no secret that your content is a cornerstone to your SEO strategy. If you are blogging, there are many free and low cost tools that you NEED to hook into your blog in order to get people sharing your thoughts socially. You’ll probably already have decided which is best for you after setting up your own feed and seeing which feed services you found to be easiest to operate or that you preferred to use when setting up your own RSS.
Your goal with your writing should be to promote thought leadership in your area of expertise. Why? People want to get information that will help them do several things. They are looking for unique perspectives on their markets, products or services. They also need help with navigating alternatives, help avoiding potential landmines, gaining understanding of new issues and outcomes, and so on. The value of your insights are key because in helping people understand the “why” behind your area of expertise, you build trust by creating transparency and confronting the same realities that they may face day to day.
Getting back to more specific marketing activities, another way to consider leveraging your feed is in conjunction with your email marketing program. As you add content to your blog, you may choose to email your subscribers. Let’s pretend they are already swamped with emails, and you don’t necessarily know with certainty the rate at which they prefer to be emailed. Some may like seeing your name in their inbox as it helps to remind them of positive interactions. Others may see it as a nuisance, so much so that they go to click the unsubscribe button. Uh oh, that isn’t what you wanted. This presents you with an opportunity. Imagine they click the unsubscribe link and when they are brought to your “manage subscription” page, instead of finding the traditional “hey, sorry to see you go” messaging, that instead they see the following:
“Do you love our content, but find yourself not always getting it at the right time? If that sounds like you, consider signing up for our RSS feed by clicking the icon below. That way you can still get all of our great information, at a pace that suits you better!”
Share and share some “Likes”
Social media and the ability to have trusted friends and colleagues influence the thinking of their peers through the use of social tools is a truly amazing phenomenon. Brands can be built quicker than ever before through the mindshare that people you and me promote for them. There are a few things to keep in mind in leveraging this to your advantage, and your RSS feed can be the gateway to do it.
First, make sure that you have an abundance mentality about content creation and reach. More specifically, if your goal for your company or brand is to do things like generate unique content through user reviews, product ratings, and get feedback on social media outlets, it SHOULD START WITH YOU! When you read an interesting article or post on your RSS feed, enter into the conversation. Leave a comment and share your point of view. If you’re not open to doing it, you can’t reasonably expect others to do this for your benefit!
Next, make sure that you give credit where credit is due when you’re doing your own content creation. Google is now at a point where they can significantly penalize you for copyrighted content.
To bring this full circle, I’d love to get feedback on other creative ideas that our readership has in terms of how to use RSS feeds. I’ve certainly enjoyed getting more great insights in many areas both personally and professionally through implementing the process above, and I know the same will be true for you!
Image courtesy LauraKateIsCrafty.