RSS Series from Better Business BloggingThere are two things that I consider to be safe assumptions in life: one, we all like to know whats going on and, two, we never seem to have enough time. Now it may be that for some of us, a copy of Business Week, The Times or perhaps Cosmopolitan (according to our preferences) will be enough to keep us up to date with what’s happening in the areas that interest us. For others, and particularly in business, we need to cast our net a little wider and need to be able to sift the information more quickly.

Of course, the more subject areas we want to follow, the more we bump into the issue of not having enough time to find the information that we need, let alone read it. Once again, RSS to the rescue! This sort of problem of information overload can really be reduced (though not I fear totally eradicated) by making best use of an RSS Reader to find and deliver to us the latest news and information from wherever it’s hiding on the internet.

So let’s quickly start by looking at five of the main advantages before moving onto some of the more specific business benefits below:

1. Time saver par excellence
Time saver because you no longer need to keep revisiting sites to get the latest information, instead it is delivered to you in a neat bundle to let you decide quickly and easily what’s of interest.

2. Latest information always at your fingertips
Whether it is business information, the weather, local news, breaking industry research or a new posting from a rarely-updated site you receive up to date information in your areas of interest as soon as it is published.

3. You are in control of what you receive
Both subscribing and unsubscribing from an RSS feed is totally under your control. You can do so at any time at the click of a button in your RSS reader; so if the information stops being relevant, you can instantly remove it.

4. Spam free
When you subscribe to RSS, you don’t give any details to the content provider therefore you can rest assured that your privacy is kept safe and that are not going to be bombarded with spam.

5. Get Search Engines to constantly scour the internet for you
There are many sites and search engines, such as Google News and Technorati, which allow you to create a search and will then keep you updated with new results as they appear as an RSS feed straight to your reader.

RSS - Key for Business and in Social Media Marketing

In a business environment, information is a highly valuable commodity and knowing what is happening in your chosen area, and especially getting that information ahead of your competitors, is something that can certainly give you an edge. Hearing about an opportunity first gives you first mover advantage and lets you react before others know that it even exists.

RSS also has a central and highly important role in the effective use of social media marketing. Without try to be too dramatic about it, your RSS Reader can become your eyes and ears in the online world allowing to be present and visible in the right places at the right time.

With so much information out there and so many areas which could be of interest, as you build your RSS reader content its important that you are careful about the targeting of your searches and the feeds you decide to follow. For me, these fall into 5 main categories:

  • Whats going on in your industry: as a general background research tool, RSS is great because it helps sift out the information from the corners of the internet where it hides. Youll keep up to date with the landscape of your market and youll get the information as soon as is gets published.

  • Identify new opportunities: you also want to keep your feed looking for new opportunities, so have a search set up on events or forums where you would normally expect your customers to be.

  • Whos talking about you: often called ego surfing, for businesses this is less about ego and more (or should that be all) about branding and good social media marketing. You should make sure that you have a permanent search running on your company name, your name and perhaps also key products. If you know whos talking about your company or products (whether they are positive or negative), you can participate in that discussion and develop stronger links with the market.

  • Local ear to the ground: Key to companies interested in a local market (local could mean ‘national’ not just ‘city’ or ‘regional’) that they are aware of what is happening so that they can decide whether to participate or not. With the ease of skimming through headlines in RSS, you can sift lots of information in a short space of time, so this type of research can be done quickly and easily.

  • Competitor Analysis: Keeping up to date with what your competitors are doing in terms of products or marketing activity means that you have the ability to react or counter more quickly. If you are able to do this, then you put yourself into a much stronger position in your marketplace.

Building your Business reading / research list

I tend to divide RSS Feeds into two distinct types, which offer different sources of information and yet work really well together:
  • the first are those individual blogs and sites which offer the information that you want to follow;

  • the second are the search engine or news sites which can deliver to you the latest results of a specific search term in an RSS feed from all sites they cover as they are published.

With the first type, I usually start with the individual sites by starting with some key ones of interest to me and then building from there. They might be the more popular blogs in the industries Im interested in, people I have met and enjoyed reading or simply ones that Ive come across and bookmarked.

The next step is to add to these and that probably warrants a minute or two of reflection on what we want to use the RSS Reader for. Clearly, for personal use, the contents are likely to be wide ranging and diverse. On the other hand, if its for business then well probably lean towards a number of different types of blog, such as ones which:

  • give indepth analysis of our own industry

  • cover the industries or areas of interest of our target market if different

  • break new new stories related to these industries

  • cover events, conferences and seminars which might be applicable to our products or services – the ideal place to promote your own activities and make ourself more visible to potential prospects

  • feature local or regional events if one of your target markets is going to be focused on close to your business location – being able to attend relevant local networking or business events can be hugely beneficial but you need to know they are happening!

A good starting place is to use a blog specific search engine such as Technorati or Google Blog Search which should give you a range of blogs covering the area you are interested in. From there follow the links and references in the blogs that are relevant or check which blogs have linked to them – in both cases, you should find both which are immediately relevant or cover similar topics.

For the second type, its a case of going onto the relevant site and setting up the search terms you want to focus in on. Lets take Google News as an example. When you search on a term, such Business Blogging, on the results page on the left hand side of the screen, you will see the word RSS. If you copy that link and add it to your RSS Reader, it will send you all the news that arrives on Google News relating to Business Blogging. Good, eh?

There are many sites which offer this type of service, so check out some of the following ones and decide which report the type of information you’re looking for. You may find that the tracking facility offered at Blogpulse is useful (part of Nielsen) and the documents which you can access at Bnet come from a whole host of different sources. For blogs, Icerocket, Technorati and Google Blog Search will allow you to save your search terms to automatically search within the blogosphere. For anyone wishing to take this one stage further, then you could use something like Yahoo Pipes (an interactive feed manipulator and aggregator) or RSSMixer to bring these all together – probably only necessary for advanced users.

Of course, then remember to make sure on an ongoing basis that when you find a site which interests you, check if it has a feed (IE7 and Firefox should show you this automatically) and add it to your reader. That way you wont miss a thing. And dont forget that you can follow different things via RSS, not just text based sites. The most common are likely to be podcasts (which are really just sound files enclosed in an RSS feed) which are widely distributed but you can also find tools which will do the same to Twitter feeds and other microblogging or lifestreaming tools.

Organising and Managing your Feeds

Everyone will have their own way of organising the information and news which will be arriving in their RSS Reader, just as they do with their emails. What is key is to at least have a system whatever that might be rather than let all of the information come in and pile up.

However, don’t be too concerned that you might get overwhelmed as perhaps is the case with your emails – they are very different beasts. Unlike email, you don’t need to read all of the news that comes in from the feeds. While much of the information they deliver will be of use, there will be some that you can quickly disregard so skimming through the headlines is not only possible but recommended. At least by having the information in front of you, you can use the best filtering system around – your own eyes – to decide what is of interest and relevant to you today.

I would, however, recommend that you have a “trial area” – this way you can almost quarantine a new feed giving you time to check out the content before moving it to its correct content folder. This means you get less clutter in your established folders and know where to go to check the new information – if you don’t find yourself going back there often then perhaps it isn’t of as much use to you currently as you imagined.

For me, I prefer to work with a series of folders that represent the main subjects of interest to me and then name them appropriately. In most readers you can view only the feeds that are in each folder (as well as all your subscriptions at once, of course), so this allows me to focus in on certain areas as I need to. Others have recommended an approach where you divide them by levels ie. “Must read”, “2nd Priority”, “When there’s time” etc. and no doubt there are many of possibilities.

I guess that really, you need to use a system which works for you and with your needs but make sure you have one and try to set aside time now and again for a little “house cleaning” just to make sure that you’re not missing anything important.

Summary

RSS really does have a very central role to play in making it easier for businesses to their marketplace because of the access to relevant information that it can bring – this will become even more important as we try to work effectively with the social media that is becoming more and more prevalent today.

By using RSS as part of our business intelligence setup, we can benefit not only from the breadth of information that becomes available but also the speed at which we have access to it. Of course, what we then do with that information is what makes the real difference!

......................................

RSS Series:
1. RSS - An Introduction: So, what is RSS all about then?
2. RSS Benefits for businesses, bloggers and publishers
3. Business benefits of RSS to subscribers & readers
4. Ways to increase your RSS subscribers
5. Marketing with RSS
6. Using Feedburner to optimise your RSS

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

5 Comments 
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Recomended Reading:

  1. RSS Benefits for Businesses, Bloggers and Publishers
  2. RSS Readers – where can I get mine?
  3. 14 ways to help increase your RSS subscribers
  4. Who’s visiting your Blog? Browsers, Searchers and Subscribers
  5. A basic guide to RSS