RSS Series from Better Business BloggingIn the first part of this series “What is RSS all about then?“, I tried to give an overview of what RSS is, from a layman’s point of view if you like. Here, in the second part, it’s time to move on to looking at some of the ways in which RSS can be used by businesses, bloggers and publishers in general.

General RSS Benefits for all

For me, RSS is very much a Clark Kent figure – not particularly impressive on the outside but lots of hidden “super powers” underneath. Am I overstating that a little? Well you decide. To start, let’s have a quick run through of some of the elements that RSS can do for the information you publish in your business or blog:

i) Instant Publishing and Automatic distribution
As you publish new posts and information on your blog, RSS publishes them automatically on any additional sites that have decided to syndicate your content. This allows you to concentrate on the quality of your content and lets your RSS feed distribute it for you to all the places and people who have requested it, automatically and instantly.

ii) Direct guaranteed delivery to subscribers
You can be safe in the knowledge that your subscribers will receive the information that you are providing without worrying whether some overzealous spam filter might have intercepted and binned it.

iii) Targeted content delivery
There is no need to just offer a single RSS feed – instead you can break down your content into different areas so that people can choose to receive the targeted content they prefer. If you use WordPress, you can do this with the categories, each of which generates its own RSS feed automatically which you can offer to your subscribers.

iv) Higher Profile and Search Engine Ranking
Syndicating your content (ie. letting others publish the content that you have written) helps to build up inbound links back to your blog which is great news for the profile of your blog and of course is highly beneficial for your search engine rankings.

v) Increased accessibility and visibility
By offering easier access to your content, you are ensuring that it reaches more people who can then follow the information you’re providing. Basically, increased visibility for you and a way to improve the accessibility of your content too which will in turn help to reinforce your brand and people’s trust in it.

vi) More subscribers and so more readers
RSS will certainly help to increase the number of subscribers and hence readers. We want subscribers to feel comfortable, that�s the whole point. They should also not feel worried that by subscribing, they might be opening the door to yet more spam. RSS provides them with the security that this will not happen and so encourages readers to subscribe.

Specific Business Opportunities and Uses

RSS Series from Better Business BloggingOf course, while the general benefits of RSS are all well and good, as ever on Better Business Blogging, my primary focus is on the use of blogs as business tools so perhaps more important is how RSS can be used within a business environment.

In reality, the options that it offers are wide and appropriate applications will vary according to the requirements your business has as you keep in touch with your clients and readers of your blog. However, here are a number of specific ways in which RSS can be applied within a business context and which will hopefully spark some ideas for your own situation.

  • Sales channels communications: sending out messages to sales teams, distribution channels or resellers via RSS means that you can keep them up to date with all of the latest product, market and competitor information instantly. By dividing up the information into distinct sections means that they can receive only the areas that they need, either in terms of product, location or type;

  • Promoting special events: time critical events are ideally served by RSS. If you have weekly or monthly special offers or last minute availability which you need to communicate out to your customers then this ensures they receive the information immediately and are able to act on it. Again having a number of RSS feeds set up means you can be specific about your targeting of these offers as well;

  • Internal Content: You can use RSS feeds to streamline and improve your internal content syndication for corporate communications and providing information to remote employees and sales teams. RSS feeds don’t have to be open to the whole world, they can also be associated with internal blogs only for your staff;

  • Affiliate programs: making sure that all affiliates are provided with the latest information on products, sales techniques etc through an RSS feed which allows them to receive text, links or new graphics. Making sure the information they pass on is up to date means that you have more chance of turning your prospects into clients;

  • Conference details: for conferences, seminars and workshops, there are always lots of pieces of information to send out ahead of the event as well as presentation details etc after the event as well. Lots of time and money can be used up in sending out via email but RSS can do the job just as well;

  • Franchise information: franchisors needing to send information out to their franchisees or wanting to simply publish information to all their franchisees’ sites can do so using RSS, allowing them to communicate a consistent message out to them all;

  • Public Relations: automatic updates can also serve as a critical public relations function for the latest news on brands, staff and external content;

  • Announcing New Products: the launch phase of new products or new services is a critical time, so make sure that you use all of the tools available to you. RSS can spread the word quickly and hopefully help to generate traffic back to your site to find out more;

  • Networking Groups: where there are geographically diverse networking groups (such as the breakfast networking groups), the individual groups often have their own websites. RSS gives the perfect solution for centrally created information to appear on the websites alongside the local content;

  • Newsletters: if you already send out a newsletter by email, then why not also send it out via RSS? You probably already have it on your website if you are using it correctly, so RSS is a logical next step!

Recommendations to get the best from your RSS feed

Although, RSS feeds are primarily designed to deliver and distribute information, there are ways to optimise it to help it do this more effectively, so that you are making the maximum impact with the information that you are distributing through it.

Since I’m no technical expert, I like to look at tools which can help me with this as well as things which I can achieve myself as I create the posts. I’d therefore recommend considering putting the following in place for your RSS feed and, don’t worry, you can make the changes at any point, they don’t have to have been there from the start.

i) Get Feedburner involved: we’ll look at Feedburner specifically later in the series, but it does so much more than just give you an indication of your subscriber numbers. In particular, the Feed Flares offer huge flexibility as to what appears on your readers’ RSS reader alongside your post.

ii) Think about your post title: just as you would look at your Title Tags for Search Engines, so you should think about your post titles in the context of your RSS feed. Why? Because it is the post title that appears in the RSS reader of your readers – the post title needs to be something which will grab their attention, like a newspaper headline tries to.

iii) Explain RSS to your blog readers: create a page on your blog explaining what RSS is and the benefits it offers your readers – they’ll thank you for it, believe me! If you feel that it’s appropriate then you can use the content of What’s RSS all about then? as the basis of it. Tell them not only how to get an RSS Reader but also how and why they should subscribe to your own RSS feed;

iv) Give them an RSS by email option: make sure that you also include the option to receive your RSS subscription via email – I know that this seems to conflict with the great delivery capabilities of RSS but it opens up the delivery options to people not yet ready to use an RSS Reader. Services from Feedburner, Feedblitz and Aweber amongst others offer this in conjunction with your RSS feed;

v) Full or Partial RSS Feed?: You have the option to delivery full or partial feeds, ie. ones which contain all of the information in your post to your readers (full) or only the first part of it (partial). My preference is for full feeds although opinion is divided. If you have a lot of site based advertising which therefore requires readers to be on your site then the partial feed is the better option as people will need to click through to your site to read the whole article. If not then let them read it in their feeder, though keep some of the additional linking focused on encouraging them to visit other articles on your blog.

Benefits from RSS without publishing one!

In fact businesses don’t have to publish an RSS feed to be able to benefit from them. Let�s think about it, all the benefits that you can achieve through giving people access to information that you can provide can also be used by your business to make sure that you are ahead of the game in business terms. And, as a byproduct of this, you can also supply your readers with the very latest information, further helping to cement your position with them.

We’ll be looking at the reader benefits in more detail in the next part of the series, but here are some thoughts on ways you can benefit:

  • Keeping up to date: you want to keep up with what is happening in your industry but don’t have time to visit the relevant sites every day. Get this information delivered directly from main industry or news sites and this will allow you access to all of the up to date information as soon as it’s published;

  • Basic brand management: you want to know what is being said about your company so that you are able to respond to it and in this time is of the essence. Having access to this sort of information via RSS can save time which can be of enormous value;

  • Competitor Tracking: no doubt your sales team will also be interested in monitoring and tracking the online activity of your competitors. Using services running through RSS, you can receive updates which will help you to maintain a watching brief on them and their activities;

  • Information provision: perhaps you want to include information on your own site from sources such as the BBC or other respected sources. You can do this and have it updated automatically by incorporating RSS headlines directly on your site, giving you a stickier site and giving your readers further reason to make you their first port of call for news on subjects which interest them.

So, is it worth it?

I hope that from the information that you have seen here, you will be agree that RSS has some really serious benefits that it can offer to businesses and other organisations looking to publish information … and more’s the point who wish to see it reach all of the people who would be interested in it!

Of course, if you are running a Business blog, then all of this functionality is likely to be at your fingertips already and it’s really just a case of how you decide that you want to use it which is key. But, above all, let people know about RSS and how to use it – it will be good for you and good for them as well!

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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

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