By now, most members of the inbound marketing community are probably aware that RSS exists (and if you don't, this blog post will help). While this may be true, my guess is that many still aren't aware of just how versatile RSS can be. The good old RSS feed can be a lot more powerful than you might think. Sure -- it's a great way to keep your blog subscriptions all in one place for easy reading. But it can be so much more to marketers.
So if you haven't already, sign up for an RSS reader like Google Reader, and start taking advantage of some of the following helpful uses of RSS feeds to assist your inbound marketing efforts.
10 Helpful Marketing Uses of RSS Feeds
1. Subscribe to industry news sites/blogs to stay on top of industry trends and topics. First, start populating your reader with blogs and news sites that report on trends and topics relating to your business' industry. You should also subscribe to general marketing blogs (here's a great list) to help you stay on top of new developments in marketing. Consider also subscribing to the blogs of your competitors so you can easily keep track of what they're publishing as well. Categorize the feeds in your reader into different topics and segments to keep it organized and easy to scan, and spend a few minutes every morning sifting through your reader to stay informed and up to speed.
2. Use it to help brainstorm blogging ideas. Trying to overcome a case of blogger's block? Take a look through your reader for blog topic inspiration. Check out what other bloggers in your industry are writing about. Does that spark a content idea? Notice a new trend that you think is applicable to your industry? Write about it! Disagree with another blogger's opinion? Be controversial!
3. Monitor Twitter for mentions of your company and industry-related terms. RSS can help you streamline your social media monitoring. For Twitter specifically, you should be looking for industry tweets, @replies, and mentions of your business. Although Twitter previously removed some its support of RSS, there is still a way to subscribe to Twitter searches for your competitors, industry terms, executives' names, hashtags, and whatever else may be relevant to your business. Replace the bold orange text in the following subscriber URLs with the terms you want to track, and add them to your reader:
Hashtag Search: http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=%23hashtag
User mention search: http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=%40username
Keyword search: http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=inbound+marketing
Location + Keyword Search: http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?geocode=40.744544%2C-74.027593%2C5.0mi&q=+research+paper+near%3A%22boston%2C+ma%22+within%3A5mi
(Note: Grab the location code from location-tagged tweets in your search results or from your profile page if you've enabled location-based tagging on Twitter. You can also change the proximity parameter, which is set here to include tweets within 5 miles.)
4. Subscribe to other YouTube channels. Did you know you can subscribe to YouTube channels via RSS as well? YouTube doesn't make it very easy to find a channel's RSS feed, but you can follow this pretty simple trick to determine what a channel's feed is and then add it to your reader. All you have to do is plug in the channel's username where indicated in orange bold:
So, knowing that a channel's username is what appears after the last backslash in the channel's URL (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/hubspot), if you wanted the feed for HubSpot's YouTube channel, you'd replace 'username' with 'hubspot' in the above formula, so HubSpot's YouTube channel RSS feed would be:
5. Identify appropriate LinkedIn questions. Answering industry-related questions on LinkedIn is a great opportunity to exhibit thought leadership, gain visibility for your company, link back to your own content, and generate leads from LinkedIn. Easily identify appropriate questions by subscribing to categories that make sense for your industry. For example, if you're a marketing consultant, click on the 'Marketing and Sales' category, then scroll down on the right and click 'Subscribe to New Questions in Marketing and Sales' for the RSS feed.
6. Identify relevant Quora topics. Similar to LinkedIn Answers, Quora is another great place to answer industry-related questions. And the exact same principle applies to Quora, except Quora calls categories 'Topics.' Collect the RSS feed for a specific topic by clicking 'Feed' on the right-hand side after you've searched for a topic.
7. Track specific Google searches. A great tool for searching for new blog articles and news is Google itself! Google has 'Google News' and 'Google Blogs' search functions, which are both great tools for collecting and searching for articles that are important to your business. To find this search function, conduct a Google search and click on either 'Blogs' or 'News' on the left-hand side. If it does not automatically appear for you, select 'More.'
At the very bottom of either of those results pages is the orange RSS icon/link that you can click to subscribe to the feed. Now, whenever a new blog or news article is written and fits the search criteria you have set, it will be sent to your Google Reader!
8. Follow blog comment feeds to identify influencers. A lot of blogs offer "comment feeds," or RSS feeds of the people who comment on their blog entries. Use these to understand who are the influencers with whom you should be networking and developing relationships. They probably have similar interests to you, and since they are vocal, they probably have a reach of their own that you can get access to once you build a relationship.
9. Publish your company's feeds on your website so people can easily find and subscribe to your content. Have a YouTube account, Twitter feed, or blog of your own? Link to your own RSS feeds on your website to make it easier for others to subscribe to your content and help generate new subscribers. A great place to do this is on your blog or your website's 'About Us' page, which is where people commonly look for RSS feeds.
10. Add a widget that pulls in feeds from specific topics to display on your blog or website. Take it one step further and add a widget the pulls in and displays a feed. For example, you could add a widget to your blog that displays a feed of your latest tweets, or add a widget that pulls in a feed of news articles generated from a Google News search. This will add an extra level of interactivity to any website or blog. There are a ton of RSS feed widget creators out there, and if you're a HubSpot customer, you can easily add a new RSS feed module via HubSpot's content management system.
In what other ways can you use the power of RSS in your marketing?
Image Credit: Michael Cote