Friday, December 11, 2009

Using RSS to Monitor Your Social Media Campaign

Image by damien_nissa

It is likely that today's vibrant and growing social Web would not exist without RSS. RSS (short for "Really Simple Syndication" or alternatively "Rich Site Summary") gives you the ability to selectively subscribe to automatic updates from a staggering number of sources, including more than million blogs, microblogs, social networks, video and  file sharing sites, news sources, and so on. Without RSS (or a similar service), it would be necessary to manually visit each of these sites to discover and read new content, thus, vastly restricting the possible scope and magnitude of the social Web.

RSS has been called the modern day "Online Paperboy." RSS lets site owners syndicate and, hence, distribute content automatically. It enables the delivery of updated RSS documents, often called feeds or channels. These feeds notify you about everything from new blog posts to recent music releases. As a consequence, most high traffic Web sites offer an RSS feed to their sites. Typically, the feed appears as a button labeled "XML," "RSS," or "Subscribe To." Since you must click this button to subscribe to an RSS feed, chances are good that the content you receive will satisfy your needs and tastes. So why should a business use RSS to monitor a social media marketing campaign? The most obvious answer is to track progress in achieving campaign goals. By using RSS to subscribe to the sites where you have concentrated your efforts, you can observe the results with an RSS Reader (also called a News Aggregator or News Reader). An RSS Reader usually displays the titles and brief descriptions of fresh content, making it simple to skim the list, find and click a relevant item, displaying the entire article, post, or video. Popular RSS Readers include Google Reader, Bloglines, and My Yahoo!--as well as built-in RSS Readers in products like Microsoft Internet Explorer.

In addition to watching for positive feedback, you can use RSS to spot negative comments that can quickly snowball into a consumer uprising. In this day and age, companies simply cannot afford to ignore what is being said about them on the social Web. Just ask the folks at Kryptonite Bike Lock Company. In the classic Kryptonite saga, where someone on the forum posted how to open a Kryptonite lock with a Bic pen. Then came a video showing how to pick the lock with a pen. The story of this flaw quickly spread to other social media sites, until it was picked up and published in The New York Times! The Associated Press syndicated the story, spreading it to dozens of other media outlets. Imagine the cost to the Kryptonite Bike Lock Company in terms of lost sales and bad PR.

If the company had been monitoring the social Web, it might well have been able to respond to this flaw early on and stem or even prevent the tide of bad press. The moral of this tale is that it is critical for marketers and public relations professionals to listen to the social Web, looking for mentions of their company, brand, product, or service. This is no longer an optional activity.

The following resources provide great insights about how to use RSS to track your social media marketing campaign progress:


  1. I never heard of RSS before--this a cool way to monitor social media. Time to start using Google Reader!

  2. I use RSS feeds all the time, can't imagine living without them. Nice job summarizing how these feeds have made the social web possible.

  3. I also have never heard of RSS before. The comment about it being an online paperboy is funny because I was just discussing with someone the other day how the newspaper is going to become obsolete here pretty soon. Great information and am easy way to understand it!
    Krysta Feldhusen

  4. Hi Krysta,

    Glad you found the information useful. You might try combining RSS with Google Alerts to stay even further ahead of the game. You can check out my Google Alerts post above for details on this feature.

  5. The whole social media thing is very new to me.My computer skills and knowledge are much more limited than they should be.I found your article on the use of URR informative and interesting.
    Tracking business progress and achieving campaign goals can be simplified with the use of URR.Monitoring both positive and negative feedback about your company can only be beneficial.I think having a social media specialist on the payroll is a must.
    Melinda Howland

  6. I have really enjoyed “playing around” with RSS recently. I appreciate the time it saves me looking up the information from the blogs and website that I am interested in. It gives me timely news and updates without extra junk I don’t need.

    That being said, I never considered using RSS in reverse, using it to monitor what is being said (both good and bad) about my company, products etc. What a great, simple strategy. Thanks – Troy Smith

  7. Troy--glad you found a new use for RSS. It is a great scouting tool for companies and I always amazed how few employee. Good hunting! ;-)

  8. Wow, Im 19 years old and while I wouldnt consider myself an avid tenchnology user, RSS feeds are new to me. Im already outdated! I do spend time searching for content, so a service that can find interesting stories and content for me would be ideal.

    However, one possible drawback to RSS feeds is I could see myself personalizing my content too much; filtering out potentially important news items because they dont appeal to me superficially. Either way, I will have to experiment with this online Paper boy.
    -Julia Zurcher

  9. I had heard of RSS before but I never actually knew what it is. It is something that I, along with millions of others, rely on everyday without knowing that RSS was behind it all.
    It is crazy how much it can affect a business if they are not in the social loop. Kryptonite, had they seen what was being said about their locks, could have fixed the problem with their locks much sooner and been in contact with the customers that could potentially cause the company to shut down. This is not excusable in this day and age of technology. Thanks for explaining the true meaning of RSS!
    Alex Garras