This is a guest post by Jason Sokol. Jason Sokol, whom I call J-Dubs, is a marketer, blogger and proud father-to-be. He loves marketing and finding ways to connect meaningfully with customers and is determined to bring grocery store marketing and advertising into the 21st Century. You can find him at jwsokol.com or at @jwsokol on Twitter.
Do you remember back to when you were a kid and your kindergarten or first grade teacher took you to the library for the very first time? You walked into the room and were surrounded by thousands of books – picture books, chapter books, nonfiction books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, maps, videos, and CDs (actually, they still used the old cassette tapes back when I was in school). It was like walking into the king’s treasure room.
No matter how ambitious you might have been, reading all of those books would have been impossible. Maybe you even tried to do this. How far did you get? Did you have a system that allowed you to make some great progress? Now let’s switch gears and look at what happens today.
Each day, millions of new articles, posts, videos, images and files are added to Web. If you are a blogger, a PR pro or even an avid web enthusiast, understanding what RSS is and how to use a feed efficiently is critical. Now add in one more complication to your online reading habit – trying to keep up with hundreds, maybe thousands of friends and fans on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and any other social network. Whew! You can quickly find yourself lost in a sea of information. Rather than “selecting all” and hitting the “delete” key, there is a much easier way to stay up to date on all the latest happenings and engage people.
What Is RSS?
If you are new to blogging or the social media scene, RSS is an incredibly useful tool and one that you really should spend some time learning more about. It stands for Real Simple Syndication and this simple technology is at the heart of most of today’s social technologies.
RSS is basic code that is imbedded in a webpage or site that allows site visitors to “subscribe” to the page. Subscribing is the first step in this process. To make it work, you have to have a newsreader or most email clients that the feed will then connect to. Since this is not an article about the intricacies of RSS, I will wrap up this section simply by saying that RSS is absolutely cool (I am a geek, just ask my wife) and using a great newsreader can save you tons of time in today’s information rich environment.
Why It Is Important
Understanding how to use RSS is can save you hours of time each day. Why? Because you can have hundreds of blogs, news articles, tweets, videos and much more delivered all to one convenient place. No more random surfing or searching needed.
A Recipe For Social Success: Sort, Read, Share
As a kid, my mom spent a lot of time teaching my sister and I how to cook. We learned everything from how to whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies to the magical secret behind my Grandma’s award winning macaroni and cheese. The most important thing I learned back then was that having a simple recipe to start with is incredibly important. A great recipe gives you a base to work from. It is simple, yet is will allow you to be a little adventurous and try new things. Today, I would like to share my favorite RSS recipe:
1 RSS Reader
12-15 of your favorite RSS Feeds
1 Save For Later Application (Instapaper or Read It Later)
1. Choose Your RSS Reader
2. Add In Your Favoriet RSS Feeds
3. Scan Baby, Scan
Step 1: Choose Your RSS Reader
As a marketer and information hound, I end up following around 50+ RSS feeds and I do it all through Google Reader (http://www.google.com/reader/). About twice a day (once in the morning before I go to work and once in the late afternoon) I fire up Google Reader and scan through the headlines of all my favorite marketing blogs, Twitter feeds and news sources.
You don’t have to use Google Reader and depending upon what device you are using (laptop, mobile phone, iPad, etc.) there are ton of great tools out there. Google Reader is
my reader of choice when I’m using my laptop. I use River of News on my iPad and Feedler Pro on my iPhone.
When selecting a RSS reader, you want something that allows you to scroll thorough tons of articles without many distractions, set up categories or folders, and integrates with your favorite “save for later” tools (Instapaper and Read It Later).
Step 2: Add In Your Favorite RSS Feeds
The next time you are out surfing the Web, watch your address bar or the page itself for the RSS symbol. This is your signal that a site has RSS integrated into it and instead of coming back to it again and again, you can simply subscribe to the site and have any new posts delivered straight to your reader.
What type of sites and services use RSS? Many websites do. Most of your major blog platforms have this feature integrated into them. The vast majority of social media platforms do as well – twitter is one of my favorites.
Step 3: Scan Baby, Scan
Here’s the key to getting the most out of your RSS reader of choice – scan; don’t read. Scan through all of your favorite articles. Look at titles, subtitles, images, graphs, etc. But don’t read. Your job at this point is to identify the good stuff.
Once you find a gem, save it to your favorite “read it later” tool. (I have been using Instapaper for the last six months; however, I recently switched over to Read It Later just for fun and I really like the service. Either one will work.) Repeat this process over and over until you have made it through your entire list of RSS feeds. This simple step has allowed me to take hours of reading through hundreds of potential stories down to about 10 minutes of scanning.
Quick Tip #1: Google Reader allows you to sort your RSS feeds into folders. This is another great way to increase your scanning speed. Here’s how I use the folders function:
· I have one folder that I drop all general news into. If I am in a hurry, I can bypass these feeds or skip them entirely by marking them all as read
· I have another folder that I place all of my “must read” blogs and favorite twitter feeds into. All of these get scanned with a bit more depth
· My “friends and family” folder is filled with feeds from personal acquaintances and I typically will spend the most time actually reading these feeds
Quick Tip #2: Clean out your subscriptions from time to time. What you will find is that over time you will end up with far more subscriptions than you can really handle. There will also be a ton of junky RSS feeds. I make it a point to review my feeds in Google Reader once a month and clean out the dull and poor quality feeds.
Quick Tip #3: Resist the urge to sign up for major publication RSS feeds. I used to follow Mashable’s RSS feed and they typically accounted for about 50+ new stories a day. Add in a few similar services and you will find yourself overwhelmed with information. Here’s my advice. Don’t subscribe to platforms like these unless you really need to. The smarter way to approach this is to let others do the work for you. What I have found is that many of the better bloggers and Twitter users (like @margieclayman and @suzannevara) are also reading these sources. As they read, they post links to their favorite articles on their sites. Avoid the mass content provides and focus on the quality content providers.
Let’s face it, no matter how selective you are with your RSS feeds there will always be a ton of junk. I’d say that on a typical day I end up only sending 3-5 of my favorite posts to my Read It Later account. 3-5 posts is manageable.
Step 4: Read
Now switch over from GoogleReader to your Instapaper or Read It Later service and read. This is where you want to be spending the bulk of your reading time. Think quality over quantity. Read, highlight, take notes and decide what you are going to do with the great articles you are looking through.
Step 5: Share
If you have been in the social media game for long, you have probably learned by now that creating fantastic content and sharing links to the best stories from around the Web is how you will earn a great reputation and build your own followers. You key to success is to find high quality information sources, but not get stuck reading for hours on end. This is where the above RSS recipe comes in handy. If you follow it properly, you will end up freeing up far more time to write amazing blog posts and chatting with your friends on Twitter and Facebook. Isn’t that the whole point of being social?
Let’s go back to the recipe I shared above. If you are following it correctly, you will end up freeing up more time to spend on creating content and being social rather than consuming content. I like to stick to a 1:4:12 ratio, which ends up looking like this:
· 5 minutes scanning RSS feeds
· 30 minutes reading excellent articles
· 60 minutes (or more) writing blogs posts and sharing links via Twitter and Facebook
RSS is an amazing tool. It delivers massive amounts of information to one place and allows you quickly sift through to the highest quality information available. More importantly, it gives you the information you need to produce your own high quality content and share with your own followers.
Like any great recipe, I hope the one I provided in this post will help you out. However, it is just a recipe. How you use it and modify it is up to you. Are there ingredients that you would add? Have you found ways to be even more efficient? How are you using RSS as a way to find great content while freeing up your own time so you can be even more social?
This is post #16 in The Engagement Series. Am I not touching on a subject you feel is important? Let me know!
Image Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/tomdavies