In an information-saturated online marketing world, it can be challenging to find relevant content on a regular basis without committing valuable time. Using feed readers can cut through the clutter by customizing your view of the Web.
Feed readers aggregate new content from multiple sources— blogs, news sites, and multimedia— using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) technology, allowing you to quench your thirst for a particular field without visiting individual websites. Given its utter simplicity and its extreme utility, it astonishes me that I still have friends who haven’t yet set up a feed reader.
Staying up to date on the themes, trends and events in social media has been my personal hobby for the last three years as I’ve been studying how people use the web in their daily lives. With that said, I can’t imagine how my hobby would have ever developed beyond a glimmer in my eye if I’d had to learn about this field by visiting individual websites. Aggregating data into one web page gives me access to information quickly so I can scan for the bits I find useful or intriguing whenever I steal a few moments.
So, now that I’ve convinced the naysayers to finally start using a feed reader, I should relay a few tips I’ve discovered through trial and error. With any hope, these practices will allow you to get the highest ROI on your RSS:
Crafting the ideal feed reader page can require some trial and error. When you first set up your page, don’t be afraid to subscribe to content from a wide variety of sources. Over time, you’ll get a sense of the content you find “sticky” enough to grab your attention.
It can get overwhelming to stay on top of the sites with more prolific posting schedules. I’ve found a personal threshold for how much information I can commit to reading in one sitting. If I end up feeling overwhelmed when I see a large number of updated items from one particular site, I’m likely to take that as a sign that I should delete my subscription. After all, feed readers should make your online life more enriching, not more stressful.
Star, skim and skip
All feed reader tools include some functionality so you can separate the informative wheat from the chaff. In Google Reader, you can “star” an item for later viewing so it doesn’t get buried in subsequent posts. Skimming headlines and skipping items altogether are also entirely appropriate practices within this medium.
Part of increasing the ROI of your RSS is also recognizing its inherent social nature. In Google Reader, for instance, users can share links with their Gmail contacts. These shared links show up automatically within a “Shared friends” category once you launch the reader. Other services, including Bloglines, Feedly and Netvibes, include their own social functions. When it was time to choose a feed reader, I went with Google Reader simply because it was already interoperable with my Gmail account. The upside of this choice is that most of my email contacts are also Gmail users, so I can easily view the posts they find intriguing, or share my own.
Using Google Reader, I tap into the brains of some of the heavy hitters in the social media world—Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, and Beth Kanter—on a daily basis. Their words inform my view of the dynamic social media landscape and inspire me to use social tools in new and effective ways. In an industry that changes minute to minute, it’s helpful to know that my feed reader is working even when I’m finally asleep.