10 Ways for E-Marketers to Use RSS

If RSS (define) is the ultimate consumer-controlled media, what’s holding up its adoption? Recent research shows RSS adoption lags some early expectations. The reality is usage is already much higher than many people think since RSS is the underlying technology for many consumer-focused sites, such as My Yahoo. With Internet Explorer 7 finally being pushed out this week, RSS should go mainstream. RSS-focused FeedBurner delivers 29 million feeds and grows 25 percent each month. Marketers are starting to take advantage of this growth by testing RSS to get in ahead of the crowd.

RSS Content Strategy

Using RSS to extend your marketing is about parsing content into small, easily digestible chunks that consumers want. The average Bloglines reader voluntarily consumes about 20 feeds a day.

From a marketing perspective, you must convert your content into compelling information feeds that consumers want to receive. This content falls into three categories:

  • Category-level feeds, such as digital cameras, targeted at buyers early in the purchase consideration process. These can include reviews, customer ratings, and targeted direct response type copy.

  • Granular product information, such as data about a specific model, directed to buyers further along the purchase cycle. To reviews and consumer input, add notification-driven content, such as sales.
  • Niche content related to your offering that keeps readers engaged with your brand.

For efficient content development, create RSS feeds along with the rest of your marketing communications. To ensure consumers recognize your brand, make sure your copy has a consistent voice.

10 E-Commerce Tactics

Here are 10 ways to extend your e-tail marketing using RSS (note: some of these can be used by content marketers as well):

  • Drive traffic and purchasers. Use RSS feeds to distribute time-sensitive information, such as weekly travel specials and niche content. Some implementations can put consumers directly into the shopping process.

  • Set up existing customers to receive RSS feeds. In this case, there’s often one individual per URL. A Silverpop financial client, for example, regularly distributes reports to its customer base this way.
  • Advertise on content providers’ feeds. Use providers such as FeedBurner and Pheedo. FeedBurner has found ads that engage readers to sign up for RSS alerts for special offers perform better than ads for a specific product.
  • Create channels for affiliate communications to distribute marketing content. Use RSS to enhance affiliate communications by developing links that allow you to automatically push updates.
  • Expand rich media distribution. Use podcasting, videocasting, and PDFs to create broader reach for your marketing message.
  • Distribute content to other devices (mobile phones, iPods, PDAs, etc.). A mobile RSS reader can be an easier solution to implement than an SMS one. When creating content for those devices, consider the environment in which the user will consume your content.
  • Extend site content with feeds from other sites and blogs. In this case, you’re using syndicated information to supply related content on your site.
  • Develop partnerships to cross-promote with relevant content sites to build traffic. Use RSS to attract a content site’s readers to your product.
  • Repurpose rich content, such as white papers, into smaller chunks. Use small pieces of content to engage readers and lure them to your site for further information. Think about this content in a sequential way. This can work well for business-to-business (B2B) marketers.
  • Create Web widgets that are fun to use and viral and that include RSS feeds. You can develop a widget, for instance, that provides tips and tricks for your product, especially if you’ve got a product for which consumers are evangelical, such as hybrid cars.

RSS Metrics

RSS is trackable, however you won’t necessarily know who your specific customer is. Partner with a supplier like FeedBurner, SimpleFeed, or Silverpop to get more detailed analytics. FeedBurner’s Don Loeb points out, “Don’t stop creating a feed when you see small initial results, since it may take time for a following to grow.” Some useful approaches to metrics are:

  • Subscriber related. Monitor metrics such as the number of subscribers, when they read your feeds, which domains they come from, opens, and click-throughs to better understand your consumers.

  • Content related. Track which feeds consumers read and engage with to determine what type of information works for consumers and how to present it. Test different presentations to gather more insights into what works for you.
  • Ad metrics. Collect metrics that are similar to those for other online advertising through a service like Pheedo or FeedBurner.
  • Costs. Since feeds engage consumers earlier in the purchase process as well as when they’re ready to purchase, it’s important to associate these costs with actions to understand your marketing’s full effect.
  • Revenues. Track revenue from purchases driven by targeted feeds. Also consider non-direct RSS-related purchases. A consumer may be influenced by your feed but not purchase directly from it.

RSS is about to go mainstream. Start testing new ways to use this technology to gain a competitive advantage. Since many e-commerce marketers have yet to get involved in RRS, you have a chance to stand out as an early adapter and to build a following. Remember that RSS is the ultimate opt-in marketing vehicle with high returns available if you stay in synch with your consumer’s needs.

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