Add RSS to Your Marketing Mix

Only 5 to 10 percent of Internet users have actually tried RSS (define). So why is RSS getting such high visibility? One reason is early adopters are a demographically desirable, technically savvy, information-centric audience. More important, RSS allows you to promote through a consumer-initiated content feed users sign up for and, hence, actually want.

RSS can be a useful addition to a marketing arsenal in several ways:

  • Drive traffic to your content. For media entities, this can be important if content lives behind a firewall and isn’t spidered by search engines. Be sure to promote your top stories on the relevant pages to encourage further reading, as visitors don’t entered your site through the home page.
  • Increase e-commerce. Target product information feeds to meet customer needs and interests. As with email marketing, where product is pushed to customers, ensure presentation, promotions, and timing are relevant. Leverage existing offerings on your site, and you may not need additional creative development. A regular content schedule is important. To keep RSS users and attract new ones, develop special RSS-only promotions.
  • Extend advertising and branding. Readers perusing your headlines on a regular basis helps keep your brand top of mind. Further, branding can be incorporated in the way feeds are written. From an ad perspective, you can wrap branding into an RSS reader or buy advertising on RSS feeds using a service such as Pheedo. If your advertising, whether video, audio, or static, is engaging, consider using links to encourage users to view and interact with it.
  • Distribute corporate communications, press releases, and investor relations content. Keep a broader constituent base informed. When disseminating corporate information via RSS, bear in mind the user decided to get your content, and your feed is public information. Make feeds short and informative to ensure recipients read them. Remember, you may not have control over the information environment in which your content is consumed.

Given current limited RSS use numbers, marketers must encourage RSS use. Among today’s leading consumer offerings are Bloglines, NewsGator, and Pluck. This is a marketing issue because without an RSS-enabled customer base, program reach will be limited.

Help the process by developing promotions that entice customers to use RSS. Not all prospects are technically savvy, so consider how to convince users they’ll benefit from subscribing to your content. Offer them free unique content or special promotions to make it worth their while. Also, promote RSS feeds throughout your site.

RSS gets around overstuffed email mailboxes and dreaded junk folders and gives registrants, who may be concerned sharing personal information, anonymity. But it’s not a substitute for email marketing. Rather, it’s another conduit for reaching your target market.

From a marketing perspective, RSS’s measurability is still evolving and therefore limited. You can’t tell who has received your feeds as you can with email. Your company information may be interspersed with that of your competitors’. In the current information environment, you can’t tell how users gather information. So it’s important to be part of the offering to have a chance of being heard. Some RSS readers, such as NewsGator, allow users to set up persistent searches to continually monitor important key words, such as your company name or brand.

RSS results can be analyzed as follows:

  • Track new feed subscribers. From a traffic perspective, though repeat visits are important, you must continually expand your reader base, especially to yield optimal results to your advertisers. Watch cancellation rates as well.
  • Monitor click-throughs from feeds. Though you can’t track specific customers, you can tell which content or product offerings drive usage. Also, measure time spent on site from RSS feeds. Among the factors to assess are when people view versus click to determine what time of day to publish, what type of content to publish, and how many pieces to publish at a time. For e-commerce sites, track purchases and related metrics. Consider how to engage these customers and extend your relationship with them once they reach your site.
  • Measure RSS ad response. Use impressions, CTR (define), actions, and costs (including (define)CPM and CPA) to determine ad effectiveness. It should also help you determine the optimal mix of editorial content and advertising.
  • Assess costs. Often, all that’s needed is titling and encoding URLs, not creating special HTML or landing pages. This means the costs of initiating an RSS program with existing content is relatively limited. It’s more a matter of how your company decides to make its content public. Given that RSS is an additional way to reach customers, you should consider testing the cost efficiency of different ways to get customers to subscribe to your feeds.

To get consumers to keep using your RSS feeds, you must continually supply new content that readers must find valuable. Though RSS currently reaches a relatively small user base, it’s growing fast. Even today, it can be an important addition to your marketing mix, as it reaches consumers who might not otherwise engage with your content. In today’s wired world, every company with a robust Web site is a content provider. Start thinking about and testing how to make RSS work for you.

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