RSS has been around for a few years but is still not especially renowned within business communities. Which, given the opportunities it presents, is mind-boggling. Perhaps communications experts haven’t latched on. Or even worse given what they do for a living, they know, but haven’t communicated it to the wider world.
This should really change, especially now that RSS feeds are being incorporated into a growing number of day-to-day applications, like Internet Explorer 7, which unlike previous versions makes it very easy for users to integrate RSS feeds in their favourites, or Netvibes, the popular aggregator which allows users to login to a dashboard containing their favourite feeds.
So lesson number 1 is simply: lots more people receive feeds, hence using RSS might enable you to communicate with them. This is also true of email however. How is RSS different (or better even?)
Compared to email, RSS has some obvious advantages. The fact that end-users select feeds themselves means that opt-in issues are bypassed. More importantly, end-users will actually read the material you post. Figures on the amount of emails that get blocked by spam filters are always over 10% and opening rates on those that get through usually aren’t over 30%. RSS on the other hand has 100% delivery rates while click-through rates have been reported as 500% better with RSS than email (lockergnome.com).
RSS has been accused of being somewhat unsophisticated because it is assumed that feeds are merely standard bits of text appearing in a standard text box. When it comes to RSS however, “standard< really is a thing of the past. Audio and video files may now be also transmitted via RSS. Furthermore, aggregators can be designed so that feeds appear in pretty much whatever way is desired. Most interestingly (for e-marketers certainly), targeting can be very specific. Feeds from the same source do not all have to be the same, as most people assume. Indeed content, and even timing, does not have to be uniform and may be based on a subscriber’s preferences. And it goes without saying that metrics allow for accurate measuring of all activity on the end-user’s side.
If all this isn’t enough to convince companies that they should use RSS, the clincher really should be that it can boost search engine rankings no end, due of course to an increase in inbound links to a company’s site, but also because search engines are actually favouring RSS publishers. How this happens or to what extent is hard to say, but we’re pretty confident it’s not an urban legend!
So RSS really is a marketer’s dream. Great click-through rates, awesome targeting and measuring potential, and a boost to search engine rankings.
The other side of the coin is pretty interesting too i.e. those looking to RSS for its inbound potential rather than as a marketing tool. Having interesting feeds can really improve the content of a website, especially useful for organisations with limited material due to resource or time constraints. Automatically updated, quality material: an overworked webmaster’s dream. What’s more, aggregators are getting increasingly sophisticated, meaning that material from hundreds if not thousands of sources will be whittled down to one stream of links based on carefully selected keywords. Impressive stuff.
The temptation to claim this is all off the top of my head is great, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. The ideas were conveyed far more eloquently in the document this entry is based on, namely “The Business Case for RSS< by Rok Hrastnik, sponsored by our friends at conversationblog. Download for free here: