Five Tricks for Leveraging RSS and Web Feeds

Feeds can be the glue holding your social media assets together. Learn how to use feeds for social media integration.

Aliza Sherman
May 21, 2009
Episode #054


Hi there, The Digital Marketer here, ready to help you put the power of the Internet and technology to work for your business.

Whenever I speak about social media or consult clients, I often mention RSS feeds and am usually met with blank stares.

What are RSS Feeds?

Explaining what an RSS feed is can be challenging, but according to Wikipedia, RSS is “most commonly translated as Really Simple Syndication,” and “is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works--such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video--in a standardized format."

Even more simply put, RSS feeds are just a particular file format that reduces content to a simpler form so you can easily syndicate it.

I often refer to feeds as my "secret sauce" for linking social media sites together and adding dynamic content and interactivity to websites, blogs, and social networks. I also leverage feeds by using them within widgets which are small bits of code that can be placed on sites to display dynamic content in compact spaces.

To get started using feeds, you first need to locate your feed URLs. On a blog, feeds can be found in a variety of ways. Often you can click on a link or button on your blog that allows others to subscribe to your feed, and you'll arrive at your feed page.?? If you don't have an RSS feed or want to get a better handle on your feed subscriptions, you can use a service such as Feedburner to create and manage your feeds.

5 Ways to Use Feeds

Here are five ways I use feeds -- and widgets -- to embed content that enhances my various social media sites and tools.

1. Feed a blog post into a Twitter page. While automatically feeding your blog posts into your Twitter account doesn't make for genuine live tweeting, it does provide acceptable Twitter content for regular tweets. You can use a free service called Twitterfeed to produce the connection between your blog and Twitter account. You start with the RSS feed for your tweets. You can find a link to your feed below the content in the right hand margin of your Twitter page. Twitterfeed includes a post title and a link to the related blog post as well as a short intro that you can compose such as "just blogged this" or "from my blog."

2. Feed a blog into a Facebook Page.On Facebook, you can feed your blog into your Facebook Page – not profile, but Page. Your Facebook Page is what you can set up for your business or nonprofit organization and is not your personal profile. To add your blog feed to your Page, click on the Edit Page link under your Page logo and choose Notes. There you will see the option to add your blog feed to your Page using the Notes feature. Once you do, your blog posts will show up with a headline and short summary on your Facebook Page's wall.

3. Feed tweets into a blog. The easiest way to feed your tweetstream into your blog is by using a Twitter badge. Just go to twitter.com/badges to access the wizard to create your badge. You can create badges specifically for Blogger, Facebook, Typepad and also build more customized badges that can be embedded into other sites as long as they allow Flash or Javascript code.

4. Feed events listings into a blog. There are many ways to get feeds for events listings. You can use a site like Eventful or Upcoming to create a group and then add events to the site. Then you can obtain the feed URL for your events from whichever events site you're using. Embed that code into the margin of your blog and note that each blog may have it's own proprietary way of doing this as well as limitations to what you can embed. You can customize the appearance of your events listing and specify the number of events featured in the list. If you have many events, the widget of code you embed into your blog will have a scroll bar to access the entire list.

5. Make custom widgets leveraging feeds. If you want to make your own widgets, use sites like Widgetbox or Widgetize. These sites offer free services for building attractive widgets using feeds that provide dynamic content. You then get the code to embed your custom widget into sites that allow Flash or Javascript. You can also let others copy your widget code so they can embed your branded widget onto their site. By doing so, others are essentially extending your brand and syndicating your content. Regardless of where the widget resides, anyone who scrolls through the content and clicks on a link will be taken to the source of the content, such as your blog.

Bottom Line: Feeds are powerful behind-the-scenes tools that help you link your social presences to one another and allow you to enrich your sites with bits of dynamic content. Feeds can be your secret sauce to a better integrated social media mix.

Contact Me

That's all we have time for today. Visit the show’s website at digitalmarketer.quickanddirtytips.com for links to all of the sites mentioned in the show. If you'd like to ask a question or request a topic for The Digital Marketer, email me at digitalmarketer@quickanddirtytips.com or leave a message by calling 206-339-6279.

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Upcoming – http://upcoming.yahoo.com

Eventful – http://www.eventful.com

Twitterfeed - http://www.twitterfeed.com/

Twitter Badges - http://www.twitter.com/badges

Widgetbox - http://www.widgetbox.com/

Wigitize - http://www.wigitize.com/

RSS image courtesy of Shutterstock