By the time you read this, Google’s RSS reader will be gone.
Over the years millions of people (including many marketers and journalists) have used Google Reader to follow their favorite blogs and to collect, save and share the content they love, but now that’s come to an end.
Thankfully, RSS itself isn’t going anywhere, though Google’s recent mania for mothballing services probably means that Feedburner (a tool that makes it easier for blogs to share feeds in a visually appealing way) might be on the way out too.
The question is, do marketers even need tools like Google Reader any more?
Let’s think about this for a minute.
Marketers need to follow other blogs to keep up with what’s happening in their industry and what people are talking about. And if you want to curate digests of useful links to share with your audience as part of your content marketing efforts, most of what you’re curating will be published on blogs.
But do you still need an RSS reader to follow them?
Let me play devil’s advocate and suggest that if you have a strong social media presence, and the blogs you are following are also active on social media, then you don’t.
Instead, use the features built into the main social media sites and do your content curation there. Here’s how it would work for Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
Taming the Twitter Firehose
Trying to follow anything on Twitter is like getting hold of the wrong end of a firehose—there’s too much content spraying out and you’re likely to get covered in randomness.
The solution to that problem is to use Twitter lists. Lists are an easy way for you to group people around particular topics or interests, and they have recently become more useful.
Twitter has now expanded lists so you can create 1,000 lists (rather than the previous limit of 20) and follow up to 5,000 people per list (instead of 500). I love the first feature, but not the second. After all, if I’m following 5,000 people on a list, it will be just as useless to me as the Twitter home stream. That’s why it’s better to keep lists short.
Here are a few ways you could put your lists together:
- Divide the people whose blogs you are following into categories, similar to the categories you would have used in Reader. So you could have one list for people who blog about content marketing, a second list for those who are into social media, a third list related to your industry, and so on.
- Since people can be on more than one list, create sub-topics that let you focus on a particular area in fine detail.
- Use Twitter search to find people posting regularly on particular topics or hashtags and create lists for them.
- Set up columns for your most important lists in your social media software (such as Hootsuite) or visit those lists on the web interface. That way, you will cut out most of the noise.
- Integrate a tool like Buffer so you can share what you find to other social networks with a couple of clicks.
Spend a bit of time tweaking your lists and you will soon find them a useful way of following your favorite blogs.
You will be able to see the title and sometimes a short excerpt before deciding whether a post is worth exploring further.
You can also use all regular Twitter functions (retweeting, replying messaging and saving favorites) from your list.
And here’s one final tip: Use a tool like Pinboard and everything you share or favorite can be added to your personal bookmark library, complete with any hashtags. This makes content curation with Twitter even easier.
Following Blogs on Facebook
Facebook offers a number of ways for marketers to follow their favorite blogs. For example, the Networked Blogs application allows you to subscribe to blogs and see their posts in your newsfeed.
You can follow Facebook pages or subscribe to personal profiles too. But my favorite way to follow blog, page and profile updates on Facebook is via interest lists. There are a number of reasons for this.
- Facebook uses my ‘likes’ to target advertising and fill my newsfeed with a bunch of stuff which mostly seems irrelevant to me.
- If I am using Facebook for family and friends, then too many blog updates clutters my newsfeed and makes it harder for me to see the personal updates that matter to me.
- Likes are public—do I really want competitors to know how closely I am following their updates.
As I understand it—and I’m still experimenting—interest lists solve these issues. Visit a page or profile where someone is posting blog updates, hover over the gear icon and click “add to interest lists.”
As with Twitter, you can segment these lists as much as you want, keeping separate lists for those posting about content marketing or web apps, for example. You can add pages and profiles to the lists and, best of all, you can keep your interest lists private.
With each list you can choose the update types, which means there’s nothing to stop you from creating a list of people who share great images or video and then using that as a jumping off point for your own social sharing. Or you could choose to eliminate game notifications and keep your list clean.
So far, there has been no indication of a cap on the number of lists, and I’ve found it a useful way of following and sharing selectively.
While it’s easiest to share content directly on Facebook, you can use Buffer within Facebook to share to other networks. Check out Kristi Hines’ guide to Buffer for more information.
Working the Circles on Google+
In theory, the Circles setup in Google+ makes it easy to follow your favorite blogs there, but it can be a bit hit or miss. Despite all the hype, not everyone is on Google+ or remembers to use it regularly.
If my own example is anything to judge by, even those who are fairly active on the site might not share all their best content there, which is a problem if you are hoping to use it as a Reader replacement.
That said, there are some topics where there are a lot of active users on Google+, such as technology and social media, so if you’re following blogs and curating content around those topics, the site could be handy.
Here’s how it works.
The secret to using Google+ well is canny circle creation (can I call that CCC or would it be too cheesy?)
Create one set of circles for following/listening, segmented by topic. You can also search for favorite topics by hashtags and save those searches. That allows you to follow your favorite blogs, writers and topics easily.
Then create a second set of circles for sharing with people who are interested in particular topics.
If you log in to any Google service, you will see an indication of how many unread notifications you have. You can also choose to get updates by email (in your Google account settings) though that can get very noisy fast.
If you want to share Google+ posts to other social media sites, then you’ll need to use a tool like Buffer or a Chrome browser plugin like Extended Share for Google+.
Google also has one major advantage over the other two—it’s a search giant, so it’s easy to find information on practically any topic.
Bye Bye Reader
As you can see, any or all of these methods can help marketers keep tabs on the content posted by their favorite blogs, without an RSS reader in sight.
The secret to making it work is:
- to be selective about your input sources
- to integrate a social sharing tool so you can work with multiple networks
As long as the content sources you follow post information via these sites, you shouldn’t miss a thing. If they don’t, and you need a replacement for Google Reader, then you could do worse than Feedly.
Read more about the Google Reader demise here.