How to use the best RSS Feeds to take your Social Media Marketing to the next level
Where were you in 1999? Some of you might not even have been born yet! That’s a sobering thought.
Anyway, 1999 not only gave us Y2K hysteria and the dot-com crash, it also gave us RSS (Really Simple Syndication). Launched in March 1999 by legacy browser Netscape; the purpose of RSS was to define a standardized format for how website blog articles could be consumed in a “feed”. And so the RSS feed was born.
RSS feeds were formatted in XML (Extensible Markup Language) so they could be easily read by both humans and machines. The later being email clients that supported RSS (one of the earliest examples was Microsoft Outlook 2007) or RSS readers which aggregated blog articles from multiple websites (like the now-defunct Google Reader, primarily replaced by Feedly.
The main value of these RSS readers was to provide a way for users to read many blog articles from multiple websites all in one place without having to visit each site separately.
For a technology over 20 years old, RSS has remained remarkably unchanged over the years. The most notable innovations in the RSS space have been on the consumption side with AI-powered filtering features like Feedly's Leo.
Undoubtedly, RSS has accelerated the consumption of written content on the web and the ability for that content to be shared seamlessly across other channels - primarily social media.
What RSS looks like today
According to RSS stats from BuiltWith, RSS is used by approx 36% of the websites in its index. Given that WordPress supports RSS out of the box by default, its no wonder that RSS is still a ubiquitous technology. In 2018, Feedly announced it had surpassed 14 million users. Feedly is the web's most popular RSS reader but its certainly not the only game in town. This means the actual number of user consuming content through RSS readers is likely to be much higher.
Benefits of using RSS for Social Media Content
This brings us to our main topic: using RSS for social media. There are 3 main benefits for using RSS feeds as part of your social media marketing:
1. Automate some or all of your social content when blog articles are published
Most digital marketers can relate to the challenge of coming up with fresh content for their social media channels. Deirdre Davi from Sterling Brands describes this challenge as “feeding the beast”. For a digital marketer, maintaining content on multiple social channels can sometimes feel like an impossible task.
The main benefit for using RSS feeds in social media marketing is to automate some or all of your social content when new blog articles are published. If you plan to use RSS feeds from news or industry sources you can position yourself or your brand to be an authoritative source on your industry by always publishing the latest updates thanks to RSS feeds. This strategy is complementary to thought leadership where you publish your own content and add opinion to these updates.
We know from SEO best practice, that Google’s EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trust) is a key search ranking signal so building your profile and authority in your industry via thought leadership is essential for also building SEO success. Learn more about Google's EAT principle in this video:
There are two popular approaches to using RSS feeds to automate your social content:
Syndicate your own blog articles on your social channels
The most common approach is to automatically post to your social channels when you hit ‘publish’ on a new blog post in your CMS. While CMS’ like WordPress have plugins for doing this, some marketers rely on RSS to power the functionality via automation tools like Zapier.
This can be achieved by creating a Zap in Zapier which fires when a new blog article appears in your website’s RSS feed. The image, headline and description from the article are then used in a Facebook post or Tweet. You can also append text or hashtags in the post copy as part of the rule.
Syndicate blog articles from other sites on your social channels
Another approach is to follow a number of RSS feeds from other websites whose content you can syndicate on your social channels. This can be similarly set up the same way in Zapier and triggers every time these sites publish a new article. Something to keep in mind though is how frequently all these blogs publish new articles. Most social marketers don’t like the idea of flooding their social channels with content. This balance of quality vs quantity is a key consideration when planning which blogs to follow.
On social channels like Twitter, high post frequency may be an advantage. But on others like Instagram, it can be a disadvantage. This is something that you’ll need to test because everyone’s audience is different and has different content expectations.
2. Automate some or all of your social content from non-blog sources
RSS feeds aren’t just limited to blog articles. There are several other sources which all support the format so you may find some interesting opportunities (especially in e-commerce) to automate posts on social media.
Basically, any other sources on the web that support RSS feeds can be used with the RSS trigger in Zapier. Here are some examples:
New product listed on an Etsy shop
You can create an RSS Feed from any Etsy shop by visiting the shop’s page and adding “/rss” to the end of the URL.
For example: https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/ElvenForest/rss
Product descriptions are formatted in HTML so while these can’t be posted verbatim on social, you can strip HTML with Zapier’s Formatter.
New product listed by an eBay seller
You can use eBay’s Advanced search feature to find specific eBay sellers and then see a feed of their active products. When they posts a new product this will be pushed into their RSS feed.
First go to eBay’s Advanced search. Then scroll down to Sellers and tick the “Only show items from” box, type the seller’s user ID into the text box and then hit Search.
Once you see results, add “&_rss=1” to the end of the URL to turn your search into an RSS feed.
New post published on Medium
Medium is gaining traction as a popular place for writers to publish their articles. You can create a trigger for new Medium articles by adding “/feed/” before the username in any Medium URL like this:
Medium URL: https://medium.com/@businessinsider
Turn it into an RSS feed: https://medium.com/feed/@businessinsider
Like the other Zapier triggers we’ve looked at, this would fire whenever @businessinsider publishes a new article on Medium.
3. Follow RSS Feeds for social content ideas
Content publishing aside, RSS Feeds are a fantastic source of content ideas. Use an RSS Reader like Feedly to follow key bloggers, industry news sources, influencers and others.
These feeds will be handy when you’re brainstorming content ideas or looking for inspiration. Feedly also provides simple stats on articles so you can see which ones are the most popular and focus on remixing or repurposing these ideas in your own content strategy.
Mentioning and tagging the original authors or brands on your social posts may lead to them sharing your content with their communities too.
How to curate your RSS Feeds
Now that we’ve gone through the benefits of using RSS feeds, let's cover how you can pick and choose the best ones. The criteria for choosing the best RSS feeds will really come down to your industry and what else you plan to publish on social. But as a starting point, consider these factors when assessing a potential source:
Feed frequency: first, determine your maximum desired posting frequency. Let’s say for example, you set this at 4 times a day. Look for sources that publish well under this threshold. If you find sources publishing over 4 times a day it will be far too frequent especially if you plan to use multiple sources.
Feed quality: look subjectively at the content published - is the headline high quality? Is the content written well and non-spammy? Is the featured image high quality? Ensure you assess multiple posts from each source to determine if the quality is high enough.
Feed relevance: is the content “on topic” to you or your brand. Again, you’ll need to look at multiple posts in the feed to determine the overall relevance of the content to you.
Feed popularity: this is relevant for blog sources only but using Feedly, you can see how many followers the source has and how popular their posts are (a score out of 100). You may find several inactive feeds (who haven’t posted for many months or even years). Don’t include these feeds in your curated list.
Refining the content in your RSS Feeds
Once you’ve built your shortlist of RSS Feeds you may still want to consider some keyword filtering on the actual content to include or exclude certain keywords. This is useful to do with sources who may have wide content perspectives. But excluding content based on keyword is a manual process.
If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is! This is where Upflow comes in. Its a tool designed to fill your social media content schedule with the best content. Upflow uses advanced technology that finds the best content across thousands of RSS Feeds.
For example, let’s say your content area is personal finance. Simply open your Upflow account and add 'personal finance' as a topic:
The world of personal finance is quite broad though, so you can easily refine this down to a sub-topic like real estate:
Upflow will also provide topic suggestions based on the topics you've already chosen. Once you're happy with all the topics you've chosen, you can further refine your content settings. Pro users can also exclude certain keywords and also auto-add hashtags to future posts:
Once you've saved your settings, you'll be able to see the posts that Upflow has sourced based on your topics and search criteria:
Automate your content publishing with Upflow
Upflow has a vast library covering hundreds of thousands of content sources which can be filtered by topic, keywords, region and author types.
Once you’ve set up your criteria for what you want to publish, Upflow shows you content sources that you can add to your shortlist.
Hand-picked sources: Upflow sources are vetted and approved only if they publish high-quality content.
Advanced filtering rules: Set specific topics to be included or excluded at the post level (not just the source level)
Daily or weekly frequency capping: Set publishing caps or blackout days easily so you’ll never post over your frequency maximum.
Best of all Upflow is free to use for scheduling up to 8 posts per day. Create your free Upflow account today.