As a business owner, it’s important to keep up to date with what’s being said about your brand as well as what’s going on in your industry. One great way of doing this is to monitor competitor blogs and key influencers in your industry.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to setup monitoring tools and start automating the delivery of content to your screen. These tools will save you time and increase efficiency when it comes to finding out what’s being said online.
- Get a free Google account (google.com/accounts)
- Setup subscriptions in Google Reader
- Use bookmarks / browser shortcuts
- optional iPhone & iPad applications
Get a free Google Account
To get a free Google account, simply go to google.com/accounts and signup using your existing email address. You can then use this account for all things Google including Google Reader, Adwords and Analytics.
Setup subscriptions in Google Reader
Subscriptions are great because you don’t have to think of all the places to go to see if there’s anything new to read, it gets delivered straight to you when there’s something fresh. Subscribing to news/blog feeds is just like subscribing to a bunch of newspapers or magazines that all get delivered to the same place.
Presuming you have your Google account setup, navigate to google.com/reader to set up your subscriptions. To add a subscription into your new account, select ‘Add a subscription’ in the top left of the page. You can then do one of two things. Most commonly you’ll search for a keyword to find feeds of interest. Alternatively you can also add specific websites of interest by entering the feed address directly. How would you know the feed address? That’s easy, here’s how; navigate to a blog that you want to monitor and (at most sites) you’ll see an orange feed icon with a link that says something like “Subscribe RSS” or similar. Right click on that link and select ‘copy link address’. Then paste this into Google Reader.
Setting up subscriptions in Google Reader is relatively simple. If you get stuck Google have a great ‘Getting Started’ guide available here.
Use Mobile Devices
If you’re anything like me, you may find it difficult to find the time to read stuff during the working day. This is where mobile devices can really help. On the iPhone you can use the Google application but there are better products such as Byline which allow offline reading which is great when traveling especially on an airplane. Similarly, the iPad has similar products such as Reader (best for offline viewing) or the amazing FlipBoard which creates a virtual magazine from your feeds. An important thing to note here is that these device applications let you connect to your Google Reader account but do not let you manage your feeds from there. To manage your feeds (add, remove, put into folders etc) you’re best to do that online in Google Reader.
One ‘gotcha’ is signing up to too many feeds in all the excitement. Some RSS feeds have dozens of new content items every day and it can soon get overwhelming. For businesses, especially SME’s, the trick is to subscribe to quality content and avoid noise and chatter. So if you’re getting too much just head on back to Google Reader and delete the subscriptions from there.
In conclusion, once set up and organised properly, RSS subscriptions are an amazingly convenient way of keeping up to date with what’s being said, as well as making some use for that down time when you have no Interweb.