On the web, marketing and communications has shifted from the one-way, one-size-fits-all approach of TV advertising to delivering just-in-time and just-right content to consumers and internal audiences. Successful web marketers understand that online, content sells ideas. It brands an organization as worthy to do business with. Companies, non-profits, political campaigns, and rock bands are the new publishers, delivering ideas and stories just like traditional media companies.
Although RSS (Really Simple Syndication) entered the marketing mainstream years ago, the adoption curve has been slow. Yet some forward-thinking organizations are using RSS inside the firewall to communicate important information about new products and the competition to internal constituents like salespeople. Innovative companies are marketing outside the firewall too—easily updating prospects, customers, investors, and the media with valuable information. But too few organizations are using this really simple marketing technique.
Within the virtual walls of organizations, marketing and communications teams can develop specific RSS feeds that others in the organization subscribe to based on interest. For example, there might be an internal RSS feed for intelligence on major competitors, one for new product development, and another for market information. Salespeople, customer support staff, and executives then choose which feeds to receive. This approach of communicating to diverse constituencies throughout a global enterprise makes it much easier for both the marketers (who publish the information) as well as the readers.
Companies including Microsoft, IBM, and Intel syndicate external information via RSS feeds to reach specific external audiences such as the media, analysts, customers, partners, distributors, and resellers. For example, Intel offers a suite of feeds (www.intel.com/intel/rss.htm) that include Intel Products, Press Room, Investor Relations, Reseller Center, and IT@Intel. Also offered are country-specific RSS feeds from Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and others. Interested people subscribe to corporate information in the same way they subscribe to media feeds and those of independent bloggers.
It is just so easy for those of us in the media and analyst community to get information via RSS. In my work following markets, companies, and ideas, RSS is my preferred method. Once information is in RSS format, an RSS-aware browser such as Firefox or a web application such as NewsGator checks the feed for changes and displays them on a web page. Having the information come to me is just so much easier. RSS and news aggregation software is easy to use, usually free, and provides a way to get information from any device. I particularly like that RSS provides a powerful information management tool that bypasses the increasingly crowded and annoying email channel. Having my favorite websites, media outlets, and blogs feeding RSS is my own custom syndication of exactly what I want to see. Investor relations and public relations officers need to understand the ins and outs of RSS and offer media and analysts this easy way to monitor important updates.
RSS feeds provide a terrific way for a company to target specific customers and for consumers to select only the content that interests them, turning organizations of all kinds into true "Long Tail" marketers. Netflix markets to the Long Tail by deployments of targeted RSS feeds. Video fans can sign up for RSS feeds (www.netflix.com/rssfeeds) to update them based on specific interests. Available feeds include Netflix Top 100, New Releases, Documentary Top 25, Comedy Top 25, Classics Top 25, and many more. What sets this marketing apart from the standard web model is that it is highly targeted and delivered directly to micro-audiences of interested consumers. This is a remarkable transformation from old-world blasting of TV ads to the masses.
Surprisingly, only a small percentage of organizations deploy RSS for syndicating news and content to the outside world. Even fewer understand how RSS feeds are a preferred way to market to niche customers who have very specific needs. To be successful, marketers must think like publishers by segmenting audiences and building content specifically for each segment. Learn from the way that most major news sites such as BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and thousands more offer RSS. Most anything that can be broken down into discrete items (such as news releases, blog postings, product updates, or SEC filings) can be syndicated via RSS. On the web, content equals success.