Because it’s all about traffic of course, and RSS is a terrific tool for acquiring, building, and retaining traffic. This occurs without the expense that can be associated with methods such as advertising, and the problems associated with others like email.
It also makes for happier subscribers and a stickier site. As one satisfied RSS user concluded, “With powerful benefits like that, it's no surprise that adult webmasters are increasing their use of this technology.”
RSS is particularly well suited for marketing activities that involve loyal customers checking for updates in prices, availability and new items, said Charlene Li, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “Feeds allow customers to simply subscribe to an alert that notifies them when information that meets their criteria is available--and they do so without cluttering the inbox.” [Campanelli 2007]
Blogs (and their natural extension, RSS) have been shown to be very effective for B2B as well as B2C. KnowledgeStorm (http://www.knowledgestorm.com) and Universal McCann (http://www.universalmccann.com) did a study [Research 2006] focusing on the role of blogs and RSS on technology purchasing decisions. They found that:
Blogs have made inroads into B2B technology companies with more than 53% of respondents saying the content they read in blogs has an impact on their work-related purchasing decisions. Some 80% of respondents said they read blogs, and 51% said they read them at least once a week. More than half of respondents said they are getting both business and technology information from blogs: 53% read blogs weekly for business information, and 57% for technology topics. And a full 70% recommend or pass along content from blogs at least once a month.
Push vs Pull Media
Once a user adds the feed, he or she will receive a notice every time you update the feed, and your message will be delivered to them. This ability to essentially push your information to surfers who are not currently visiting your website, but have expressed interest in adding your feed, allows you to easily stay in touch with current and future members as well as other customers and prospects. [Yagielowicz 2006]
Consider that when a visitor comes to your website, they are "pulling" information from you and must be at your website to do so. The typical methods of website promotion such as banner ads, text links, galleries and the like also will require the user to consciously "pull" information from a website while they are physically visiting it — and this requires an action on their part that they may or may not take, namely, noticing and then clicking on your link. Email is a "push" method of marketing, where you are in control of when the recipient receives your message, but it is an increasingly problematic marketing medium.
Ironically, once self-subscribed to your RSS feed out of personal interest, you can regularly “push” updated content and messages to the surfer even though he or she is not on your site, and the link is likely to then “pull” them to your site!
Also in contrast to some other push media like email, your feeds have a viral effect since they are being shared and repeated by other sites, blogs, and aggregators like Technorati. So, just as with banner ads, surfers can be pulled to your own site while visiting another.
RSS is ideally suited to significantly boost your retention rates. Everyone who is signed up for the automatic feed—or running across it somewhere else—is instantly informed whenever you add new content or have other news. Even better—you can provide a text description and even samples. The temptation to click their way to your site for the whole thing will be irresistible (or strong at least)!
This application of RSS is especially good with live cam chat and dating sites, gallery posts or other free sites with frequent changes and updating where you want to keep the surfer constantly coming back for more. The feed keeps them reminded all the time of what they may be missing and the result is a stickier site. And it works equally well to acquire customers in the first place, as Yagielowicz  pointed out:
This method is also handy for encouraging uncertain prospects to join your site by allowing all visitors to access the feed. Perhaps Billy wasn't quite ready to join the last time he visited your site, but your constant reminders of how fresh your content is will help him make a positive purchase decision.
How to Market with RSS
According to ClickZ expert Heidi Cohen , using RSS to extend your marketing is about parsing content into small, easily digestible chunks that consumers want. “From a marketing perspective, you must convert your content into compelling information feeds that consumers want to receive.” And she says this content falls into three categories:
- Category-level feeds, such as site or media type info, targeted at buyers early in the purchase consideration process.
- Granular product information, such as details on a particular site or media offering, directed to buyers further along the cycle.
- Niche content related to your offering that keeps readers engaged with your brand.
Cohen noted that, for efficient content development, you should create RSS feeds along with the rest of your marketing communications and to ensure consumers recognize your brand, make sure your copy has a consistent voice. She offers ten key tips for using RSS to market yourself and your site:
- Drive traffic and purchasers. Use RSS feeds to distribute time-sensitive information.
- Set up existing customers to receive RSS feeds.
- Advertise on content providers’ feeds. Use providers such as FeedBurner and Pheedo.
- Create channels for affiliate communications to distribute marketing content.
- Expand rich media distribution. Use podcasting, videocasting, and PDFs.
- Distribute content to other devices (mobile phones, iPods, PDAs, etc.).
- Extend site content with feeds from other sites and blogs.
- Develop partnerships to cross-promote with relevant content sites to build traffic.
- Repurpose rich content, such as white papers, into smaller chunks. Use them to engage readers and lure them to your site for further information.
- Create Web widgets that are fun to use and viral and that include RSS feeds.
Sources and Additional Reading:
Melissa Campanelli. “RSS Marketing Feed Frenzy,” Entrepreneur Magazine 03/07. http://www.entrepreneur.com/ebusiness/gettingtraffic/article174666.html.
“Research: Blogs a Powerful B2B Presence,” MarketingVOX 09/11/06. http://www.marketingvox.com/archives/2006/09/11/research_blogs_a_powerful_b2b_presence.
Stephen Yagielowicz. “Traffic Boosting via RSS,” XBiz 08/12/06. http://www.xbiz.com/article_piece.php?cat=46&id=16481&searchstring=rss.
Heidi Cohen. “10 Ways for E-Marketers to Use RSS,” ClickZ Experts 10/26/06. http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3623776.
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