HootSuite has unveiled a brand new component of their popular Social Media Management dashboard – HootSuite Syndicator. Both the desktop dashboard and the HootSuite extension for Chome, Hootlet, now support subscription to RSS feeds.
For many, RSS has been a hot topic in 2013. Expected to decline in recent years, as more and more people receive their news updates and information via social media, the death of RSS as a viable communication method has been decried many times. And subsequently, Google decided in March to terminate their own RSS subscription tool, Google Reader, as of July. The resulting outcry was enormous, and even included an online petition (that Google ignored). Services like Feedly jumped onto the opportunity the sudden void would create and implemented the ability to import all of your Google Reader subscriptions into a Feedly account and continue on. And just recently, Digg also released their own version of an RSS reader.
So the announcement from HootSuite is not wholly surprising, but it is different. HootSuite is not attempting to replace Google Reader, so much as replace how we use and subscribe to RSS feeds.
If you’ve never used or read about RSS, it stands for Really Simple Syndication. The idea is that any website that creates content can publish an RSS feed. The feed is automatically updated whenever new content is added, and other people can subscribe to those updates and thereby keep informed when you publish something new. All RSS feeds are presented in a standard style of display so that any website with an RSS feed can be subscribed to using any RSS reader. Millions of people use RSS readers to keep up with their favorite sites, and journalists use them to stay abreast of announcements from the companies they cover.
So, back to HootSuite.
HootSuite is truly a dashboard service. When you log into your account, you’re presented with tabs and streams that you can organize in whatever manner makes sense for you. For instance, I have a Tab for @SocialMediaHats on Twitter and within that are streams for Mentions and Direct Messages to my branded account. But that’s just basic monitoring, and belies the strength and flexibility that HootSuite offers.
You can search Twitter at any time from within the dashboard for people, tweets or trending hashtags. And if you’re conducting a search on a regular basis, you can save that search as a stream in a tab. Businesses can use this for prospecting, and anyone participating in a regular tweet chat can save the stream and monitor the chat there.
What does this have to do with RSS?
HootSuite has always supported RSS feeds. Users could set up specific RSS feeds to automatically syndicate and publish to specific social media profiles. While I recommend that clients use as little automation as possible on social networks, there are instances where it makes a lot of sense to automatically post new updates from specific sources, particularly if you compliment that with great content of your own.
But now HootSuite has taken this a step further.
The new RSS feature within HootSuite allows you to subscribe to a feed, just like within Google Reader or Feedly, and view updates from that feed within a stream. You can organize feeds within different tabs and name them whatever you want. This enables businesses to easily find great content.
Clicking on a specific story will bring it up in a pop-up window so that you can take a close look at it. You can then star it, share it, mark it as read or save it for reading later.
The beauty of the system is that as soon as you decide you want to share a story you’ve found, the story automatically pops up in a HootSuite Share box with the title and already shortened link. All you have to do is edit the text of the share if you’d like, and select from your available social networks.
This video from HootSuite provides a great overview of why HootSuite developed this capability and how people can use it:
Subscribing to RSS feeds to find content to share to social media isn’t new. And as I mentioned, importing RSS feeds into HootSuite isn’t even new. There are, however, some really great benefits to being able to use the HootSuite Syndicator in this way.
First, if you’re using a standard RSS reader, you may have some basic sharing options. You might be able to click a Facebook or Twitter icon and post it to whatever account you’re logged into. HootSuite, on the other hand, supports multiple accounts for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as Facebook Pages and Groups, LinkedIn Groups and Companies, Google+ Pages, Foursquare and even a WordPress blog. You can set up one post that goes out to all or a few or just one of those, depending on what you’re communicating and who you want to see it.
What’s more, HootSuite offers you the ability to schedule posts! This is a critical difference between standard readers and HootSuite Syndicator because most people who subscribe to RSS feeds will check them just once or a few times throughout the day – not constantly. Which means that when you do look, you’ll likely have multiple pieces of content that you’d be interested in sharing. So you can share them all at once and spam your followers, or share one and flag the rest, hoping to remember to come back later. With HootSuite, you can instead choose to schedule some of the posts at a specific time and date, or just use HootSuite’s Auto Schedule and let HootSuite determine the best time to share the post. And that’s the method I prefer, because not only does HootSuite share the posts at the most optimum time, it also spaces them out between networks so you’re not blasting all of your networks simultaneously.
Second, some of the more advanced features within HootSuite revolve around the concept of Teams. For many businesses, there are multiple people who are involved in managing, monitoring and responding to social media. From the owner to the marketing director to the sales manager, everyone has a role to play. By integrating an RSS reader into the HootSuite dashboard, that benefits the entire team. Now everyone can have access to the same incoming flow of information, and if one manager spots a great article, they can favorite it and let the other team members know it’s there to be acted on.
The only disappointment regarding this feature is that it doesn’t integrate with Google Reader, so there’s no import of RSS feeds. If you want to use HootSuite to replace Google Reader (and it can), you will have to set up your feeds individually.
EDIT: HootSuite actually has provided a way to import all of your Google Reader feeds. You must export them from Google Reader and then import them into HootSuite, so you have until July 1 to accomplish this. See instructions below.
Fortunately, that’s easy.
Log into your HootSuite Dashboard and click on an existing Tab or, better yet, create a new one. Then, click on Add Stream, select the Apps tab, and click on HootSuite Syndicator. That will add the RSS app to your account.
You’ll have an empty stream and if you click on the RSS icon for that stream, you’ll open the HootSuite Subscription Manager.
Here you can add as many RSS feeds as you’d like. Once you have one or more subscriptions, they will appear in the list and you can delete or edit them as needed. You can also group them into categories, which is great if you have a number of different RSS feeds for different purposes.
Google Reader Import
If you have a Google Reader account and want to transfer your feeds, follow these steps:
1. Click the following link to download your Google Reader feeds: http://ow.ly/ms02h
2. Click the Subscription Manager icon from the HootSuite Syndicator app stream.
3. Select your Google Reader feeds (.xml) file and click Done.
The other method for adding new subscriptions is even easier if you’re using Google Chrome as your web browser. Simply install the Chrome Extension for HootSuite, Hootlet, and now any time you click on an RSS feed icon or link, a small HootSuite dialogue box will come up prompting you to subscribe to that feed [link to Chrome Store].
The Hootlet also allows you to share links just by clicking the toolbar icon or right-mouse clicking a link and selecting the Hootlet Share. And, by installing this extension, you actually fix the issue on Macs where there’s no recognized RSS reader by default so it opens Mail and fails.
News Delivered By Owl
So much like the owls of Harry Potter’s world, we can use HootSuite to have our daily news and updates delivered to us via the HootSuite Dashboard. We keep up with our favorite publications and companies, and use those news items as content to share across all of our social media platforms. If you haven’t yet started a HootSuite account for yourself, give it a try. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about how to set it up, or how best to use HootSuite to engage, educate and entertain your social media followers.
Image courtesy of Rick Leche, Flickr.