No Reader? No Problem! How to Follow Your Favorite Blogs without an RSS Reader

by 6 07/18/2013

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By the time you read this, Google’s RSS reader will be gone.

Over the years millions of people (including many marketers and journalists) have used Google Reader to follow their favorite blogs and to collect, save and share the content they love, but now that’s come to an end.

Thankfully, RSS itself isn’t going anywhere, though Google’s recent mania for mothballing services probably means that Feedburner (a tool that makes it easier for blogs to share feeds in a visually appealing way) might be on the way out too.

The question is, do marketers even need tools like Google Reader any more?

Say goodbye to Google's RSS reader

Let’s think about this for a minute.

Marketers need to follow other blogs to keep up with what’s happening in their industry and what people are talking about. And if you want to curate digests of useful links to share with your audience as part of your content marketing efforts, most of what you’re curating will be published on blogs.

But do you still need an RSS reader to follow them?

Let me play devil’s advocate and suggest that if you have a strong social media presence, and the blogs you are following are also active on social media, then you don’t.

Instead, use the features built into the main social media sites and do your content curation there. Here’s how it would work for Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Taming the Twitter Firehose

Trying to follow anything on Twitter is like getting hold of the wrong end of a firehose—there’s too much content spraying out and you’re likely to get covered in randomness.

The solution to that problem is to use Twitter lists. Lists are an easy way for you to group people around particular topics or interests, and they have recently become more useful.

Taming the Twitter Firehose

Twitter has now expanded lists so you can create 1,000 lists (rather than the previous limit of 20) and follow up to 5,000 people per list (instead of 500). I love the first feature, but not the second. After all, if I’m following 5,000 people on a list, it will be just as useless to me as the Twitter home stream. That’s why it’s better to keep lists short.

Here are a few ways you could put your lists together:

  1. Divide the people whose blogs you are following into categories, similar to the categories you would have used in Reader. So you could have one list for people who blog about content marketing, a second list for those who are into social media, a third list related to your industry, and so on.
  2. Since people can be on more than one list, create sub-topics that let you focus on a particular area in fine detail.
  3. Use Twitter search to find people posting regularly on particular topics or hashtags and create lists for them.
  4. Set up columns for your most important lists in your social media software (such as Hootsuite) or visit those lists on the web interface. That way, you will cut out most of the noise.
  5. Integrate a tool like Buffer so you can share what you find to other social networks with a couple of clicks.

Spend a bit of time tweaking your lists and you will soon find them a useful way of following your favorite blogs.

You will be able to see the title and sometimes a short excerpt before deciding whether a post is worth exploring further.

You can also use all regular Twitter functions (retweeting, replying messaging and saving favorites) from your list.

And here’s one final tip: Use a tool like Pinboard and everything you share or favorite can be added to your personal bookmark library, complete with any hashtags. This makes content curation with Twitter even easier.

Following Blogs on Facebook

Facebook offers a number of ways for marketers to follow their favorite blogs. For example, the Networked Blogs application allows you to subscribe to blogs and see their posts in your newsfeed.

NetworkedBlogs by Ninua

You can follow Facebook pages or subscribe to personal profiles too. But my favorite way to follow blog, page and profile updates on Facebook is via interest lists. There are a number of reasons for this.

  1. Facebook uses my ‘likes’ to target advertising and fill my newsfeed with a bunch of stuff which mostly seems irrelevant to me.
  2. If I am using Facebook for family and friends, then too many blog updates clutters my newsfeed and makes it harder for me to see the personal updates that matter to me.
  3. Likes are public—do I really want competitors to know how closely I am following their updates.

As I understand it—and I’m still experimenting—interest lists solve these issues. Visit a page or profile where someone is posting blog updates, hover over the gear icon and click “add to interest lists.”

As with Twitter, you can segment these lists as much as you want, keeping separate lists for those posting about content marketing or web apps, for example. You can add pages and profiles to the lists and, best of all, you can keep your interest lists private.

With each list you can choose the update types, which means there’s nothing to stop you from creating a list of people who share great images or video and then using that as a jumping off point for your own social sharing. Or you could choose to eliminate game notifications and keep your list clean.

So far, there has been no indication of a cap on the number of lists, and I’ve found it a useful way of following and sharing selectively.

While it’s easiest to share content directly on Facebook, you can use Buffer within Facebook to share to other networks. Check out Kristi Hines’ guide to Buffer for more information.

Working the Circles on Google+

In theory, the Circles setup in Google+ makes it easy to follow your favorite blogs there, but it can be a bit hit or miss. Despite all the hype, not everyone is on Google+ or remembers to use it regularly.

If my own example is anything to judge by, even those who are fairly active on the site might not share all their best content there, which is a problem if you are hoping to use it as a Reader replacement.

Google+ circles

That said, there are some topics where there are a lot of active users on Google+, such as technology and social media, so if you’re following blogs and curating content around those topics, the site could be handy.

Here’s how it works.

The secret to using Google+ well is canny circle creation (can I call that CCC or would it be too cheesy?)

Create one set of circles for following/listening, segmented by topic. You can also search for favorite topics by hashtags and save those searches. That allows you to follow your favorite blogs, writers and topics easily.

Then create a second set of circles for sharing with people who are interested in particular topics.

If you log in to any Google service, you will see an indication of how many unread notifications you have. You can also choose to get updates by email (in your Google account settings) though that can get very noisy fast.

If you want to share Google+ posts to other social media sites, then you’ll need to use a tool like Buffer or a Chrome browser plugin like Extended Share for Google+.

Google also has one major advantage over the other two—it’s a search giant, so it’s easy to find information on practically any topic.

Bye Bye Reader

As you can see, any or all of these methods can help marketers keep tabs on the content posted by their favorite blogs, without an RSS reader in sight.

Goodbye, Google Reader

The secret to making it work is:

  • to be selective about your input sources
  • to integrate a social sharing tool so you can work with multiple networks

As long as the content sources you follow post information via these sites, you shouldn’t miss a thing. If they don’t, and you need a replacement for Google Reader, then you could do worse than Feedly.

Read more about the Google Reader demise here.

Images: Peter Kaminski/John G Evans/Frederick MD Publicity/Raymond Shobe

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About 

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 20 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.

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6 COMMENTS

Mitchell Allen

Sharon, call me old-school but, these options sound a lot like what a good RSS reader handles automatically. I use FeedDemon (free version) and I subscribe directly to the blogs I want to keep track of. Even if I don’t open that app for three weeks, the headlines will be there. I can decide if I want to read the article or just mark it.

I have used HootSuite to by-pass the Home stream and, while it does retain old tweets, isn’t it inherent that you will miss some updates with a list of actively blogging twitterers? What if your favorite blogger is not on Twitter?

I tried Facebook and NetworkedBlogs and I don’t have anything bad to say abou NetworkedBlogs. I don’t visit Facebook home page often. I log on to play Words With Friends! :)

There’s just something comforting about an RSS feed reader app working in he background, curating your reading material quietly until you are ready.

To be balanced about all of this, there is one HUGE drawback to readers: when I said at the beginning that if I didn’t open the app for three weeks, my content would still be there. That was a bit misleading. I always have FedDemon running in the background. If I really did terminate the app for three weeks, when I restarted it, it would only retrieve the latest 10 posts from each blog. I would miss a lot of posts from GroovyPost!

Cheers,

Mitch

July 24, 2013 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    Well, how about this for an alternative, Mitch? Use Feedly, then save anything you want to read later to Pocket – it wouldn’t give you a three week break, but you could then save stuff till you were good and ready. In fact, it works with Hootsuite too. There’s a post on this on the Pocket blog.

    Part of the issue with all this is that not everyone uses every service – it really depends on where the people you follow hang out. In my network, some people blog all the time, some blog rarely but post interesting things on Facebook or Google+ and some post so often everywhere that I don’t follow them for fear of being overwhelmed – the Robert Scoble effect! :)

    July 24, 2013 Reply

Mitchell Allen

LOL. As evangelical as you are about Feedly, I am the same way about FeedDemon. I’ve had it forever and two days, now.

I think I’m less impacted by all of the RSS scrambling because I never once used Google Reader. By the time that came around, I was already sick of FriendFeed’s noise and Bloglines’ inflexibility. Plus, at the time, I was a satellite dish subscriber and online reading was slow.

FeedDemon is perfect for me. If I want to share, I just do it from the blog!

(I’m also playing with the new Shareholic, so there’s that method of sharing, too.)

Cheers,

Mitch

July 24, 2013 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    It’s always good to have a trusted favorite, Mitch. :) I’ve been using Pocket a lot recently, both for saving stuff to read later and, from my phone, saving stuff to share later.

    July 24, 2013 Reply

wawan

detail & easy to grasp article. It’s good that all words here are well-known for non english native readers. Good job Sharon.

May 15, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Wawan, glad we could help :)

    May 16, 2014 Reply


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