Posted on July 16, 2008

The influence of Web 2.0 is felt everywhere we spend time online. The emerging technologies that make up Web 2.0 continue to evolve and change the way we interact with content, giving birth to a new set of next generation tools that marketers cannot afford to ignore.

It seems like new technologies are surfacing everyday, and they are. Still, there are several which savvy online marketers must be familiar with to remain up-to-date and reach specific audience segments. Fusionbox reviews RSS and Social Feeds below while providing ideas on how they can be utilized to further your social media marketing efforts.

RSS Feeds: RSS feeds, which stands for "Really Simple Syndication," are used to distribute frequently updated content (blogs, news, podcasts, and more) in a standard format (XML), which allows the information to be published once and viewed by a range of different programs.

Social Feeds: Social Feeds are an extension of RSS feeds, except that they aggregate and distribute shared streams detailing the web activity of individuals and user communities, primarily in social networks. A classic example can be found on Facebook when the social feed notifies a user that "Monica has posted a link," "Justin wrote on Colin's Wall," or "Nick joined the SEO Group."

While this may seem like trivial information, social feeds can seamlessly aggregate all a user's activity into a single place. Now one can combine all of their blog posts, links, "Diggs," Facebook activity, Twitters, and more in a single locale.

Several of the most popular social feed programs include FriendFeed, Plaxo, and Tumblr, although if you're not on Facebook you should start there to gain some social experience.

In case you're not familiar with Social Feeds predecessor, RSS allows users to keep up with their favorite web sites through automatic updates. What's more, RSS can aggregate content from multiple sources in one place, allowing users to quickly obtain fresh information from all the RSS feeds they've subscribed to.

To subscribe to an RSS feed, users enter the feed's link into their reader (Google Reader is a good choice) or simply click an RSS icon that initiates the subscription process. Once subscribed, the RSS reader regularly checks the user's subscribed feeds for new content, downloads any updates that it finds, and provides user interface to monitor and read the feeds. So go ahead and subscribe to the Fusionbox RSS feed.

So how can smart marketers utilize RSS and Social feeds in their online marketing mix?

RSS Feeds are ideal for keeping subscribers informed and up-to-date with fresh content. Many marketers have built them into their web sites in order to publicize events, news, special features and more. At the same time, they're building loyalty and brand awareness as subscribers interact with their content on a daily basis.

In many ways, a feed subscriber essentially declares their willingness to accept your content and messaging. This creates dialog and conversation in a powerful and comfortable broadcast format, allowing users to interact with your brand on their own terms.

Social feeds are no different. They are positioned to become the medium through which we keep up with our contacts and networks. Email, phone calls, and text messaging could be toppled by the evolution of social feeds.

For marketers, social feeds can powerful if used correctly. It's important not to be too "salesy" for fear of driving your network away. After all, would you call a friend just to advertise a product? You might, but chances are they'd be annoyed. Facebook tried to integrate marketing messages into their social feeds, but users protested immediately and the program was largely scrapped. For now, social feeds have yet to reach their advertising potential, but we'll see what happens.

Read more about measuring Web 2.0 user behavior with web analytics.