10 percent of U.S. Marketers surveyed are using a new communication channel and another 37 percent are piloting or expecting to pilot the channel within the next 12 months. What is it and why should you care?
A New Member Contact Tool
The new digital communication tool? Really Simple Syndication (aka RSS). In May 2006, Forrester Research reported that 10 percent of U.S. Marketers surveyed are using the RSS channel and another 37 percent are piloting or expecting to pilot the RSS tool within the next 12 months. That’s a big jump in usage, so what is the RSS Channel and how can it help CUs reach their members? There are hundreds of sites that define RSS, and a quick search of Google using 'RSS definition' will yield 25,800,000 +/- different links. We'll try to break it down in a paragraph that gives you enough information about RSS to make you dangerous (and hopefully curious enough to learn more)...
What Is RSS?
At its core, RSS is simply a tool that allows website publishers to quickly and concisely announce news or updates to people who subscribe to their RSS feeds. The content of the RSS feed is not typically the news itself, but a link to the news. This allows subscribers to browse the headlines quickly and decide if there is an item of interest. If so, they can simply click the RSS item, and quickly jump to the actual news item on the publisher’s website. RSS has become very popular with the rise of news websites like CNBC, newspapers and blogs. Most news websites and blogs make an RSS feed available to allow readers the opportunity to peruse the posts without having to read every single word of its author.
If you want to check out RSS for yourself, NewsGator (http://www.newsgator.com) has what might be the “Mercedes” of free news readers. By subscribing to their service, you get access to web-based, mobile, and Microsoft Outlook-based feed readers.
Implications for Marketers Going Forward
With the number of subscribers projected to grow in the coming years, there are some huge advantages to RSS. First of all, it's a "pull" technology. This means that subscribers have complete control over whether or not they receive content or not. A person cannot be subscribed to an RSS feed without his knowledge. Therefore, the concept of SPAM does not really exist in the RSS world. If a subscriber objects to getting RSS feeds, he simply unsubscribes. Not so with email, as we already know. Once your email address is out there, there's not much that can stop the SPAM flood.
A second advantage, for website publishers, is it provides a reliable mechanism to get news to their subscribers (members) without the worry that the email address is incorrect or that something in the email will trigger a SPAM filter and relegate an important announcement to the trash bin.
Finally, there are advertising and informational opportunities in RSS Feeds. RSS publishers are still uncertain whether or not advertisements in RSS feeds are viable or will drive subscribers away. What they do know is the same thing we face in ads in email and on websites - that any advertisement needs to be related to the content contained in the feed. The closer the ad relates to the content theme the higher the likelihood the reader will have genuine interest in the product or service.
Current Credit Union Applications
Marketers need to make sure that they look at RSS as one more way to reach members and a complement, not replacement of email or direct mail. There is a growing population of members that will be using the RSS channel to get their information. RSS feeds are currently deployed for:
- eStatement notifications
- What’s New website pages
- Educational information
While RSS is really cool to the IT Gurus right now, it will soon become common place for marketers and website publishers as one more vehicle to reach members. DigitalMailer, a digital communication provider that helps clients gain a strategic business advantage through eStatements, e-LERTS, e-newsletters, email and other virtual tools on the Internet, has created a tool (not a RSS reader) that allows you to create RSS documents without worrying about the RSS format or programming. For more information on our RSS tool send an email to email@example.com
Ron Daly (firstname.lastname@example.org) is President/CEO of DigitalMailer, Inc., you can email him for more information on any topic found in our newsletters or web site.
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