One of the side effects of the growing use of social media by IT industry analysts and analyst relations (AR) is a pending sense of doom that we are going to get overwhelmed by too… much… stuff. This certainly came out in discussions at the US Forrester AR Council panel I was on and in blog posts like When do we get work done? I certainly have felt that way in the past, but slowly and surely I have picked up techniques that permit me to monitor a fairly large number of social media streams (110+ blogs and 140+ Twitter streams) without spending hours a day doing so. In this post I will share these tips.
Note: These tip and tricks are not necessarily the absolutely best-in-class, merely ones that we have found to-date. Nor are the tools mentioned the results of systematic research and evaluation, merely ones that we have played with and decided to use. As we continue to expand the portfolio of tips and tools, we will make sure to share them with you.
The main tips are to use an RSS reader and to organize your feeds in folders*. This saves you the time of checking individual blogs that might not have any activity. The following example explains the use of Bloglines, but probably most RSS readers will do something similar. First, set up a Bloglines account.
- Go to www.bloglines.com and set up an account by clicking on “Sign up now. It’s free!”
- After registering, click on the Feeds tab in the left navigation
- At the bottom of the left navigation now click on the Additional Features section (you might have to expand it)
- Click on “Easy Subscribe Bookmarklet” and follow the instructions in the right hand window
- (Optional) Move the “Sub with Bloglines” bookmark to the top of your Favorites list or add it into a link folder for easy access
Once this is done you are set to easily add new RSS feeds to Bloglines. Each time you are on a blog (e.g., www.sagecircle.wordpress.com) or a Twitter account (e.g., www.twitter.com/carterlusher and www.twitter.com/daveeckert) that you wish to add do the following:
- Go to your Favorites and click on “Sub with Bloglines” bookmark
- You will see the Bloglines page and under the row of tabs, there will be a section called Available Feeds
- For simplicity sake, pick the first feed and leave the options at their default settings
- Scroll down until you see the “Subscribe” button and click it
- If successful, the Feeds tab will open in the left window with the new feed at the bottom
- Click on “Edit” just below the Feed tab to move the new feed to a folder
While the vast majority of blogs and Twitter streams have RSS feeds that Bloglines can find, you will occasionally get the following message in a blue bar “No feeds were found. Please verify that the website publishes an RSS feed.” In these situations I merely create a regular bookmark for the blog or Twitter and check manually.
Folders – I use a series of folders to organize the feeds by community and type (see example at right). The advantage of this approach is that rather than open each feed individually I can open all the feeds with new entries by clicking on the folder icon. I can still open the folders and click on individual feeds if I want, but clicking on the folder saves time and that does add up. To create a folder, click on “Edit” just below the Feed tab and then click on “New Folder” icon. After naming the folder you can drag any feed into that folder. This allows you to create your own organizational structure.
Monitoring traffic -I go to Bloglines two or three times a day and check for new entries. The illustration is pretty typical of the traffic I get in a six hour or so period. Even though I track over 250 individual feeds there are really not that many new items added every day. If I am disciplined and check a couple times a day it rarely takes me more than 15 minutes to scan new items, make a few notes for later followup, and immediately respond/comment where necessary. In addition, if I have a few spare minutes (e.g., on hold for a teleconference) I can quickly expand one or two folders to see what is up. One gets pretty good at using odd moments to check Twitter or the blogs.
* We have an AR Briefing on this technique that we can deliver via webinar to facilitate getting an AR team up to speed quickly with minimum effort. AR Briefings are a standard deliverable included with the Annual Advisory Service. In addition, Advisory clients can set up inquiries to discuss how to add social media to their toolbox in a practical manner.
Bottom Line: Using this technique, I have reduced my social media traffic monitoring time from several hours a day to 30 to 45 minutes. The process now feels much less burdensome and much more efficient. I now look forward to the times when I check the blogs and Twitter because it’s a fun break from my other tasks.
Question: What tips and tricks do you have to make simple monitoring of traffic fast and efficient?