RSS has been around almost as long as the internet. Most small businesses owners don't use it. Many using RSS have found it useful to scan blogs and news content they like to read and have that content flow into their email. That's OK but these days, most news services have you signup on the site and you'll end up with a daily summary of the news in your inbox anyway. So has RSS become obsolete? HARDLY! Beyond the fact that most people don't even know what it is, even fewer know how to use it in a very practical situation. I'm going to change that!
Let's first understand RSS. You don't have to go too deep here. RSS is Real Simple Syndication. Think of it as a publication alert. Most blogs have an RSS feed, including this one. So, let's do something with a blog that has an RSS feed. That orange button above this blog is the RSS feed link. For the purpose of this blog, you don't need to do anything but know that it exists. You'll also need to know the blog feed link. We're not going deep here, so I'm just assuming you can figure this out.
So now we have a blog and it's associated RSS feed. What can you do with it? I wanted to present something really useful, so I can give this solution to all of my customers. All 50Bubbles websites use the same blogging platform we're using here and we are not using WordPress but what platform you use is really irrelevant. As long as you can blog and that blog has RSS, you're good. Make sure you capture the link of the RSS then move on.
I decided that it would be really cool to have a way to notify customers of new products, or perhaps just an announcement system that doesn't require your customers to visit your site every day so they won't miss it. You could also create new promotions, coupons. or just announce new product features that they need to know about. Hopefully you get the point. Traditionally, if you wanted to do something like this, you'd setup and use your email marketing program like Mailchimp and have your "list" of subscribers or customers get the email everytime you write a new one. The problem is that emails get lost in spam, or just buried and ultimately deleted in the course of a typical day. A good open rate is maybe 25%. Maybe we can use the blog RSS and create a better solution.
So, I asked myself a quietion. Can I use RSS to trigger a text message? Everybody reads their texts! After a quick Google search, the answer is an obvous yes and after wading thorugh dozens of solutions, I've created what I believe to be a very simple and elegant solution.
(Warning - do NOT think you can abuse this like you can with email. Be judicious. )
In short, what happens is that once a blog is published, a text message (SMS) is sent to my list of customers simply stating we have something cool to show them, with the blog title and the link to the blog. If I sent this blog as a new product feature to my personal clients who use this same platform and offered to set this up, I could easily charge $100-200 for the service of setting this up and they would LOVE me for doing it. And therein lies the value of being able to do this. You could announce discounts, coupons, specials and on and on.
What is the solution? I'm using Zapier (Zapier.com) with a "Zap" called "RSS to Clicksend". I setup an account with Clicksend (Clicksend.com) which is not unlike an email marketing system but for holding contacts and their respective mobile device numbers. The Zapier application picks up the new blog when it is posted and sends a text message to all of my customers that I have listed on ClickSend. In this case is says: "Hey, Check out our Blog to Mobile feature for your promotions! - with a link back to this blog.
There you have it - your first practical application of an RSS feed!