Social Networking Essentials: RSS Feeds & Online Newsletters

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Social networking offers you a wealth of opportunity as a mental health professional.  There are numerous tools available, and if you find the right match these tools can add power and influence to your marketing efforts.

In this post, I’m going to discuss two social networking tools:  RSS feeds and online subscription services.

RSS Feeds

An RSS feed stands for “Really Simple Syndication”.  It gives a web reader the ability to say, “I like the information given on this site and I’d like to be reminded whenever the site is updated.” Many news-related sites, Blogs and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS Feed to whoever wants it.

RSS feeds can be read using software called an “RSS reader”. The RSS reader checks the user’s subscribed feeds regularly for new work and downloads any updates that it finds.  Websites, Blogs and web browsers then provide a user interface to monitor and read these feeds.

A person can access this feature by clicking on an icon similar to the one you see here.  This RSS icon indicates that a web feed is present on a particular web page and a person can receive updated information from that page if they choose to get the feed.

1411Web readers use feeds to filter and obtain content on the web that they want without the need to constantly search for it.  It’s a very efficient way to obtain news and information online.   It can also become a powerful tool when you choose to offer an RSS feed on your own website.  This feed adds a new level of interactivity that keeps you in front of your target audience.  Rather than waiting and hoping for people to visit your site, you actively engage your viewers.

Here’s a great response I received from my web developer at when I asked him to define RSS feeds.  It should be noted that while his analogy really helped me understand how feeds operate, there is a whole lot more to the process than meets the eye.  This example, however, is perfect for our purposes as there’s no need to get bogged down in all the technical details.

“Perhaps a good way to think of it (the RSS Feed) is like the AP wire (Associated Press).  The AP wire contains just the raw content that’s published by the AP.  Newspapers and magazines that pay for it can then take that content and package it up nicely into a newspaper column or a magazine page.  When you use WordPress, or any blogging tool to write content, you’re outputting an RSS feed which contains the raw content (like the AP Wire).  Your blog software (e.g., WordPress, Typepad, Blogspot) packages that up with its templates and styles it into a nice looking blog.”

Newsletter Subscriptions

As time went by I learned about more powerful ways to use an RSS feed, and this is where newsletter subscriptions and email come into play.  Many of you reading this article are doing so because you signed up to receive email updates from me, thereby experiencing the power of one of these tools!

Here’s a little more information about a few of these tools worth exploring.


Feedburner is an RSS feed tool with an email feature.  Its core function is to give your website email subscription capabilities.  Feedburner allows users to sign up and receive email updates every time you post new information.  Instead of having updates sent to a person’s browser (like a traditional RSS Feed) it goes to their email.  It also gives you “traffic analysis” capabilities meaning you can generate reports to see how many people visited your site and what pages they viewed.

However, Feedburner is not a dedicated newsletter tool, and therefore, it makes things difficult when you’re looking for more advanced subscriber management capabilities.  Feedburner doesn’t have any tools to import, segment, or otherwise manage subscribers, nor does it have any detailed reporting about who received, opened, or clicked through the email.  But there are tools that have these features!  Here are a few I recommend.

MailChimp and MadMimi are both email newsletter tools with an RSS feature.  Here’s another quote from my web developer to help explain this in a bit more detail.

“Online newsletter tools like MailChimp, and MadMimi do exactly the same thing as a Blog, they take your RSS feed and package it up into a nice looking email.  They then leverage their newsletter engine to send that email out to all of your subscribers.”


MailChimp is a very robust newsletter tool with an RSS feed feature.  MailChimp does a great job of letting you send email newsletters to your customers, manage your subscriber lists, and track campaign performance.


MadMimi is very similar to MailChimp.  Some believe it’s easier to use and the cost per month is cheaper than MailChimp (e.g., $15 per month vs. $30 per month for up to 2,500 subscribers).  It does a very good job of making email marketing fun and easy!

There are several other newsletter tools you can choose from such as iContact and Constant Contact, but I’ll let you explore for yourself.  And if you choose to use one of these tools you are well on your way to improving your marketing efforts while having fun at the same time!



  1. Barbara Radin Fox  June 16, 2009

    Fabulous information for me since I’m technologically challenged!

  2. Barbara Radin Fox  June 16, 2009

    see above!

  3. David Diana  June 16, 2009

    Glad it helped Barbara. let me know how it goes if you choose to use any of these tools! I’ve definitely enjoyed using them.

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