Sharing relevant stories and articles is a great way to grow your network and connect with your customers on social media.

My clients often ask how to keep their social media channels topped up with engaging content. Most small businesses don’t have the luxury of a a full-time blogger or content creator: social media is usually something that’s shared throughout the team – or done by one or two people with other demands on their time.

An easy way to keep momentum going is to have a create and curate content strategy. It’s up to you what you want the split to be. Mine is probably 90/10 in favour of curated content (content from third party sources).

It’s not just about sharing stuff you’re interested in, it’s about building empathy and being useful to your network. Sharing content that others have written (especially if you know them) is a nice thing to do: it’s not all about you or your business, it’s about making conversation and enriching your community.

Finding good content

But how do you make time every day to go through every recent news item or blog that might be relevant? You need a good filter, and that’s where RSS readers come in.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It enables news websites and blogs to generate a “feed” of content that can be directly streamed into your own app or dashboard. With an RSS reader, you can scan through the latest headlines in seconds.

Here’s how to set up an RSS dashboard in 5 easy steps:

1. Sign up to an RSS reader. I use Netvibes but you could also try Feedly or NewsBlur. Most readers follow a “freemium” model – the basic service is free; you can upgrade to a paid plan for more functionality. The free version is usually fine. In Netvibes, once you’ve created an account, you’ll be taken through the 2-step welcome process: first choose the news topics you want to follow, then add any keywords.

Netvibes welcome page
Netvibes welcome page

2. The default dashboard in Netvibes is the “apps” view. I prefer the “reader” view, which simply lists your news stories all on one page, most recent first. Once you’ve set up your dashboard, it should look something like the screenshot below. Click the button marked “reader” (third from left in the top navigation – shown by the red arrow) to change your view to a reader view.

Netvibes dashboard - apps view
Netvibes dashboard – apps view

3. Once you’re in the “reader” view on Netvibes, your screen should look something like my dashboard below. Customise your dashboard by deleting unwanted categories and feeds (as I’ve done in mine). Add any new feeds by clicking the big green “+ Add” button in the top left corner (as shown by the red arrow).

Netvibes dashboard - feeder view
Netvibes dashboard – feeder view

4. Once you’ve clicked the “+Add” button, you can add new feeds by click the “Reading app” option (as shown by the red arrow below) and entering the RSS feed address from any news site or blog you want to follow. If you enter the domain name (eg: Netvibes should automatically find the connected RSS feed. Alternatively you can manually find an RSS feed. Click the square widget that appears, and then click the green button to add to your dashboard.

Netvibes - add a feed
Netvibes – add a feed

5. Organise your news by creating categories (or “tabs”) that match the topics you (and your audience) are interested in. Try to limit your interests to a handful (they can be as broad or as niche as you like – you can see mine in the left hand column of these screenshots). Add a new category by clicking the black “Add a tab” button at the bottom of your dashboard (as shown by the red arrow below).

Netvibes - add a new category
Netvibes – add a new category

Sharing your content

Now you’re ready to go. Double click on any headline in your RSS reader to open up the content (which can be text or video) in a separate window on your browser. Cut and paste the link (the url from this new window) into the update box on your chosen social media account. Add a comment to show your audience why you think it’s of interest. If you like, you can credit the author by adding their Twitter handle (eg @JemimaG), or relevant social media profile.

To make things even quicker, you can share content directly from your RSS dashboard to your social media using a content management tool like Buffer or Hootsuite. Find out how to do this in my next blog post: The easy way to schedule social media.

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash