Use a website newsfeed to complete your communications toolkit

With the advent of each new medium, we fumble—trying to determine how to use it. If you use a newsfeed or changelog as a service on your website, you could be unsure of how to use it best. You might wonder which posts belong there or on your blog. In this article, we’ll provide some guidance.

Social media killed the HTML star

Do you remember HTML-based news sections? (If not, you certainly won’t appreciate the above subheading.) A brief history lesson: In the early ’00s, most website homepages had space set aside for “news”. Although common, these commonly sucked.

Every website redesign involved departments battling for space on the homepage. These turf wars led to news sections playing a secondary role. Non-existent content guidelines meant disconnected topics, and inconsistent publishing schedules. Additionally, these sections languished due to primitive content management systems (and restrictive permissions).

Around 2005, blogs gained widespread adoption. Those who embraced the medium ditched their news sections, in favour of blogs. No one quite knew what they were for, though. Some posted short articles several times a day (Twitter was not yet a thing). Others tried longer format pieces. Some ran essays, plus minutia in the sidebar. Blogs afforded structure that HTML news sections lacked—but still had other problems. Blogs needed hosting and software updates. Comments demanded ongoing moderation (and attracted spam). Meanwhile, many received little traffic.

It’s no wonder company updates moved to social media—once it became commonplace. Organizations could create a page—and post to it—within minutes. It required no software updates or comment moderation. Even better, it offered a built in audience. Posts on your Facebook your page didn’t stay there. Others could share this content making it discoverable, through the news feed.

These same benefits drew companies to the other big networks. Twitter, Instagram, Medium, and others held the same allure: No software to install, style, or update. Simple interfaces, streamlined posting, and comment moderation. And, of course, audience multiplication.

News on your company website couldn’t compete. Company leaders bypassed their own websites, in exchange for convenience and easy access to an audience. Then, they rebuilt their marketing channels on “leased land”. Coca-Cola has 107 million fans on its Facebook page. Or: Facebook owns 107 million Coca-Cola fans—and Coca-Cola pays Facebook to engage with them.

Sometimes good, sometimes bad…

Every medium has benefits and shortcomings. Blogging, for example, is great for SEO and housing high quality content. That said, it’s not perfect. It takes time to write long format content, and some stories don’t need this much space. Blog posts are difficult to find, and still fight for homepage real estate. Many posts see low engagement, without adequate social fuel. By social fuel, I mean traffic from social media posts.

Social media is convenient and far reaching. It redefined how brands produce content, engage, and respond to critical feedback. It too has shortcomings. As more organizations promote through social media, audiences become immune to this content. They see, and sometimes “like” content, but often do little else. This reduces the ROI on social content. It draws visitors away from your website, and to a proprietary network. These networks charge you to access your list—and offer zero SEO value.

Email newsletters are direct, and offer a way to own your connection with your audience. These too are imperfect. It’s difficult to find the right publishing schedule and content mix. Emails face barriers like spam folders and people who forget having subscribed. Sending an email can feel like playing with dynamite. Send the wrong message and you’ll be a nuisance—and get an unsubscribe for your trouble.

One tool to rule them all… (not)

What I describe might seem critical, or gloomy. Or, you might counter that your organization found success through its blog, social media, or email newsletter. In either event, I suggest that you’ll benefit by shifting your viewpoint somewhat.

We need to look at each of these mediums as a singular tool. Most don’t expect one tool to perform every function. Instead, you ask a tool to perform a specific purpose. And you only know its purpose once you’ve identified the problem you wish to solve.

When we look at how a company communicates, we see a handful of common problems. One is to increase incoming traffic to the company’s website. Another is to convey important announcements to interested parties. Yet another is to have a dependable means of engaging prospects and customers.

There’s a tool that solves each of these problems. That said, most will need a combination of these tools to do what’s needed.

How these tools work together

OK—so now to the actionable part. Let’s start with your company blog. Sometimes these are great for opinions and championing brand culture/beliefs. For most, though, a company blog is an SEO machine. Post useful, considered, and in-depth content on your blog. Focus this writing on a topic that matches to your SEO goals. A blog affords you full control over presentation. It allows you to customize call-to-actions (CTAs) and ancillary appeals. It also gives you access to a world of plug-ins.

It’d be foolish to ignore the power of social media. For this reason, you should use social media to access new eyeballs. There’s little reason to not use networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. No one of these should serve as your primary engagement tool, though. In fact, you should use them to funnel traffic to sign up for your email newsletter. Do anything you can to pull new people out of proprietary social networks—and to your website/list.

On the notion of your list, let’s talk about email. I’m opinionated on this one. I say you should use email only to send significant messages. Before sending any email to a subscriber, ask: Is this information pertinent? Will it help the recipient? Does it afford considerable value? Don’t give them a reason to unsubscribe. Also, work to maintain a healthy list. Play nice. Don’t add people who haven’t asked to receive emails. Prune subscribers that don’t open your messages.

Your website newsfeed is mission control

Finally, we get to your website’s newsfeed/changelog. Some will dislike how liberally I misuse the term changelog. For this, I apologize. I’m still searching for a proper name for this “changelog plus” thing we’re promoting.

To the point, though: A changelog is not a blog replacement. It is not a social network. And it is most certainly not built to assist with SEO.

A newsfeed/changelog-as-a-service is your primary bulletin board. You post to your newsfeed first. Doing so shows website visitors that your company is alive and well. Talk about changes (e.g., new features, additions, fixes) to your product. Post updates about your company and what you’re doing. Reference sales, offers, and special opportunities. Also, direct homepage visitors to your blog articles.

Then use your website newsfeed to push updates to social networks. This automates processes and drives traffic back to your site. (This is important: You must direct visitors to your site—not an external network.)You can also use browser notifications for quick updates that don’t clutter a subscriber’s inbox.

One more time…

  • House notable content on your blog
  • Reach new eyeballs through social networks
  • Reserve email for significant messages
  • Treat your website newsfeed as your primary channel

Don’t yet have a newsfeed on your company’s website? Install yours today!