We have finally tested the necessity for RSS feeds with blogging in a client project. Didn’t set out to test this particular aspect. We said from the start that RSS feeds would be crucial. That is the accepted thinking in the blogosphere. No RSS feed, no attention. People cannot be expected to remember to go to your blog without a prompt.

In this case, the blog itself is running in a test environment within the client’s systems. It’s strictly for internal use. The RSS capability just isn’t available yet. 

During the first two weeks, we saw a dramatic impact from the promotional e-mails we sent. No promo e-mail, no traffic. I mean the difference in traffic is pretty astounding. New posts simply went unnoticed. There was no denying the need for a more regular notification. But, we didn’t want to impose a promotional e-mail on all users for every new post. 

At one point we tried wrapping the notification in with other broadcast e-mails to reduce volume. Traffic stalled. If it isn’t the primary topic, it doesn’t get noticed. Or, if it is associated with something people have already learned to ignore, forget getting their attention anew.

Luckily, the technical team was able to figure out another way to allow users to set an alert. This way, the users who care get an e-mail alerting them of a new post. Now, we’ll spend the next two weeks watching the usage data for traffic spikes on days a new post goes up, not just on the days a promotional e-mail goes out.

But, because the alert requires user involvement, not unlike an RSS feed, it still isn’t foolproof. If the organizational culture is one that doesn’t do pull, but relies on push, then you need a whole campaign designed to change that culture.

The project has been great confirmation of what we intuitively knew to be true – blogging without RSS feeds or some other notification just doesn’t work. But the real aha for me is how much the organizational culture affects usage. I’m right back to change communication!