Social Media 111: Customizing Your iGoogle Page

In Social Media 102 we introduced you to RSS, which is a powerful way for you to keep tabs on what’s new in dozens (if not 100 or more) of Web sites and blogs that provide RSS feeds. Instead of having to go to the sites, you can use Newsgator or NetNewswire or Google Reader, and have the updates sent to you.

iGoogle is an alternative that enables you to embed what Google calls “gadgets” featuring the latest content from your favorite sites, all on a single page. It lets you, in effect, create a simple, free blog monitoring dashboard.

I recently heard that Yahoo! said as many as half of all MyYahoo! users never customize it from the default settings. I expect that may also be true of iGoogle. That’s why I made this video screencast, to show just how easy it is to customize iGoogle, to have the latest posts from the key blogs you’re monitoring available to you with a single click.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9B7u49Ky_oo]

Homework Assignment:

  1. Sign into your gmail account (or get one if you haven’t yet)
  2. Go to iGoogle.
  3. Click the “Add Stuff” link (on the right side), and then the “Add feed or gadget” link in the left column.
  4. When the box pops up, paste in a URL from any blog post. If you like, for example, you could use this one: http://social-media-university-global.org/2008/10/27/smug-reading-list-102708/ then hit the “Add” button.
  5. When you get the confirmation that the feed has been added, click the “Back to iGoogle Home” link, and you will see that the gadget containing this RSS feed has been placed in the upper left corner of your page.
  6. Repeat the steps for each blog you want added to your monitoring dashboard.

Please note that while iGoogle lets you just enter the URL from a single blog post, and figures out the related RSS feed you want to monitor, you also can paste in the URL from an RSS feed in step 4. So, for example, I did a Blogpulse search for posts mentioning “Mayo Clinic” and got this URL:

http://blogpulse.com/rss?query=%22Mayo+Clinic%22&sort=date&operator=

Which I pasted into a gadget and now it sits on the front page of my iGoogle.

Please note also that you can edit the number of feeds that go into your gadget, increasing to up to 9:

This will be most helpful for those feeds (like Blogpulse or Technorati searches on keywords) for which you expect more frequent updates.

Alltop has several pre-configured pages like this, as described in this post. But you can’t tailor those. You can configure iGoogle to exactly meet your needs, though, and as our SMUG motto says:

It’s Not That Hard!

Blogging 102: Blog Search Engines

Blogs are great tools for news and conversations. So how do you find out what people are saying in blogs, so you can join the discussion?

If you want to monitor blog mentions of a topic (or your company’s name), you have numerous paid options. But I recommend that you start with the free ones, such as:

For any of these, it’s easy to get automatic, up-to-date alerts via RSS feeds or e-mail, so you can be aware of what is being said about topics that matter to you. Here are the steps, using Technorati as an example:

Go to Technorati.com and enter your term of interest into the search box. In my case, I’m interested in health policy reform, so I entered health reform in the search box.

reformbiggessearch.png

You can narrow the scope by taking advantage of what Technorati has defined as “authority.” In essence, this is a count of how many other blogs have linked to a given blog in the last six months. This tells you that some other people have found the information useful or interesting. The next two graphics show what happens when you search for posts with “some authority” or “a lot of authority” (and in the latter the search term was put in quotes, “health reform” to narrow further.)
healthreformbig1.png

hrlostsofauthority.png

Another way to narrow the scope is to search for posts that are tagged as being about your topic. (For background about tagging, read this post.) Here are the results for posts tagged “health reform”:

poststaggedhealthreform.png

Your next step should be to sign up for automatic alerts from Technorati about new posts that fit your search term or that are tagged with your term. Click this button…

picture-6.png

…and (provided you have completed Social Media 102: Intro to RSS or its equivalent) you will be taken to your RSS aggregator or feed reader, where you will have an opportunity to suscribe to a feed of this search.

After you’ve subscribed to the Technorati feed, your next step should be to visit some of the blogs that came up with “some authority” or “a lot of authority” in your original search. These blogs may write about your topic regularly. If so, you will want to become a regular reader. But instead of having to visit them each day, you can just subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed.

Also, in Technorati, you can search for blogs that are tagged as being about your topic, not just that have some posts relating to it. Here are the results for blogs about health reform:

blogsabouthealthreform.png

After you’re done with your Technorati search, you can follow much of the same process with BlogPulse and IceRocket.

Homework Assignments:

  1. Go to Technorati and search for key words that are of interest to you, such as your company name. Subscribe to the feeds for those terms.
  2. Find at least five blogs that are “about” your key terms, and subscribe to those blogs’ feeds in your RSS feed reader.
  3. Repeat the process using at least two other search engines, choosing from BlogPulse, IceRocket and Google News.

This post is part of the Blogging curriculum for Social Media University, Global (SMUG). For information about enrolling in SMUG, click here.