If you followed along with the last Thirty Day Challenge lesson – or signed into Google Reader using your Google account, you should now have a blank Google Reader in front of you. Ed’s video is viewable below:

Google Reader – RSS Feed Reader

Like Ed says – We need to fill up our Google Reader with “RSS feeds.”  What does that mean – and what are they?

RSS is one of those “buzzwords” on the internet.  Originally, the acronym RSS stood for RDF Site Survey – where RDF stands for Resource Description Framework.  (You know it is getting complicated when you have acronyms within acronyms.)  It’s also been referred to as “Rich Site Survey.”  More recently, the term “Really Simple Syndication” has been associated with RSS.  To keep things simple, let’s assume we mean “Really Simple Syndication” when we talk about RSS here.

Almost every blog or website you see, news services, friendfeed, even twitter – they offer information as an RSS feed.  It’s a way to distribute or syndicate information.  RSS feeds are a simple way for you to stay completely informed about your particular niche, or about any topic or hobby you may be interested in.  You’ll be able to process so much information and leverage that knowledge in ways that will literally blow your mind as you continue this year’s thirty day challenge.

But not until we add some RSS feeds to this blank page.  The first thing we should double check is our feed set-up in Flock.  So go to the Tools menu and Options for PC or the Flock menu and Preferences for Mac.  From there, go to the “feeds” tab and make sure that we select “subscribe to the feed using” – Google.

Setting up the \

Next up watch the Google Reader Intro video on your log-in page….

Done yet?  It’s not very long….

Okay – let’s go find some feeds…

The first and most obvious choice would be the Thirty Day Challenge Blog.  So let’s go there, if you installed your Thirty Day Challenge Toolbar, you can use the handy link there – otherwise go to: http://www.thirtydaychallenge.com/blog

Once there, look up by your web address bar – you should see that RSS icon glowing orange.  This indicates the presence of an RSS feed on the current page.  (Flock makes it pretty obvious.)

Google Reader - 30DC RSS feed

You simply click that orange button to view the drop-down menu of available feeds – then click on the “Thirty Day Challenge” feed.  (Just like in the video.)

Up pops your Google options and you could either add the feed to your iGoogle home page or to Google Reader.  For today, we’ll focus on adding the feed to Google Reader…

Google Reader - Add To Google Reader

A sharing option pops up – we won’t get into that aspect for now.

Google Reader - Share With Friends

In future training, we’ll learn more about this feature and how teams can utilize it.

You now have the Thirty Day Challenge feed in your list.

Google Reader - Subscribed to Thirty Day Challenge Blog

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Let’s go find another feed – how about Ed’s Twitter feed:

You can find it here: http://www.twitter.com/Ed_Dale

Google Reader - Ed_Dale On Twitter

Locate the orange RSS button by your web address bar – click it.

Google Reader - Ed Dale Twitter RSS Feed

Then select/click one of Ed’s twitter feeds – add it to Google Reader, and there you have it – your second feed for Google Reader.

Google Reader - Subscribed to Ed Dale Twitter Feed

Let’s find some more to add – how about a funky “Summize” search.  Go to: http://summize.com/

Google Reader - Summize

This is a search engine that allows you to search Twitter in real time.  You can run a search for a particular term, in this case it’s “#30dc” – but what it you searched for a niche-related term? Think about it – you would know about current conversations going on about your niche or area of interest – very powerful stuff…

Back to the #30dc search:

Google Reader - Summize Search #30dc

Up comes a feed containing every tweet containing “#30dc” and lo and behold – there’s an RSS feed available.  Time to click the orange button, select the feed and add it to Google Reader.

Google Reader - Subscribed to Summize #30dc Feed

**Bonus time – if you actually watch the video, you learn about the “installable search engine.”  You can install the summize search engine and make it usable from your Flock search box.

Google Reader - Summize Installable Search Engine

Go ahead – click that little orange button – you know you want to…

Google Reader - Summize Search Engine f/video

If you just hover over it long enough, it’ll tell you what to do – “Click to view installable search engine”

Google Reader - Summize Search Install Button

Just click it and allow Flock to install the Summize Twitter Search Engine to your search engine pull-down menu.

It’s located in the upper right corner of Flock – and once you’ve installed the summize search engine to Flock, you can run a search on Summize, directly from your browser.  Just select the “Summize Twitter Search” from the search engine pull down menu in the upper right corner of Flock.

Google Reader - Summize In Search Menu

In this example, Ed uses the term “trout fishing” – he runs the search and adds the feed to his Google Reader.  Now, maybe “trout fishing” isn’t your niche – but you can run a search for your own niche keyword or phrase and subscribe to that feed.

Google Reader - Summize Results For Trout Fishing

Let the potential of that sink in for a while – for our next example, let’s use Google.  What happens if you just run a Google search for “trout fishing?”

Google Reader - Google Results - Trout Fishing

Pretty typical – let’s look up at our address bar…

Google Reader - Google Results - No Feed

Bummer, there’s no feed available for Google search results – BUT – if you click on the <more> menu and go down to
the <even more> option – you find “Alerts” at the top of the list on the left side.

Googler Reader - Google Alerts

Click “Alerts” – type in your keyword or phrase and create a Google Alert.

Google Reader - Create Google Alert

From the “manage alerts page”, click on the link to the “trout fishing” alert.

Google Reader - Manage Google Alerts

and grab that feed from the RSS button by your address bar.

Google Reader - Google Alerts Feed

You know what to do from here….

In the past, I’ve had these alerts e-mailed to me once a day – sometimes that can add dozens of extra e-mails a day.  Now, I can just add the RSS feed for the alert and add the feed into my Google Reader, freeing up some space and some time in my inbox.

A word of caution – you can go crazy with this.  So be careful not to go overboard at first.  Make sure you have the Thirty Day Challenge blog in your Google Reader.  We’ll learn a few more feeds to track in future lessons.

I suppose you could add the feed from this blog too – no pressure…

For those who participated in the Thirty Day Challenge last year – we learned how to use Bloglines.  You will see in the next couple of lessons why we’ve made the switch to Google Reader.  Pause and think about the awesomeness of this next few lines…

As you think about your niche, and begin to add related feeds to your Google Reader – you’ll see a paradigm shift in how you’re using the internet.  Instead of running around in circles, searching out information on the internet – you set up feeds and the information comes to your feed reader.  How’s that for making your time online more effective?

And in the next few lessons you’ll learn how to “churn and burn” through that information in a productive and effective way.

One other thing Ed mentions – you could track Ed’s feed, the sites he subscribes to.  That list of feeds is available as a feed as well.  Why would you want to do that?  Oh, I don’t know, maybe there’s something to the idea of modeling successful people if you want to become successful…Food for thought…

The next lesson promises to be a life-changer – or at the very least a big time-saver.  So stay tuned…and go give somebody a hug.

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Today’s lesson is all about using Twhirl.  Ed Dale really stresses the importance of using Twhirl and the use of Twitter as a communication mechanism.  You’ll learn some of the ways to use Twhirl for team communication – and you’ll see ways to utilize the Twhirl application as part of your internet marketing toolbox.

Ed’s video is posted below…

How To Use Twhirl Pt. 1 | Thirty Day Challenge

The first thing to notice is that the Twhirl windows float and “grey out” or become transparent when another program is chosen.   It’s a neat feature that allows you to keep the Twhirl application open without cluttering up your computer desktop.

Twhirl will continue to collect messages for you in the background while you’re working.  It will come back into focus at your command, which really helps you stay in your work flow while minimizing distractions.

Now, because of the program I’m using to do screen captures – that actually made it impossible to capture images of my own Twhirl windows.  Anytime I activated my screen capture tool, my twhirl windows turned transparent – not good if you’re trying to capture an image.

Being a problem solver – I did what any good problem solver would do.  I cheated…  I captured images from the high quality version of the videos from Ed.  It wasn’t always easy to get the images I wanted, but I was getting to a point of not being able to take action if I “geeked” out on it much longer.  So, the images from this post and the next came directly from Ed’s videos.  Now you know….

Twhirl - Client Windows

Below, you see Ed’s Twitter window.  We’ll be learning several key ways to maximize our Twitter usage from here today.

Twhirl - Top Menu Bar For Twitter

Here is Ed’s Friendfeed window – for today’s lesson, we won’t be focusing on Friendfeed.  So, TTFN to Friendfeed 🙂

Twhirl - Top Menu Bar For Friendfeed

Here’s a terrific example of a way to use Twitter for communication (and content creation.)

Twhirl - Favorite Feature Tweet

Ed sends a tweet basically asking his “followers” about their favorite Twhirl feature – and then requests that they (@ Ed_Dale) him.  Which leads to the obvious question….what the heck is this “@ Ed_Dale” thing?

The @ Symbol On Twitter And Twhirl

Twhirl - The \

The @ symbol is one of the key communication features available through Twitter.  It allows for direct messaging to any Twitter user who hasn’t specifically blocked you.  Whether the user follows you or not, you can send a direct message to any Twitter user by sending a message in this format:

“@username”

This gives you access to people you may not normally be able to access any other way.  Now, if you’re wondering – would I be bothering someone by sending a total stranger a direct message out of the blue?  Ed says he’s not bothered by it – and most people won’t be.

The main reason being – the length limitation of the posts.  You have 140 characters, which means you better get to the point quick.  No fluff, no filler – just say exactly what you’re after.

It’s also brilliant for testing headlines and as you get used to using Twhirl – it will make you a better writer.  You’ll get better at getting your message across in 140 characters.  And that’s a good thing…

Back to Ed’s tweet, you can see people replying back with their thoughts.

One favorite is multiple accounts, which Ed skims over.  I would imagine this would get covered later on in the actual Thirty Day Challenge itselt, this is after all still preseason.

You could have multiple accounts on Twitter and use Twhirl to manage them all.  An account for your niche, one for personal stuff, one for your thirty day challenge team, etc.

For now, it’s probably best for most to focus on just managing a single Twitter account through Twhirl until you’re really comfortable with everything else you learn throughout the Thirty Day Challenge.

Another idea mentioned: Notification of new replies and direct messages

Now, this was one I just had a tough time getting a clear screen shot of. But on the bottom menu, you can press the @ symbol button (it’s in the video above) and you’ll get a list of every person who has replied and/or sent a direct message to you.  You don’t have to be following people to receive those messages, which is one reason Ed doesn’t follow hundreds of people.  He doesn’t have to…

An additional favorite feature of Twhirl mentioned – using it with Friendfeed.  We’ll cover that in a future lesson.

Here’s another favorite – URL shortening.  How do we do it? and Why do we do it?  Let’s see…  We’ll start with a direct message by using the “@username” format, in this case – @Ed_Dale:

Twhirl - Composing A Direct Message

Now we’ll go find a URL that could be shorter.  This one from YouTube isn’t that long.  But if you use the permalink from this blog post – it is out of hand at over 110 characters.  That doesn’t leave hardly anything in a 140 character Twitter post – so a shorter URL is going to be critical. Back to Ed’s example:

Twhirl - Copying A URL To Shorten

He copies the text of the URL from his browser address bar.

Twhirl - Shorten URL Button

Then back to Twhirl – he clicks the “Shorten URL” button.

Twhirl - URL Shortening Services

He selects the service to use, in this case http://twurl.nl and the reasoning behind this choice is click tracking.  At this point, we’re not at a point in the challenge where tracking matters.  But down the road it will get important, so keep twurl in mind…

Twhirl - Shorten URL

Here, Ed pastes the URL link he wants to shorten.

Twhirl - Number Of Characters Available

Now, here’s why – it frees up characters for his message.  With a 140 character limit, you’ll find this to be a very important feature.

Twhirl - Tweet Sent Using Shortened URL

And away goes his tweet…with plenty of characters to spare.

On to TwitPic…

Twhirl - TwitPic Button

Above, you see him clicking on the TwitPic button.

Twhirl - TwitPic

Up pops the TwitPic dialog.  To post an image, he clicks the “Post image” button, selects an image from his computer to post – and sends it to Twitter by clicking the “Post Image” button again.

Twhirl - Tweet Using A Hash Mark

I know it’s not easy to read, but this is the place Ed mentions the use of “hash marks.”  In this case, he’s talking about “#30dc”  the “#” character is referred to here as “hash marks.”

Hash marks are another cool Twitter feature.  It’s a kind of “tagging” mechanism that several other services pick up.  It’s particularly useful for events and things like the thirty day challenge.

Twemes is pictured below – it’s one of the services that picks up terms with the hash marks on Twitter.  We’ll find out more about these services and how to use them later on in the challenge.

Twhirl - Twemes

Another aspect of the direct message functionality to keep in mind is that direct messages won’t appear in your Twitter feed.  If you use the @ button, those replies will appear in your Twitter feed.  Since we’re using the “direct message” button in this example, let’s make sure we’re using it properly.

Twhirl - Send Direct Message

In this case, it’s important to provide some context for the message.  This is particularly important in an “@” reply.  If you don’t provide context you may end up with messages in your feed that don’t make any sense to the majority of your followers.

Twhirl - Tweet Response And Providing Context

Another great benefit available through Twhirl is the built in summize searching.

Twhirl - Summize Searching

Below, we can click the “search” button.

Twhirl - Search Button

Right now, Summize is superior – but feel free to try them both at your discretion.

Twhirl - Search Services Menu

This is another way to find out what people are saying about any particular topic.

Twhirl - Trout Fishing Search

Let’s try “Trout Fishing” and you can see in the video above how much stuff pops up about trout fishing.  It may take a while to see how this relates from a marketing perspective.  It will become apparent as you learn more during the thirty day challenge.

To wrap up:

We’ve got our @ replies, the direct messaging functionality, URL shortening, TwitPic, hash marks, and Summize searching.

And there’s more to come in the next post….

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