The end of Google Reader marked a sad day for a large Internet audience, but the good news is that individuals and businesses still have RSS options for staying informed and connected. Feedly is one of the top choices for a Google Reader replacement. It was initially a client application for using Google Reader, but with the demise of that service, Feedly has become a standalone RSS product. It gained a large audience by offering a clean layout, straightforward organization, and easy use.

Last month, Sprout Social partnered with Feedly to supply its RSS services within our social media management tool. Here’s an overview of what you can expect to see out of this integration.

Setting Up Feedly

To start using Feedly with Sprout Social, select the Feeds tab from the navigation bar. Click the RSS Reader option from the choices on the left side of your screen, then click the settings wheel next to the words “RSS Reader” on the far right. Or, if you did not previously have a Reader client set up with Sprout Social, a message about Feedly integration will appear with a button labelled “Connect”.

Either route will take you to Feedly’s authorization screen. If you have an existing account with Feedly, you can sign in from here and grant the tool access to your RSS. If you have not used Feedly before, you’ll have the opportunity to create a profile. Keep in mind that you need a Google identity in order to login since Feedly does not yet support proprietary usernames and passwords. After you’ve completed the setup, you’ll see your full set of Feedly stories in Sprout Social. Adding Feedly does not count toward your limit on the number of profiles that can be linked to your Sprout Social account.

Once you have Feedly in the tool, reading the RSS feeds is a similar experience to using the Feedly app or website. You can click the headline or the Expand button in the bottom right corner of an entry to view the entire piece within your feed. Clicking the “Read More” button will open the story in a new tab. If you find an item that you want to post to your social media networks, the “Share” button in the bottom right corner lets you create a new message on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. As with any new message created with Sprout Social, you can add the shared item to your Queue, save it as a draft, or schedule it for later in the day.

Feedly displays the entire contents of your RSS in Sprout Social. If an item has been deleted or marked as read within Feedly’s proprietary app or website, it will have appear grayed-out in Sprout Social. This ensures that even when multiple people are accessing your feeds, everyone will see the same stories. You can also sort what appears in your main feed using the tags you assign in Feedly. A full list of tags appears on the right side of the screen. Clicking the arrow button beside each tag displays a list of all the blogs and websites in that category. You can display all stories with a given tag or from a specific site.

How Your Brand Can Use Feeds

The users of Google Reader were upset by the service’s end because feeds are so helpful for staying informed whenever new content is published on your favorite online properties. With many websites adopting new designs that highlight content by popularity rather than timeliness, getting your news by hopping from site to site can be a time-consuming endeavor. Many people have started following publications and blogs on Twitter for their information, but that relies on an outside source to do the curating for you and you may miss the stories of most interest.

Feedly brings back that centralized source of information, and allows users to organize their reading material in whatever manner best suits them. From a business perspective, having your team looped in to a feed means that everyone can stay on top of the same important news.

You can also use Feedly to follow publications that are relevant to your industry, or blogs written by respected thought leaders. Another possible tactic is to follow the properties owned by rival brands. This lets you see your competitors’ latest developments and products. Or go even broader by seeking out sources of smart business news and trends. Knowing what is happening in your specific field, as well as in the general business community, will help you stay one step ahead!

What do you think of Feedly as an RSS client? Let us know in the comments! And if you haven’t already tried out Sprout Social for features like these, sign up for a free trial!

[Image credit: Intel Free Press]