Due to requests from some friends, in this post I put together a toolkit for monitoring EU affairs and communicating via the web. Using Google, Delicious, Twitter and some intelligent research commands can cut your research time in half.
Beside subscribing to newsletters, the first thing you could do is to use RSS feeds. Jon Worth's post over here tells you why. RSS feeds are common for most news websites; once you've subscribed, you receive the latest news automatically. To read them, though, you will need a feed reader. There are a few out there, such as the Google Reader; see Jon's post for details. Tell me more
Second, create Google Alerts. This little program will crawl the web and send you emails as soon as a new item with your search terms goes online. If you created a daily alert for 'EU agriculture', for example, you will comfortably receive your search results pertaining to EU agriculture in your inbox, structured in news results, blog results and web results. Tell me more
Third, to save time during your research, you can use intelligent search commands (for Alerts or regular searches). Among the more interesting ones are searches within a particular website. The search command Obama site:nytimes.com will show you every mention of Barack (or Michelle) Obama on the New York Times. You can also look for "Barack Obama" site:nytimes.com and will only find mentions of the President himself. Tell me more
Fourth, to keep track of all that you read online, you could use delicious.com, a tool that allows you to create bookmarks. You can access these bookmarks from any computer, allowing you to quickly find online articles that you read before.
With your monitoring tools thus set up, there are also many means to publish and publicize content. The easiest form to publish content is a blog, while the easiest way to spread it is via Twitter. The EU is now very active on Twitter; you can find a list of EU twitter contacts over at La Communication Européenne.
When you have produced content on your blog, programs like Twitterfeed, Hoot Suite or RSS Graffiti allow you to publish it to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (could be very useful for those MEPs who stopped tweeting after the 2009 elections but who still maintain their websites). If you feel like it, create your own daily newspaper through paper.li. Google Analytics and other programs allow you to keep track of how many people visit your website. Be help of Feedburner, you can let readers subscribe to your website by email. Yahoo Pipes allows you to aggregate news feeds from several blogs or websites and even to translate them into other languages. I recently started using If this then that to combine different online tasks. I greatly love it, but it's still in beta phase and will evolve over time. To manage your Twitter account professionally and to quickly target new followers, you could use on of these programs, unfortunately none of them is free. Finally, to measure your online influence, have a look at klout.com.
While you're defining your target audience, don't forget to sign your website/blog up to several blog aggregators such as technorati.com or bloggingportal.eu. See more
In the end, however, getting readership is mainly about interaction. Reacting to blogposts and comments, retweeting other people's messages - this will draw a wider audience than if you only resort to automated publishing tools.
If you have other programs, blogpost links or ideas, please share them in the comments.