Monitoring and web communications toolkit

Due to requests from some friends, on this page I put together a toolkit for monitoring EU affairs and communicating via the web. Using Google, Delicious, Twitter and some intelligent research commands will cut your research and marketing 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, you will need a feed reader. There are a few out there, see Jon's post for details. I'm personally very happy with the Google Reader. To get it, you will have to create a Google account if you don't have one yet.

Here is a basic list of EU news feeds: European Commission, Council of Ministers, European Parliament, European news, more European news, even more European news.

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 (as for the Google Reader, this will require you to create a Google account). If you created a daily alert for EU agriculture, for example, you will comfortably receive your search results to your inbox, structured in news results, blog results and web results. Caution, these precise search terms may produce a long list of results that create you more work than necessary. But you can use intelligent commands such as inverted commas to limit results to those that you want.

If you want to follow-up on some of these news, use Google News. A few clear search terms (e.g. Sarkozy agriculture subsidies) should give you a good list of up-to-date news coverage of your search terms. If you come across interesting websites, don't forget to copy their RSS feed into your feed reader.

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 will show you every mention of Barack (or Michelle) Obama on the New York Times. You can also look for "Barack Obama" and will only find mentions of the President himself.

Another interesting search command is for a particular file type like PDF or DOC. Simply put filetype:pdf after your search terms to obtain pdf results or filetype:doc for Word Documents etc. You can also limit searches to a particular language, a specific date, a particular reading level etc.

Fourth, to keep track of all that you read online, you could use, 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 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). 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 (to create a single topical news feed for example). 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

While you're defining your target audience, don't forget to sign your website/blog up to several blog aggregators such as, or Blogged. There are also national ones, e.g. for France, Germany and China, and topical ones, e.g. Digg or Reddit.

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.