RSS for lawyersAudiences are surprised when I tell them the most important part of social media is listening. I explain after a LinkedIn profile, the most important social media tool to use is a RSS reader.

Social media is all about networking so as to build relationships and enhance your word of mouth reputation. Networking means listening first. Your RSS reader is your ears.

Though Google Reader is the leading RSS reader, I find it clumsy to use. Adding feeds isn’t always the easiest. The interface isn’t the best to read from. And sharing on Facebook and Twitter what you’re reading isn’t the easiest.

The Financial Times’ Chris Nuttall (@ftchris) has a nice piece this morning on news feeds becoming better reads with tablets and apps.

RSS readers used to be the standard way for web users to collect and consume news from different sources, but the advent of tablets has brought personalised photo-rich magazine-style experiences rather than long RSS lists of headlines.

RSS readers arguably provide better news, especially for industry professionals like lawyers, than the mainstream media can provide.

Nuttall, a reporter himself, believes with traditional journalism in decline, good RSS readers and aggregators with bots may be able to take the place of good editors by automatically providing a rich and more personalized news experience.

Nuttall goes on to provide plusses and minuses for each of 7 RSS readers/aggregators.

I’ve tried Flipboard and Zite. Both provide a very nice user experience. The feedback I’ve received from lawyers on each has been very positive.

At the suggestion of my friend, Attorney Tom Mighell, I’m currently using Mr. Reader on my iPad to read my feeds. It works well for me because I’ve come to know well the sources and subjects I want to follow over the years. Mr. Reader also allows me to tag and star items as well as share items on Twitter and Facebook.

If you’ve never used an RSS Reader before or drifted away from using RSS because you thought it a headache, I’d suggest using Zite or Flipboard. I’ve written about Zite and Flipboard before if you want to see my thoughts on each.

No matter what RSS reader or aggregator you use, they all interface and synchronize with Google Reader. Google Reader becomes, in effect, your database of RSS feeds.

I strongly suggest getting an iPad. The apps save you time and provide a much more attractive reading environment than a laptop or desktop machine. You’ll likely get addicted to reading RSS feeds once you have a an iPad.

Bottom line, if you’re going to use social media effectively, you need to begin by listening. Listening requires the use of a RSS Reader. Fortunately, the use of a RSS Reader has gotten easier with tablets and apps.