The last two posts I published on professional networking, “Smart Professional Networking Online” and “Tidying Your Online Connections” prompted some great discussion when I shared on Facebook. Heidi Ketroser Massey and Nancy Schwartz asked about tools to help manage the process. This post was inspired by that discussion.
Back when I first started working, my best professional networking tool was my Rolodex. Whenever I met someone new, the business card would get added to it, along with some notes on how we met and their expertise. Whenever I was working on a project or strategy, I’d flip through my Rolodex for ideas – people to reconnect with or realize that something was missing and I need to expand my network. It seems like a million years ago! Professional network contact management is a lot more powerful, but also a more complicated for individuals.
Today, our professional networks require a suite of specialized tools to be effective, that amplify good networking practices.
Here’s a few suggestions for tools and tips.
1. LinkedIn: Online social networks let us connect with many more people faster than ever. So as a result, you may not remember how you met someone or the last time you connected or if you are searching through your network for a specific, unique identifier (someone you met at an event), LinkedIn can help. Also, if you need to reactivate a past contact or search for a new one, LinkedIn is invaluable. I use LinkedIn as my Rolodex on steroids, but in order for it to be effective, I have to aggressively use the relationship tab. Here you can use tags and notes to help trigger your memory or find the right people faster when searching. This infographic offers some great tips on effectively using the relationship tab. If you need to tidy up your network connections by doing a little Spring cleaning, these tips are great.
2. EverContact: My main address book is in my Gmail account. However, I hate, hate doing the tedious task for adding more than just an email address or updating addresses. When I want to call someone (yes I still use the phone – human contact is important to professional networking), I waste time hunting down a phone number. Or, I might get a call from someone, but it doesn’t show who that is. Evercontact scraps signature blocks from your emails and then automatically adds the contact into to your address book. So, if you get a phone call, you will know who it is, because Evercontact stored it from a previous email exchange. Also, more complete information is stored in your email address book.
3. Rapportive: This is a nifty Chrome extension that adds someone’s social profile to who ever you are emailing. This allows you to customized your email a bit more and helps get their attention. It can also help you do your prep work in advance of a face-to-face networking meeting or phone call.
4. YesWare: The primary benefits of Yesware are e-mail templating. Many times we want to reach with an opportunity or query to our network and customized it for folks. But that can be tedious job even if you are only contacting a half dozen people. Yesware E-mail templates make that task more efficient. Works for both gmail and outlook. It can also track your open rates, but I don’t use that feature.
5. Boomerang: Following up with your contacts is important to network building. Boomerang allows you set reminders for yourself, using gmail, to follow up.
I’ve tried pick out free or low cost tools for managing your online network connections. I know there are many more options out there. What other tools would you add to this list? What are other professional networking best practice could be more efficient by using a tool with a specific feature?