LinkedIn’s Killer App: Contact Management

Social media properties want to increase the time you spend with them.  They call it ‘engagement’ and it is a key metric that social media sites like to quote when soliciting more VC funds or in the case of Facebook, to make their analysts happy

LinkedIn has been called ‘Facebook for Business’ and for good reason.  They have become the defacto portal that most professionals use to manage their networking.

A social media analysis site called Shareaholic compiles a “Social Referrals That Matter” Report that measures user engagement across 200,000 sites. They said:

Although Google+ and LinkedIn drive the fewest social referrals, they bring in some of the best visitors.

What does this mean?  It means that LinkedIn users spend more time (over 2 minutes) on each link they click and view 2.23 pages during each visit.  As you can see from the chart, LinkedIn users spend over two hours there, on average, each month.  This ranks third behind only YouTube and Google+.

User engagement is a valuable metric and allows sites to charge more for advertising.  LinkedIn has built an active user community that is attractive to businesses.  The more engagement goes up, the more attractive their community becomes.

To increase their stickiness and keep you on their site even longer, LinkedIn has been quietly adding new features to their core functionality.  I’m going to show you how you can take advantage of some of these and turn LinkedIn into a free contact management tool.

Free Contact Management

Everyone who has a computer, whether it is a PC or a Mac, already has a basic contact management application that comes pre-installed.   Whether it is Oulook Express or Apple Contacts or one of the multitude of free programs available across the web, you have a lot of choices. But I’m going to make the case for using LinkedIn to manage your business contacts.

One big advantage that LinkedIn has over any other contact manager application is automatic updates from all of your linked contacts.  As each person you are connected to updates their profile, you instantly have access to it on their profile page.  No work is required on your part.  It’s like having your own personal secretary maintaining your rolodex for you!

On the profile page for each of your contacts are two important tabs: Relationship and Contact Info.

Contact Info is just what it says.  Email address, phone numbers, address, birthday, instant messenger usernames, etc. Everything you would expect and would probably update manually in Outlook or other contact manager.

What LinkedIn added is the Relationship tab, which is like a Facebook news feed that’s filtered for just one contact.   This tab provides useful features such as creating notes and  reminders.  This is helpful for keeping track of phone conversations or face to face meetings.  Also,  setting reminders can help you to remember to return calls or follow-up with prospects.

One nice little nugget is a special kind of note called, “How You Met”.  When you fill it in, LinkedIn automatically moves it to the bottom of the Relationship feed and also lets you select another contact as the one who introduced you.

The Relationship tab becomes more powerful when you connect one or more email accounts to LinkedIn since the feed will then include the messages sent to and from your contact.  This gives you a more holistic view of your contacts and avoids having to switch back and forth between your contact list and email to find your email conversations with this person.

At my consulting firm, Ezra Group, we pay for an online CRM application called Highrise.  One of the features that made me choose it was email integration. But it requires a manual step for each message.  You must include a special address as a BCC to all your emails and Highrise integrates them into each of your Highrise contacts alongside any notes, tasks or reminders.

And LinkedIn does this for you automatically and for free!  I would consider switching myself if they would add just a few more features such as creating sales deals for tracking prospective new business, assigning tasks with different categories, and additional ways to sort contacts (like by date last updated, which is very valuable for finding contacts you haven’t reached out to in a while).

But for individuals who just want to manage their business network, LinkedIn is a viable option.  They have added some valuable features for contact management that were previously only available as part of pricey CRM packages.  This has potential to be a ‘killer app’ for LinkedIn, one that drives a large increase in user engagement.  I would recommend checking out these LinkedIn features and seeing how you could better organize the interactions with your network.