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Summary:

LinkedIn is launching a standalone Contacts app that will roll out slowly to users in the U.S. But do you really need a second LinkedIn app with only limited professional contacts in it?

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It’s hard to imagine there’s a person out there who feels like they don’t have enough networking and contacting opportunities on LinkedIn. But the company aims to reach just those people on Thursday with the launch of its new product, a standalone mobile app that integrates (only some) of a user’s contacts across different social and web services into one app, called Contacts, that’s meant to help you keep in touch with more professional contacts outside of the existing LinkedIn app. And get you hooked on more of LinkedIn’s products while you’re at it.

new LinkedIn Contacts screenshot imageThe LinkedIn Contacts app, which will launch just on iOS for U.S. users on an invite-only basis at first, allows you to pull together your Google, Outlook, Yahoo, and phone contacts into one contact database hosted on the app. (It also supports integration with some apps like Tripit or Cardmunch.) Contacts then lets you sort and filter people based on how often you contact them and lets you add details about your relationship to serve as personal reminders.

For instance, I can mark when and where I first met one of my LinkedIn conections, see when I last emailed that person in Gmail, call them on the phone (if they list their number), and see when I last met with them according to my Outlook calendar (if I used one of those).

These seem like useful features that could help you sort and categorize professional contacts, and it’s cool to see how LinkedIn has used algorithims and data to put together individual relationship histories for each contact without much work required from the user. However, it’s unclear why LinkedIn felt that these features should exist in a standalone app.

Will people really download a second LinkedIn app if they already have one that works just fine? These features seem like they’d be more useful if they were integrated into the existing app rather than launched in a second one. The company did indicate that it will evaluate how the product does on mobile in deciding whether to add features into the existing app, and users who gain access to the new Contacts app will have this data integrated into their contacts section of LinkedIn.com, which is smart.

Sachin Rekhi, the former CEO of the address book company Connected, which LinkedIn acquired in 2011, is now heading up the Contacts app, and he explained that LinkedIn wanted to keep the contact info in a separate app to better target the specific audience that would find it useful. Namely, professionals who want networking info on mobile. But it’s unclear which of LinkedIn’s existing members wouldn’t fit that description.

new LinkedIn Contacts integration page“We’re taking a multi-app strategy across different use cases and target audiences,” Rekhi said.

The other major downside to the app is that it doesn’t integrate with Facebook or Twitter, so it’s fairly limited in the types of information it can actually import. The company would not indicate whether this was because Facebook and Twitter refused to provide access to those social graphs, or whether LinkedIn wasn’t interested in adding them. Rekhi said it’s because the Contacts app just focuses on professional contacts rather than more social features, so starting with apps like Gmail and Outlook made sense.

However, the increasing reality is that a lot of people do make professional contacts over Facebook and Twitter, and as Facebook improves its messaging and contacts products, it seems like a major downside that the LinkedIn app wouldn’t include those. Presumably, LinkedIn wants you connect with people over its own social network, wishing them happy birthday, calling them, and catching up with them on the Contacts app rather than through Facebook. But by not including Facebook’s social graph, it makes the app a lot less complete for younger users like myself.

So what’s the benefit for LinkedIn in producing this app? Of course, more eyeballs focused on LinkedIn and more screentime with the company’s products are always good for the company, and messaging and calling apps have become popular recently as companies try to hook users into communicating through their services. Importing all of your contacts and email information gives LinkedIn much more data to use as it turns your information into value for professional recruiters, who drive most of the company’s revenue.

Plus, as LinkedIn focuses its site on producing more news and media content, as evidenced by the Pulse acquisition, it’s possible it wants to make the main LinkedIn app more of a news reader and the Contacts app where you communicate with other individuals. But the company has a long way to go before it builds the equivalent of Facebook and Facebook Messenger.

  1. Oh, no! More LinkedIn spam ‘invites’ from people who apparently have me in their Contacts – but those people did NOT invite me!

  2. “The LinkedIn Contacts app, which will launch just on iOS for U.S. users on an invite-only basis at first, allows you to pull together your Google, Outlook, Yahoo, and phone contacts into one contact database hosted on the app.” More sources of victims to spam.

  3. Chris van Loben Sels Thursday, April 25, 2013

    Great piece, especially regarding the other social networks. Personally, I think the new LinkedIn Contacts is more targeted at salespeople, rather than recruiters, who like to stalk via facebook, but not actually contact people that way . . .

    All in all, this seems like a big deal. It could fundamentally change the way people — especially salespeople — think of LinkedIn. Most salespeople keep a lot of information about their contacts that they take from job to job. Right now, they don’t have an app for that, since many of those contacts aren’t LinkedIn connections. This could change that. It’s amazing how poorly served salespeople are, given how important their function is (it’s why we’re building an app for salespeople http://selligy.com ).

    Of course, much of the above also describes the challenge LinkedIn faces. It’s hard to change the way people think about your service. Since LinkedIn is so defined by “connections,” it will be especially challenging to shift our perspective about managing non-connections in LinkedIn. But it will be worth it.

    Cheers —

    –Chris.

  4. Given the problems that LinkedIn’s current mobile apps have had with crashing and reduced usefulness compared to the website – and the subsequent anger of users expressed on LinkedIn’s groups supporting said apps – I just hope that whoever is developing the new Contacts app tests it thoroughly before release! Whilst I like LinkedIn as a service, mobile is still a weak point in my opinion.

  5. I’m not a big fan of this being a second app; Just one more thing for me to download. If this is essentially a detailed look at your contacts, just integrate this into the contacts section of the LinkedIn app.

  6. om visvanathan Saturday, April 27, 2013

    Good idea to keep facebook and twitter contacts out. Will only add to the clutter.

    om
    http://www.concentricsys.com

  7. Indeed, it’s all about who you know in LinkedIn that makes a difference.

  8. Holly Solomon Tuesday, April 30, 2013

    It looks like you lost the capability of messaging in bulk your tags in this new roll out……such a bummer as it was one of their best features

  9. Yes Holly, the LinkedIn NEW CONTACTS system has removed our ability to create a list by “tags” or other criteria, then email that list of people. I had to manually enter all my connections in my Peru list last week – took 20 minutes instead of 2.

    Why have they killed THE MOST IMPORTANT feature in CRM systems – or are you trying to default to Facebook features and emulate Google’s and Microsoft’s notoriously lousy software launches?

    Reid Hoffman, other executives and customer service don’t seem to care.

    In addition, the export function only exports name, email, company and title – NOTHING ELSE, even though there are dozens of columns in the export file that could transfer information that the connection or we add – makes it so we can’t move to a better CRM.

    NOT RECOMMENDED

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