In the old days of networking, we were told things like 1) bring your business cards with you wherever you go; 2) make notes on the back of the business cards you collect at networking events so you can remember something about the person when you follow up; 3) remember to follow up with people you meet to nurture your network; 4) an easy way to touch base with someone in your network is to clip out an article that you think might interest them and mail it to them.
What’s the 2009 version of networking? How about 1) remember your moo cards and keep your .vcf (vCard file) updated; 2) snap a photo with your iPhone and tag the image, share contact info with Sharecard for iPhone and don’t forget to find and link to them on LinkedIn; 3) use Socialminder to keep tabs on your networking; 4) email a link to an article you read online that you think they might be interested in or better yet, share it via your social network status updates.
What’s Socialminder, you ask? Socialminder is a new Web-based application that is exploring the ins and outs of maintaining a healthy, vibrant and fruitful social network. I found out about Socialminder from several well-connected friends via an email. I immediately joined because they were people who I trust.
I found out later from Socialminder founder John Adler that those invitations were initially a “forced” feature that they have since made optional after some user complaints. One of the Golden Rules of social media sites should be “Thou Shalt Not Force Members to Invite Friends,” and Adler admits his company is going through a great deal of learning as they move their application out of beta. They’re open to feedback and have changed a number of features in the last few weeks.
Adler emphasizes that he subscribes to the “pay it ahead” theory of networking, helping people in your network or letting them know what you are doing rather than asking for something from them right out of the gate. Socialminder gives you the tools to do all three things. It is up to you to use it wisely.
When you sign up for Socialminder, the application scours both your LinkedIn account and your Gmail account (you have to put in your access information to trigger this). Then the application looks for correlations between who you are LinkedIn to and who you’ve emailed. Once it finishes it’s machinations, it begins sending you a regular email message that lists the top five LinkedIn contacts who you haven’t contacted in a very long time – the neglected ones.
Another feature Socialminder recently modified was what they included in those “action reports.” Initially, they listed the names, email addresses and then several “news” links – links to results in a news feed based on keywords the system gleaned from each person’s LinkedIn account. Those links, unfortunately, were too random so they didn’t seem like a meaningful way to contact someone, especially someone who you haven’t been in touch with for a while. Now those news links are gone which has streamlined the action report, but I’m still looking for a quick and easy link to each person’s listing on my Socialminder page so I can optimize the information about that contact.
For example, perhaps it just isn’t the right time to contact that person, and I want to push it back for a while. Or maybe I recently spoke to them by phone, met them in person or emailed them from a different account (Socialminder currently works with Gmail but they hope to roll out integration with other email programs soon). You can make note of these things in your Socialminder account, however, that link isn’t obvious in the action report email. Yet.
I really like the concept of Socialminder and am sure their interface and features will improve over time and as more people use the service. At press time, they had a couple thousand members and had put a temporary hold on new members for a brief time to work out many user-identified issues and the usual growing pains-related kinks. The hold is now lifted.
My favorite thing about Socialminder is the email action report, a friendly regular nudge to think about my network and be more proactive about staying in touch with people I know. Having handy links to instantly email my contacts is a motivator to connect, even if just to say hello.
Socialminder shows the last emails you exchanged with each contact where they’ve found a match. That’s also helpful for those times you can’t remember the last time you were in touch and what you discussed. You can also draft a message to each contact from the Socialminder site complete with some message prompts.
The app limits you to being able to interact with only the 5 most neglected contacts when you sign up. To upgrade to the free full version, Socialminder asks you to select 10 Linkedin contacts of your choice from your contact list compiled in your account and invite them to use Socialminder. I opted to do this to access contact activity reporting deeper into my 300+ Linkedin connections.
Socialminder has other functionality such as the ability to increase or decrease the frequency you want to contact someone, and the ability to change the keywords from what the system pulled to words that genuinely relate to the person. Red bars on the left side of your contacts mean you should consider getting back in touch since it has been quite a while. Contacts in jeopardy of being neglected are identified with yellow bars and green means you’ve been a good little networker and your contacts are up to date.
I’m not really looking forward to the Hotmail or Yahoo mail integration because those are my secondary and tertiary accounts. Those who really know me use my main Gmail account so I’m glad Socialminder started with Gmail. I think Socialminder is going to be one of those Web apps that become an integral part of my work. I’m more likely to adopt anything that helps me manage something in a more streamlined way.
Are you using Socialminder or something like it? How do YOU manage being in touch the people in your network?