One of the more exciting services I’ve had the chance to use over the past year is Gist, a personal relationship manager / news aggregator. In my review from last October, I was impressed with how well it mixes your inbox with the web to compile useful information about your contacts.
As Jennifer reports over on GigaOM, after approximately a year of limited closed beta they’ve decided to open up the gates and make the Gist beta public. The folks at Gist had taken a bit of a different take for their beta. A carefully vetted group of participants were given access over an extended period of time, along with direct access to support and incredibly responsive feedback channels. As a result, Gist has improved substantially since our last look and is a highly recommended tool to add to your business arsenal.
In a nutshell, Gist leverages your inbox to determine the importance of people in your network, and then scours the web to gather information about those people. Pulling data from news sites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more, Gist automatically creates a personal dossier using this information.
With the proliferation of news sources and the volume of data now available, it’s impossible to keep up and attempt to do this type of research manually. In a survey prepared by Gist, it was determined that 60 percent of respondents spend less than 10 minutes before an important meeting searching for information abut the participants.
By making research easy and doing the heavy lifting for you, those who have limited time can gain more useful information in the time they do have, while those who like to do extensive research can cut that time considerably.
I’ve always liked the fact that Gist doesn’t require you to abandon the communication tools that you are already using. The full web interface pulls data in from external sources and while that offers the most comprehensive views of your data, useful integration with Outlook (s msft) and Salesforce (s crm) (announced today) make Gist data available while you are working in your familiar tools.
The integration of Gist with CRM tools is a terribly exciting development. In the Gist survey, only 15 percent of folks said that they looked to their CRM before a meeting for information on participants. Clearly, the bulk of existing tools are lacking in providing useful, timely and relevant information. The shift to Social CRM shift acknowledges the importance of what is happening on the social web. The movement of CRM to be more social, and to recognize that conversations are happening outside of traditional channels is a trend that we’ve been talking about for a while, and one I’m happy to see catching on.
Tools like Salesforce and Batchbook already recognize the value of the social web and are on the leading edge of allowing varying degrees of social media integration right from within their interfaces. Gist’s Salesforce integration is slick and I look forward to more services offering Gist hooks, as the tool is really the most comprehensive that I’ve seen. Even just a quick glance at recent Twitter updates can be a great conversation starter, and with Gist I can see that information while I’m looking up a phone number.
With a nice thoughtful feature set, useful interface and a developing network of integration with other tools, I find Gist to be a radically useful tool. It occasionally overloads me with data but given the alternative, that’s a problem I’m willing to deal with.
Sign up for your spot in the Gist public beta starting today.
How do you keep up to date with your business contacts?