Crowd control: Tools for managing information about the people you meet
Four Cloud-based apps and services to make the most of your business networking
I think most people have trouble remembering faces when they meet a lot of them at once, so what could be better than a system to manage your contacts from the start. You never know when you might need the advice or input of an expert you once met – but which drawer did you stuff their business card into? Most phones now have detailed address book options built in (providing you remembered to transfer the details), but if you want more control and flexibility in how to access them there are plenty of great free cloud services to record and store all your interactions. Some even let you add context about how, why and where you met, which could be very handy for finding your way back to their offices in the future. Here’s a selection of the best of what’s out there:
Card Cloud is a free app for Android and Apple mobiles that acts as a virtual business card you can swap with other users. If your contact doesn’t want the Card Cloud app to read your information you can send it via email or through the mobile site. In this instance their details can be entered into your contacts list by hand, using the location marker and comments to add important context about where and why you met. This information is also available through the browser based dashboard and on any mobile device.
With Google’s Gmail so widely used there are oodles of great browser add-ons that give you a more personalised and streamlined email experience. Add-ons are quick and easy to install as they just make a tweak to an existing programme – in the case of Rapportive that’s your online email interface when viewed in Firefox or Chrome browsers. This plugin joins up all the dots by letting you see your Gmail contacts’ social connections, pulling up a photo, location and job description beside every incoming message. You can widen your network by connecting Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts; you can even keep notes, perhaps warning a ‘future you’ about a bad exchange you had with a person, or if they were slow to settle your invoice. When additional information is available through the social streams, the app will report on recent posts, blogs and other network activity. This could be an excellent way to run a quick check on a potential employee to make sure their behaviour is appropriate.
A good P.A. would have a list of the day’s appointments and tasks all clearly mapped out by the time you arrive for work in the morning – and a really good P.A. would have placed your agenda beside a steaming cappuccino. The Internet can’t do the coffee (yet), but Sunrise IM fulfils the main objective with a daily digest of everything you need to know about the day ahead pulled from all your key communications streams. Sign up to connect with Facebook, multiple Google accounts and Linked In. As well as your calendar you can add other features for the digest to include, like public holidays or birthdays pulled from Facebook contacts. When you RSVP to an invitation in Facebook it will automatically be synced to your account, and that goes for all the separate Google Calendars you might be running for business and personal commitments too. If you have a meeting with a LinkedIn contact you will also receive a summary of their details together with their profile photograph. You will never be better prepared for a business meeting, just try not to know so much that it looks creepy.
One of the downsides of having so many ways to connect with the world is it can be easy to fragment your contacts list across multiple devices and online sources. Soocial lets you sync all these up into one safe, searchable storage vault. The free account syncs from three sources (including Gmail, Outlook, Windows Live and most smartphones) to a maximum of 250 contacts, after which there is a small monthly subscription for a premium account (which you can try free for 30 days when you first register). Make sure you carefully read all the warnings and instructions when connecting each source as it will save you a lot of time backtracking later if you miss an important detail.
Kate Russell has been writing about technology, gaming and the internet since 1995 and now appears weekly on BBC2 and BBC World News, reporting for technology programme Click. Her new book, Working the Cloud, published by Crimson Publishing in March 2013, is available to pre-order now, or just come along to http://workingthecloud.biz to read the latest news and features.