Thursday, April 25, 2013

LinkedIn transforms Contacts section into super-powered personal assistant that integrates with EVERYTHING

LinkedIn transforms Contacts section into super-powered personal assistant that integrates with EVERYTHING
Image Courtesy of  TechChrunch
Today, LinkedIn released a few important new features for members that really turbo-charges their Connections section of the site.  In addition, they released a new mobile app called Contacts for Apple devices (with other platforms slated for future release dates).

If you're like me, you have probably already imported some of your Contacts into LinkedIn from your gMail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc accounts.  Which was great...except of course, that it was a one-time affair.  If you have added any contacts since your original import, those won't appear on your LinkedIn Connections because the import is a one-way process.

Well, go back and do it again, because now LinkedIn creates a permanent connection to your mail system's contacts and will keep your contacts synchronized between those systems (should you choose to permit it) and your LinkedIn profile.  Unbelievably, LinkedIn also now supports synching your mobile device's contact lists with your LinkedIn profile if you also install the mobile application.

There was a broad range of support for web email systems announced today, with more coming in the pipeline.  The list of supported systems announced today include Gmail, Google Contacts, Google Calendar; Google Apps Mail, Contacts, Calendar; Yahoo! Mail, Contacts, Calendar; Outlook Mail, Contacts, Calendar; iPhone Address Book (via LinkedIn Contacts app); LinkedIn’s CardMunch service; Evernote and TripIt.

LinkedIn transforms Contacts section into super-powered personal assistant that integrates with EVERYTHING
New LinkedIn Collection Timeline View
Unfortunately, this update doesn't work with offline clients, so if you're using Outlook or Mac Mail to connect to your company's internal systems (unless you use Exchange / Outlook Web Services), you may not be able to take full advantage of the new updates to the system.  They do support one-off imports of some desktop clients (Outlook Contacts CSV, Mac Address Book vCard and Yahoo! Contacts CSV initially), but those of us hoping to keep our desktops, mobile devices, and LinkedIn profiles in sync will have to wait for another update.

Even better than just being able to import these contacts and keep them in sync, LinkedIn's latest updates also allow you to manage, organize, and keep in touch with your connections with just a few clicks.  They've also included a new view that organizes any communications you've had with your contacts through LinkedIn in a timeline format that is visible whenever you view your Connection's profile.

Although this update is targeted towards regular users of the service, "Power Users" and Recruiters who use the service daily for work to identify leads or potential new hires will find this feature a blessing, especially if you handle a large number of contacts through LinkedIn.  I've got over 1000+ connections on LinkedIn, and one complaint I've long voiced about the interface was the difficulty keeping track of communications.  This is particularly true if you participate on discussion Groups with your connections and want to see not only  your email communications, but how they interacted with you on the other sections of the LinkedIn site.

LinkedIn transforms Contacts section into super-powered personal assistant that integrates with EVERYTHING
New LinkedIn Contacts app for iPhone
Although the new Sync features have been rolled out site wide to all users, some functionality is being rolled out on an invitation-only basis during the first few weeks of launch.  If your account hasn't already been pre-selected to enjoy the new features, you can sign up to join and participate in the new feature Beta release here.

A quick note for iPhone users - if you go to download the app through the Apple Store, be sure to search for "LinkedIn Connections" - I couldn't find the app by searching for LinkedIn alone in the first 20 or so results.  Even with this search term, I had to scroll through a few other contact managers before I found the new Connections application.  This may be resolved by the time you read this if the app starts climbing the Apple Store download charts, but for now a little extra effort is required.  Or you could just click here to download it now.

Business Insider even claims the new app does a better job of managing your contacts than your iPhone does.  I'm not sure I'm ready to agree with that verdict just yet, but I can definitely say it's definitely better than manually keeping all this in sync.

You can see more on the latest release by visiting the official LinkedIn announcement page or by browsing their SlideShare presentation below: