3 ways Social Networking killed the Rolodex

Mashable had a great post recently on using data for business relationships that got me thinking of ways that social networking sites (particularly LinkedIn and Twitter) have rendered obsolete the rolodex by offering far more effective ways to stay in touch with the relationships that matter most in our careers.

Today’s most actionable business data comes from living and very human sources like social networks, wikis, microblogs, crowdsourced contact directories, collaboratively filtered finance communities, real-time search engines, hyperlocal news sites and more. Managing that data can involve a lot of mixing and matching, comparing and contrasting.

While the article mentions the evolution, thanks to the massive amounts of relationship data unleashed by these social networking sites, it didn’t delve into ways you could leverage these sites on a daily basis. So, I thought I’d put together 3 ways social networking sites have destroyed the old style of managing relationships in your professional life. Details after the jump.

Rolodex has been dead... for a while
The Rolodex is dead. Long live social networking sites.

1. The Auto-updating Rolodex: always have the most relevant up-to-date information on your contacts

One of the biggest flaws in a rolodex is that your business cards are useless once someone moves on from their job. And, in this day and age where professionals go through multiple jobs, it’s important that your relationship management system do all the hard work of keeping that contact information up to date.

Most of my contacts are aggregated through Google Voice / Contacts and synced to my iPhone (via iTunes) but unfortunately it has the same flaw – they don’t auto update when a contact moves from job to job (for e.g.). So, I turn back to my trusted LinkedIn Address Book for the most accurate update. Since everyone updates their profile on LinkedIn, my address book is up to date. I also find that our newly redesigned address book allows me to tag and categorize those contacts for me to pull up easily. More on that later.

LinkedIn's Redesigned Address Book

2. The Real-Time Rolodex: with notifications and people alerts

Since Twitter came on the scene, we’ve seen the tremendous value in real-time updates (ambient awareness) that benefit relationship building. On LinkedIn, for e.g. status updates have led folks to start a business. On Twitter, there are always these tiny little breadcrumbs of information (tweets) that help you foster your relationships with folks you’re connected to.

Building relationships is an art form. It’s partly built by thoughtful consideration and sharing of ideas at the right time. Imagine if you were notified each time the folks in your rolodex were sharing thoughts, ideas and professional content that may be of interest to you? Wouldn’t that be cool. Here are two easy ways to do that both on LinkedIn and Twitter.

  • First, set up automatic People Alerts on LinkedIn for specific connections: This is super-valuable yet a tad time consuming. Imagine as a job seeker, if you were notified each time your hiring manager commented on a group discussion. Or an entrepreneur who’d like to be alerted when a VC liked a news discussion on Groups.
    • How to set up People Email Alerts on LinkedIn Groups: Go through a list of your connections on the “People I’m Following” page and turn on email alerts for specific connections (http://bit.ly/group-email-alerts)
People Email Alerts on LinkedIn
  • Now, auto-create a Twitter list of your business connections for real-time notifications. My favorite part of this feature is that the Twitter Business List auto-updates each time your connection list on LinkedIn changes. Here’s a two-step process to set yourself up for real-time activity notifications from your business connections:
    • Step 1: Create a private Twitter List of your LinkedIn connections from LinkedIn’s Tweet app (http://bit.ly/install-tweets). It’s one click, easy to do and auto-creates a Twitter list that you can then access from any of your favorite Twitter apps.
    • Step 2: If you use Tweetdeck or Seesmic, pull in this private Twitter list so you can now see a real-time feed of activity from your business connections right on your favorite Twitter app (I use Tweetdeck on my laptop and Tweetie on my iPhone)
    • Step 3: Alternatively, if you’d rather just follow specific business connections from LinkedIn on Twitter (the same folks for whom you created a people email alert in Step 1) then go here – http://bit.ly/linkedin-tweets

3. The Easy to Search Rolodex: skim, sort, and search your extensive rolodex through multiple facets

Now that you’ve created a notification system for your rolodex, you want to be able to search effectively for a contact working at any company or within any industry. If you haven’t checked out the recent updates to LinkedIn’s Address Book, I’d highly recommend you do that now (http://bit.ly/address-book). Search and sort your address book by 6 facets: tags, last name, companies, locations, industries, recent activity.

LinkedIn Address Book: Sort through 6 facets (Pic Source: LinkedIn Blog)

Though, it may not have the depth and structure of LinkedIn’s address book, both Twitter and Facebook have an address book of friends and connections. Here’s what works:

  • Friends: Facebook does a good job of keeping it simple – both in terms of creating lists (similar to Twitter lists, though these are private within your Facebook universe). I like how it allows you to put friends into lists the minute you connect. Also, they automatically create a phonebook by pulling together your friends who have listed their phone #s on Facebook. Nice.
Facebook's auto-generated Phonebook
  • Followers: Twitter on the other hand, embraces the follower philosophy. So, all you get is a list of folks you follow and you’ve the option to bucket them into different lists (public or private). But again, this ain’t gonna help you find or contact specific folks like you’d use a rolodex for. That’d have to be done only via LinkedIn’s Address Book.
Twitter's Followerbook

Today, social networking sites help you auto-update, track real time information and find targeted contacts to nurture relationships.

Tomorrow they’re moving slowly but surely towards mobile. I’d have added a couple more bullet points around accessing your contacts anywhere, everywhere but frankly I don’t see a comprehensive application today that provides a continuous sync between your multiple social networking address books and your cell phone, so I haven’t delved into it.

If you found any interesting ways to use your social networking sites as a rolodex, fire away in the comments section and I’ll update the post.

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