Monday, April 30, 2007

Networking tools for Biz folks ...

OK, so here's the post I was going to do when I stepped back and wrote this philosophical post instead.

If you haven't, read that post, first.

There are a couple of tools that serve me well on the contact / relationship / opportunity front, and I leverage those tools for my Biz work, too:

The first is a contact synchronization service, and the second is a resume / profile / contact management service. Both have free versions that are pretty robust and useful.

By way of caveats (besides telling you to read the original post first):

  1. I'm not associated with either of these companies.
  2. These are only a couple of the tools I use. I cover my bases pretty liberally with intelligent, safe, proven software, services, and social networking sites.


Plaxo, again, is a contact synchronization tool that makes it wicked easy to have the latest version of your contact's information, and make sure they have the latest of yours.

Ever change your Email address? Switch from using your home address to a P.O. Box for your Biz work? Want to stay "on the radar"? If you use Plaxo, and your contacts use Plaxo, you'll both have each other's most current info. And you'll be notified of any changes.

If you're a Plaxo user, you enter your contact information -- professional and personal -- and decide what you want to share with whom. For example, I share just my business information, and I choose to share it with all Plaxo users (whether I know them or not); my personal (home) contact info only goes to family and close friends.

Then, any time I change anything (like when I switched my business address to a P.O. Box for anonymity), I updated that info, and my Plaxo contacts got it right away.

The beauty of Plaxo is if you (and your contacts) are using it -- and have it integrated with your mail clients. As you add Biz contacts to your Email's address (contact) book, you'll be notified if they're a Plaxo user.

As far as "staying on folks' radar" , if you update your Plaxo contact info (like your "personal message"), and your contacts have elected to receive notifications, they'll get updates about you, too.

It's not perfect, and you have to remember to update your Plaxo info. But it's a good, pretty simple tool.

Oh, and don't be that person who updates they're personal message every day / week / month. I remove those people.


LinkedIn is a professional relationship management site. Sounds wonky, but think of it as a social networking site for professionals, with the tagline, "This isn't networking—it’s what networking should be."

Think an entire site based (loosely) on the Kevin Bacon / six-degrees of separation idea. You use the service to stay in contact with people you know, create and participate in opportunities with each other, and extend your networks to create more opportunities for each other.

With LinkedIn, you can build a profile for yourself, a resume, and a "personal network" of folks you know. You can see folks in their network, and request invitations to them. You can endorse folks. You can get endorsements. You can recommend people for jobs. You can job hunt.

And when you update your profile or other LinkedIn information, if folks in your network have elected to receive notifications, they'll get 'em (think ("co-star, 'Friday Night Lights'").

People use LinkedIn in different ways. Many people use it just to create opportunities for themselves. Others are trying to get as many people in their network as possible, gotta-catch-'em-all Pokemon style.

Not me.

I use LinkedIn to create mutual opportunities. I made all but a handful of contacts in my network personally.

And I try to diligently write applicable, meaningful recommendations for people, and never request or expect an endorsement in response. (As an aside, two folks who previously worked for me were hired -- at least in part -- due to my LinkedIn endorsements, as the hiring companies used my LinkedIn recommendations in lieu of reference checks.)

LinkedIn's not perfect. It only let's you have one profile, though I'd much rather have separate "Corporate Professional" and "Actor" profiles -- right now, my profile is a mix of the two.

If you know me and want to connect, check out my LinkedIn profile. If you don't know me but would like to connect, you can do so via LinkedIn, or you can drop me a note, and we can go from there. Remember, I like to know people as part of networking.

Oh, and check out Guy Kawasaki's blog for details on specific ways to leverage LinkedIn:

  1. Increase your visibility.
  2. Improve your connectability.
  3. Improve your Google PageRank.
  4. Enhance your search engine results.
  5. Perform blind, “reverse,” and company reference checks.
  6. Increase the relevancy of your job search.
  7. Make your interview go smoother.
  8. Gauge the health of a company.
  9. Gauge the health of an industry.
  10. Track startups.
  11. Ask for advice.
  12. Integrate into a new job.
  13. Scope out the competition, customers, partners, etc.

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