LinkedIn is adding new business networking functionality. On Thursday, the site announced a revamped Contacts that increases the ability of members to manage relationships.
The site said the new Contacts offers the kinds of services that a personal assistant might perform, such as remembering colleagues' birthdays or being reminded of the last conversations you had with a given acquaintance. Contacts is being tested by invitation to U.S.-based members, and a wider roll-out to the full membership is expected at some point.
The new Contacts integrates an address book, e-mail account and calendar, and is available either on the Web site or via a new iPhone app. The company has also indicated it is working on an Android and mobile Web version.
Gmail, Outlook, iPhone
The integration allows details of past conversations and meetings to be brought directly into a Contact's profile. In addition to birthdays, participating members can be alerted to job changes by the contact, thus providing a reason to get back in touch, and members can set reminders or add notes.
Contacts can acquire information not only from LinkedIn sources, but from e-mail, address books and calendar in Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo or iPhone, or selected applications like Evernote. Users must grant their permission to use third-party sources. The company said that Contacts can understand which e-mails are from people and which are not in order to automatically set up Contact pages, and users can modify the entries at any point.
Contacts can also track when you first met the person, usually through notes you've added. Tags can also be added so that members can sort through contacts by, say, investor or designer.
The new Contacts is oriented toward members who like to keep in touch with their professional network, by providing data points that provide reasons to stay or get back in touch. Contacts can also suggest when you might drop someone a note after a given interval of not being in touch. If they wish, users can generate a list of people with whom contact has not been made in a given period of time.
Integration with TripIt
Contacts also has integration with TripIt, so a member could be reminded of friends or acquaintances in a given location, when you're planning a trip there. Contacts can generate a form letter, ready to e-mail in order to let those local residents know when you'll be in their area.
The new functionality is based on technology LinkedIn acquired when it bought a start-up called Connected in 2011.
Andrew Frank, research director at industry research firm Gartner, said LinkedIn "has shown that professional social networking is a viable category," but now that it's beginning to face competition from Facebook and others like Glassdoor, it has to step up its game. He noted that Contacts could help move the site further along a key direction it has taken, that of a kind of professional marketing channel where some members undertake in-site promotional and sales efforts.