LinkedIn Contacts Review – 10 great features and huge potential

LinkedIn Contacts Review by Wurlwind

The New LinkedIn Contacts creates opportunities for Casual and more Serious LinkedIn users.

LinkedIn announced new Contacts functionality, essentially the Relationship Tab, in April 2013. I reviewed it at the time, and here’s an update – 2 years on.

My initial impression was very positive – the design and most of the navigation and function is an improvement over what was there.

Although little has changed since this is still a very useful part of LinkedIn, especially for individuals who want to manage their network of contacts without using another CRM system.

  • The design and function felt like a step-change that will help all LinkedIn users to be more conversational with their contacts and build relationships through LinkedIn, alongside other methods. It now feels a bit clunky, but quite useable – especially with the Dashboard – the top section of the Home screen.
  • It will help casual LinkedIn users to manage contacts and communications within LinkedIn, and through an email systems if one is connect to LinkedIn.
  • It will help heavier LinkedIn users to manage larger networks of contacts better, in some ways – particularly the triggers in the dashboard. .

However, having pushed the usage there are some niggles and gotchas, and I’ve highlighted those too.

One big point to make, don’t think that LinkedIn is a full Social CRM system. When compared to the latest Social CRM systems such as Nimble CRM the LinkedIn Contact Management capability is very limited.  To find out more see my comments at the end of this LinkedIn Contacts Review.

The new ‘Contact Profile’ display

Two big highlights here:

  • As well as the Contact Info Tab there is now also a Relationship Tab for additional information, notes etc.
  • The drop-down next to Send a Message makes it much easier to be conversational.

New LinkedIn Profile layout

The new ‘LinkedIn Contacts’ display

Two big highlights here:

  • Originally the top section featured the ‘Your Day’ display, prompting you to contact specific people. This has since been improved to what I refer to as the LinkedIn Dashboard.
  • Within Connections you can Sort contacts in various ways, such as ‘Recent Conversations’ and ‘New’. However the selection by ‘Lost Touch’ is no longer available.

New LinkedIn Connections Display

10 great things about ‘LinkedIn Contacts’

Here are ten positive aspects I see in the new design and functionality:

  1. Design and Navigation improvements – the layout is cleaner and clearer and the functionality feels easier to use. The new Contacts area feels quite intuitive and it’s quick to pick up the basics.
  2. Tasks, activities and triggers – are now accessed at the top of the Home page rather than at the top area of Contacts. This highlights people who have change job titles, which creates an opportunity to contact them, or at least something to mentally file away for the future. Also included are the tasks and activities that you’ve set in LinkedIn.
  3. Communications consolidation – LinkedIn can now consolidate contacts from multiple sources – importing contacts from various email and CSV formats into LinkedIn can be a real advantage, when there is overlapping and duplicate contact details in various Social Media Systems, Ad-hoc Email, Email Marketing, Mobile Phones and so on.
  4. Edit Contact Info – you can add contact info so even if the person hasn’t added their phone number you can do this in your view of their profile.
  5. Relationship Information – this has great potential as a way to add simple comments to remind yourself where you first met them, and who introduced you.
  6. Communications history – also in Relationship Information you can see communications history of emails you sent and received via LinkedIn email or other email systems you’ve integrated with LinkedIn.
  7. Set a reminder – you can set a reminder about a task or follow-up for that person in the Relationship area. It’s not very precise about time or day, but it’s great for top-level contact prompts.
  8. Send a Message – the proximity of the Contact & Reminder information and the ‘Send a Message’ button is fantastic – enabling very seamless action following a trigger or a browse of contact or relationship information, and their status updates below that.
  9. Conversation and Relationship options – ‘Send a Message’ is not the only option either – expand the drop-down and other conversation options appear, with options to ‘Suggest an Update’, Recommend, Endorse, Find References (Premium Service), Share the profile and Export to PDF (useful when going to a meeting with them).
  10. Network quality actions – also in the list are ‘Block or Report’ and Remove Connection. These are mechanism to improve the quality of contacts within LinkedIn and also to tidy up our networks (and remove people who no longer provide value to our network, Like UnFollow on Twitter or Unsubscribe on Email).

Considerations as part of this updated LinkedIn Contacts Review

The following have come through as areas where I have some questions and concerns, where function falls short of ideal.

  1. The ability to send an email to TAG groups of up to 50 contacts is possible. I have found the ability to send small email broadcasts within LinkedIn very useful. However it is not possible to personalise these email, track deliverability, open or click behaviour. More significantly, the default is still to “Allow recipients to see each other’s names and email addresses”. It’s pretty poor that this default hasn’t been switched, and I occasionally receive an email with every recipient visible to me.
  2. The ability to export LinkedIn contacts was removed by Linkedin in June 2015). However after strong protest it was re-instated in July 2015. However there may be another attempt to make it difficult for us to export our contacts. I recommend you export your contacts to CSV file once a month at least
  3. The ability to Filter Contacts by Sector was taken away in 2013 and hasn’t been re-instated.
  4. Search within Notes and Comments isn’t possible. Enter details about a meeting or where you met someone is fine when you’re looking at their record, but inaccessible by other routes, and risks getting lost. A good CRM system (such as Nimble) will return matches of words in the Notes and Comments.

Tips for initial set-up of LinkedIn Contacts

Integrating with Gmail and Google calendar is straight forward. I haven’t tested the other integrations or imported a CSV file yet so can’t comment on those. However…

  1. It is possible to Hide contacts, for example for position ids and email addresses that are brought in from your email system. Take a look at these Hidden records once you’ve imported your email contacts, and Unhide those of ‘real people’.
  2. There’s a Merge feature for when there are multiple records for a contact – which is pretty inevitable when bringing in records from multiple sources. Having imported and Unhidden contact records go through and merge the duplicates.

LinkedIn Contacts Review Conclusions

LinkedIn Contacts looks great for individuals who are Casual users of LinkedIn

My assessment is that the LinkedIn Contacts functionality is especially useful for individuals in their personal capacity. Where people work on their own or in an environment where there is a fairly casual approach to relationship management and little if any company infrastructure for Customer Relationship Management then LinkedIn contacts can provide a useful additional capability, especially the Contact Info and Relationship Tabs. Students, Freelancers, Contractors, Consultants and employed professionals with limited customer contact and many others may find this functionality a very good addition to LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Contacts looks good for people who are moderate and heavy users of LinkedIn

Where there is a higher level of customer contact and where LinkedIn is being used more as a professional support tool then my assessment is there are different benefits to be gained.   The new Contacts functionality will be valuable to make it easier to initiate contact, engage and build relationships, by using the Dashboard on the Home page on a Daily basis. Read my article about the Six Triggers of the LinkedIn Dashboard here.

However, LinkedIn Contacts is only a lite Contact Management System, and not a mid-tier or heavy-weight CRM system.

LinkedIn Contacts does not show activity on peoples other Social Media Networks.

It’s not possible to bring in Tweets or updates from Facebook or Google+ currently, so it’s LinkedIn plus email.

LinkedIn Contacts does not support team working

LinkedIn contacts is a good improvement for individuals. However where sales people work as a team, for example with bid managers and pre-sales an appropriate CRM system should be considered. Likewise where conversations may also take place over Twitter and other channels.

An integrated suite of tools to develop and manage sales relationships across traditional and social networks and environments is becoming a requirement these days. This is where a Social CRM such as Nimble CRM has a real strength, as it can synchronise with LinkedIn.

What happens in LinkedIn stays in LinkedIn

There was an API available that meant that other CRM systems could include data from LinkedIn, such as contact profile information and LinkedIn messages/emails into the contact profiles they maintained for us. However LinkedIn withdrew this API in 2014. Copy and Paste is a clunky way to keep systems in sync.

LinkedIn could have helped us all to be better at Social Selling.

LinkedIn growth in user numbers, new functionality such as LinkedIn Contacts and greater user engagement is providing a great business opportunity.

However, LinkedIn has reserved the better functions for the premium services in Sales Navigator. Forward looking sales professionals and business owners who develop additional levels of skill should be able to create new sales opportunities, generate leads, increase sales, and win new customers. However a Social CRM system like Nimble will make this much easier than even this LinkedIn announcement.

Do comment below and let me know what you think.

Mark.

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