LinkedIn Bundles a Personal Assistant Into New Contacts App

LinkedIn unveiled a new contacts application for Web and mobile users this week with the goal of helping members manage the relationships they build on the professional social network.

LinkedIn's New Contact App

LinkedIn’s New Contact App

The company is billing LinkedIn Contacts as a digital personal assistant. It will pull information from user address books, calendars, emails and previous LinkedIn activity to create a single virtual Rolodex.

To simplify the information, users can access it through filters such as recently added contacts, or those that have been out of touch for a while. LinkedIn determines all that by accessing data from user e-mails, phone conversations and calendar events.

LinkedIn will also gather history from those sources, such as specifics from past conversations, to enhance contact profiles. An updated profile in the Contacts app, for instance, could remind a user of a previous e-mail exchange or the time they met at a networking event. A user can add personal notes about that contact, such as a reminder about where they met or to call them next month about a business opportunity.

The app alerts users about birthdays or job changes. It also allows users to set a reminder for other significant events in their colleagues’ lives.

In a business world where keeping in light contact is a priority, this could be one of the most useful features, said Thomas Bibby Varghese, CEO and founder of eBizUniverse.

“The coolest feature, however, is the ‘To Do’ feature ,where it highlights people to whom it makes the most sense to reach out because there has been a change in job title, new job, birthday or similar life changing event,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “This is a great feature for anyone looking to establish a connection or to reignite an old business relationship.”

The company said LinkedIn users in the U.S. that have applied for the waiting list will start receiving invitations to try the service over the coming weeks. It will be available on the website or as a standalone app for iPhones.

LinkedIn did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

More Info, More LinkedIn Logins

The Contacts app is a smart way for LinkedIn to get users to spend more time on the site, Varghese said. Instead of being a site where some users make a one-time connection, or login only when they have a professional need, the Contacts app would incentivize users to check in more often.

“Right now LinkedIn is commonly used when you’ve met someone at an event, and then you come back to your desk and connect with them,” he noted. “The other frequent use where LinkedIn ranks high is when one is looking for a job. While those are good, LinkedIn wants to expand their reach. With the launch of this app, LinkedIn is taking the right step in expanding on the theory that it’s all about relationships, and this app is essentially a relationship-building tool.”

LinkedIn in Makeover Mode

The updated Contacts app is not the only new recent feature for the social network. The site unveiled a revamped search function last month that made it easier for users to find and engage with other LinkedIn professionals.

In some ways, the move made it seem more like its peers in the social media world — Facebook and Twitter — where it is easier to find, mention and reach out to lesser-known contacts.

For a site that has carved out a niche as a useful professional networking hub, LinkedIn needs to be careful that it doesn’t start to resemble its social media counterparts too closely, said Greg Sterling, founder of Sterling Market Intelligence.

“LinkedIn is definitely trying to make itself more useful as a more regular utility,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “It has done a wide range of things to boost frequency. However, LinkedIn should be careful not to dilute its B2B culture and proposition. It can never be Facebook, nor should it try.”

The site’s Contacts app is an update that its users will want to see, though, said Varghese. While it will collect information from address books and emails, it won’t gather anything from Facebook or Twitter, keeping LinkedIn’s user base only more eager to engage via the site.

“The changes in LinkedIn are definitely in the right direction, as users are engaging more and more on LinkedIn,” he pointed out. “LinkedIn’s pageviews have increased 67 percent in the last quarter, which shows they are making the right moves.”

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