1. Can you find WHAT and WHO you need easily?
2. Are you seeing updates, posts, and tweets from the people and companies you most want to hear from?
3. Do you know who you know? In other words, do you KNOW the folks you are connected to online or who appear in your contact database?
If you answered “no” to any of the questions above, then it’s time for a little spring cleaning!
It’s important to regularly sort, organize, add and remove contacts so that you can manage them and make use of them instead of being overwhelmed by them all.
So, how can you do this?
Use Lists, Tags (keywords) and Custom Contact Fields to categorize your contacts.
Whenever you make a new connection, take a few seconds to add them to the appropriate list or group or add a “tag” to their profile. Also, go through existing contacts and connections and take the appropriate action of adding them to a list, group, or tag or deleting them altogether. This will enable you to search for and find contacts and groups of contacts easily – instead of wandering through the hundreds or thousands of people you are connected to.
Whether you use Facebook for personal or professional reasons, or both, you can organize your friends using lists. There are a lot of options and settings that you can use to make your lists very specific, but a good place to start is to create lists for some of the following categories of people you may be connecting with:
- Close, Personal Friends
- Members of a Particular Organization You Belong to (Professional Associations, Chambers, Networking Groups, Non-Profits, Service Organizations, etc.)
- Clients – event Past Clients, Current Clients
- Experts – divide into areas of expertise such as Twitter Experts, Marketing Experts, Fitness Gurus, etc.
- Fellow Attendees of a Particular Conference you Attended/Are Attending
- Members of Online Membership Sites or Groups You Belong To
- Friends/Acquaintances from High School
- Friends/Acquaintances from College
You can always create new lists, change the names of lists, move people in and out of lists and delete lists completely. The key is to create just enough to help you organize your contacts, but not so many that you have trouble keeping track of them all. Click here for a helpful guide to lists on Facebook that shows you how to create lists, add people to them and make changes. It also includes some info about subscribers and the differences between “friends” and “acquaintances.”
Unfortunately, LinkedIn doesn’t make it as easy to sort and categorize your contacts. However, you can make use of the Tag feature (not like tagging folks on Facebook, but more like using a “keyword” or “tag” for a blog post). Essentially, you can create “lists” of connections by creating various “tags” to be used for each person you connect with.
There are already some default tags in LinkedIn — classmates, friends, partners, colleagues and group members. These tags get automatically assigned if you add a contact to your network without their e-mail address, based on how you indicate you know the person.
You can also create new Tags – such as the ones listed above for the Facebook Lists – to help you organize, manage and send messages to a specific group of your connections.
Click here for a good video tutorial about How to Use LinkedIn Tags.
If you have more than just a handful of Twitter followers and people you follow, then you are well aware of how overwhelming the Twitter stream can get. There’s a constant flow of new information and conversation happening in real-time and that often makes it challenging to keep up with people and brands that you really want to follow.
Twitter Lists to the rescue!
Just like lists on Facebook and Tags on LinkedIn, you can group the people and companies you follow into categories or groups that enable you to view just a cross section of people at a time. It’s super easy to create and edit lists on Twitter.
Click here for a guide to Using Twitter Lists.
Many people use Outlook to manage their contacts, but have no idea of all the extra capabilities it has to help you organize and search the people you know. When you click on a contact, you can choose to view the default contact info fields or you can select “Show All Fields” at the top – there are over 150 different pieces of information available and you can also create custom fields to meet your specific needs. Just like creating lists or tags, you can use these custom fields to indicate if your contact is a family member, friend, contact from a conference you attended, member of a professional group you belong to, etc.
Custom fields is a fantastic feature because it then enables you to contact select sub-groups of your contacts without having to search through them all or create overly general email lists. You can even create a mail merge campaign (where you send an email or postal mail message) using those custom fields.
The key to cleaning up your contacts – and keeping them that way – is to use the functionality found in each forum, system or software in a way that works for you. Default settings may or may not work for you, so learn enough to help you customize them in a way that makes it easy for you to manage your connections and make contact with specific groups of people as needed.
Another key element of keeping your contacts “clutter free” is to add new contacts to lists (tags, groups, etc.) as you connect with them. It only takes a few seconds to do, but saves you a ton of time when you want to find a particular person or group. Even if you have hundreds or thousands of contacts, it is well worth the investment of time to do and makes your connections much more user-friendly for you.
Do YOU have any super-ninja tips for keeping your contacts organized? Share them in the comments below!