Business Networking: Spring Clean Your Connections

spring clean Friends.  Fans.  Contacts.  Followers.  Subscribers. Whatever you want to call them, we all have a lot of contacts these days – both online and in “the real world.”But all the names, news feeds and email addresses in the world will do you no good whatsoever if you can’t answer “yes” to the following questions:

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.

Facebook

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:

  • Family
  • Close, Personal Friends
  • Co-Workers
  • Members of a Particular Organization You Belong to (Professional Associations, Chambers, Networking Groups, Non-Profits, Service Organizations, etc.)
  • Clients – event Past Clients, Current Clients
  • Prospects
  • 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.”


LinkedIn

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.

 

Twitter

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.


Outlook (and other Contact Management Databases)

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.

Click here for an overview of the Microsoft Outlook custom contact fields.  

 

Final Tips

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!

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  1. Oh my gosh! Spring cleaning my contacts is exactly what I need to do. Thanks for these tips. I think I will start with Facebook and work my way through the list. I love your category list and I will be sure to use it.

    • Thanks, Sherri!

      I only had a few hundred Facebook connections when I first did this, but it took some time. Well worth the effort though, and it helped me to organize my contacts so they were more useful.

      Best of luck!

  2. Man, my connections are a little bit of a mess and I have to trawl through and search for people when I want to find them. Your tip about tagging people as I add them to my contacts is pretty helpful. May as well start somewhere 😀

    • I hear you, Rosemary!

      It can feel a bit overwhelming, I know. I often do it while watching tv — a little bit at a time. Makes it a less painful process. And, believe me, it’s well worth it!

  3. Eugene Mota says:

    Very practical and useful tips. I’ve been applying some, but not all of them. I think that showing discipline and capitalizing on all (or at least most) of them will trigger a significant productivity boost.

  4. We haven’t officially met yet Cathy but you knew what I was looking for today. I can tell I’ll be back to utilize these tips on each platform in the coming weeks as I do my spring cleaning!!!!

  5. Very useful information, Cathy, thank you. I personally find that groups are easier than lists in Facebook. When I look at lists I’ve made, I see every little thing someone on the list does (who they friended, what page they liked, etc.). Overkill.

    • Carol — Lists that are specific are a fantastic tool especially when combined with your settings around what notifications you receive. Curious about how you use groups for this purpose — do you simply add your connections to a private/secret group whenever you connect? Not sure I’d want to be added to a group without my permission.

  6. Such good ideas! Spring cleaning for connections! I appreciate all the tips because I do need to do this. Thank you, Cathy!

  7. Love the tips. Never thought of it in terms of spring cleaning. Also needed to see with FB.

    • Keisa — I try to review my contacts at least twice a year — update, clean out, etc. — to ensure that when I communicate with my connections, it’s as effective as it can be.

      Happy Spring Cleaning!

  8. I love these tips! My very dear tip is that I keep a separate list with clients and close connection with their preferences, certain things I need to follow up on, etc. I think it shows consideration and makes them feel special this way – they’re not “just someone” on a list.

    • Delia — Thanks for your comment. I never like to think of people as “my list” (as some email marketing gurus call your subscribers) either. They are PEOPLE first!

  9. Oh how I forget to put twitter contacts into lists. I do it with FB but forget with twitter. I do have to do some spring cleaning- organizing , so thanks for this post with all the great info I need to tackle this.

  10. Katarina says:

    Thanks Cathy, really did not know one can do lists on Facebook too. And I really need to start doing lists more efficiently on Twitter, so this post was very useful.:-)

  11. I’ve found that Twitter is the easiest platform to “Clean” on. I do it rather frequently, as you fin that you’re following people who don’t bring value to you or who are inactive in general. It’s good to get through the clutter and get to the good stuff!

  12. I have always been pretty good about keeping my contacts organized with categories, tags, groups, etc and it definitely helps. I’m probably not as consistent with using the organizational features on Facebook and Twitter as I should be but I do think the ones available through Google are amazing. I especially like Full Contact these days. It pulls all of the information available online for any one contact together so you don’t have to search on each individual platform. What a time saver!

  13. This is a great idea.

  14. Great tips Cathy. It is important to have a business and personal contact spring cleaning. I mean seriously, if we want to find the person 3 years later, surely we will be able, right?! LOL As far as spring cleaning, I do that with things too. I mean, sure, I may keep things, but after 6mo – a year and that season they don’t find their way out and be used, they are gone. Great tips

  15. The use the spring clean management with respect to the online networking or business networking really helps a lot in this digital age. With the use of different social networks, this is of prime importance. Going thru the different ways such as regularly sorting, organizing, adding and removing contacts can effectively manage them and make use of them to the fullest.

  16. I think I do have a ninja tip! Yay! In LInkedIn, in addition to tagging, you can create reminders for yourself to follow up…a great way to keep up on hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of connections. Unfortunately, the user-unfriendly LinkedIn does not send you an email to let you know when the reminder comes due; you have to check every day.