Make GMail Social with Rapportive

A few weeks ago I visited an old friend who has spent his entire career in outside sales.  He asked me what my company did so I explained that we provide clients with technology solutions to business challenges; however, as soon as I mentioned Social Media he crossed his arms and got a sour look on his face.  I asked him what was wrong, and he said “Social Media is just a way for people to tell their friends what they had for lunch.  Who cares???”

Unfortunately my friend’s opinion of Social Media is not uncommon, although it is misguided.  Social Media is one of the newest ways for people to communicate although some have refused to try it and thus don’t understand it.  While Social Media is revolutionizing how humans are able to connect with each another, it’s still in its basic form, just another set of tools for people to use to communicate just like email or telephones.  And while there are those who use it to broadcast their daily culinary choices, there are millions of people who use social networking for business – just ask the 59 million Americans who use LinkedIn or the 4 million businesses with Facebook fan pages.  But what if you’re busy?  What if you don’t have time to keep up with Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and every other social network out there?  Luckily, Rapportive is here to help.

Rapportive, pictured below, is a plugin for your web browser that consolidates social information about your contacts right into GMail.  Not only does it list your contacts’ name, title, and company right next to GMail’s “Compose” or “Reading” panes, but it also shows you their profile picture, latest status updates from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.

Rapportive Screenshot

As you can see above, Rapportive shows me all the networks I currently have connected to the plugin.  If I’m viewing one of my contacts, it shows their information instead of mine as well as updates for the social networks that contact participates in.  I now have an easy way of keeping up with my colleagues’ and clients’ social updates without having to dedicate time to checking Facebook and Twitter for them.  If I’m emailing someone Rapportive will even identify when I’m not yet connected to that contact on a given social network and show me a button I can use to connect with them in one single click!

Rapportive was purchased by LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) earlier this year but so far it is a free product and supports Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Mailplate (but not Internet Explorer or Opera).  To get started, all you have to do is go to the Rapportive install page and add the plugin to your favorite web browser, then link Rapportive to each of your social networks.  All in all installation and setup take only five minutes, depending on how many social networks you plan on connecting.

If you end up installing Rapportive come back here and let us know what you think about it.  Are there other tools you use to keep up with your business contacts?  Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

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