Microsoft has just released Outlook Social Connector, an add-in for Outlook that links your emails and contacts to your LinkedIn network. It’s available as a free download for Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010. It allows you to view existing LinkedIn connection profiles, their profile picture, recent updates, and allows you to add new connections without ever leaving your Outlook inbox.
While you are reading your regular e-mail messages in Outlook, you can see the “People Pane” below the message and view the picture, name, and title of the sender. You can also view your history of communication with that person by clicking on their name and see recent e-mail conversations, meetings, and shared documents. This feature has been a big time saver for me because I can immediately see all communications with an individual and no longer have to spend time searching for past emails.
Do you see this tool as being helpful for you and your business?
One of the best features of this add-in, in my opinion, is the addition of a new Outlook contacts folder with your LinkedIn contacts – even if you haven’t added them to your normal Outlook contact list. The display of contacts in the LinkedIn folder includes each contact’s photo (if they have one on LinkedIn) and other information accessed from LinkedIn. It’s a concise way of seeing some of your most valuable connections. If you’re new to LinkedIn, or only a light user, this is a great opportunity to get more involved with your connections. And for those more involved in the network, this just enhances the opportunity LinkedIn provides you.
In The Connectors, I wrote about a similar program called Xobni (Chapter 15 on strategies for organizing and tracking relationships). Xobni , which is Inbox spelled backwards, connects Outlook to social media networks including LinkedIn but extends to more of your social networking including Facebook and Twitter. It is also a free download, but if you are keeping it strictly to LinkedIn, the Microsoft add-in is an easy solution.
Once you activate this add-in, the People Pane can be turned on and off via Outlook’s View menu and you can also change the size of the pane. For more information on Outlook Social Connector you can go to http://blogs.msdn.com/outlook/archive/2009/11/18/announcing-the-outlook-social-connector.aspx.