Dirty data: spring-cleaning for your contact list

Messy address bookI recently posted about spring-cleaning your computer. Now, how about spring-cleaning your electronic address book? In our fast-paced world, with people changing jobs and moving around, contact lists quickly go out-of-date.

Several tools are available online to help. They use the Internet and email to keep in touch and request address updates. If you’ve ever received an email from Plaxo.com or Accucard (Cardscan.net), you’ve seen exactly how this works. Set up an account, load your contacts, and on a regular schedule, the service emails everyone on the list to get updated contact information.

Two additional benefits: the service itself acts as an online backup of all your contacts, and you can view your contact list from any computer with an Internet connection.

The only major flaw? It relies on valid email addresses. There’s no way to get updated information if the email itself has changed. One last thing: unless you update settings, it will send out notices to EVERYONE on your list–including ex-boyfriends and old bosses!

Expand your network (your social network, that is)

Social networksSocial networking has taken off–are you in the loop? LinkedIn is hands-down the biggest site for business networking, but many other sites can help you connect. No matter what your interest, there’s a perfect place to share it online.

In this post, we’ll look at the variety of social networking sites available. In a subsequent post, we’ll explore ways these can be used to help you and your business.

  • MySpace was not the first social networking site, but it was one of the first to hit the mainstream and really take off. It remains popular today, with millions of members.
  • Facebook was limited to high school and college students until September 2006. Since then it has usurped MySpace and become *the* place to be online. New applications sprout up each day, making it a broad platform for connections.
  • Plaxo is taking the Facebook approach to the business world in competition to LinkedIn. They’ve long been known for their online address book that requests automatic updates by email, but it remains to be seen how popular its social networking side will be.
  • Flickr is social networking via photos. Post your favorites or post them all, then tag them, label them, categorize them, and share them.
  • YouTube takes Flickr to the next level with video instead of photography. Record anything you want, post it and tag it, then wait for the comments to come in.
  • Twitter allows you to share exactly what you are doing at any point in time. Consider it a real-time community status board.
  • Digg, Del.ico.us, and StumbleUpon are not traditional social networking sites, but they use each the power of community to accomplish the same thing: link you to recommendations made by others with similar interests. By bringing like interests together, everyone gets more of what they love most.

These sites mingle the real world with the virtual world almost seamlessly. While it’s easy to sign up on any of these sites, you’ll have to return regularly to make strong connections. Real-world friends and colleagues require your time and attention; your virtual connections do as well.