You would be hard pressed to find an entrepreneur, business owner, or executive who would not agree that learning how to effectively manage customer relationships is a must if you want to be successful in business. This has been true long before the word “social” was on the tip of everyone’s tongue and is increasingly important due to the hyper-connected world we live in today. As a business owner myself I thrive on being able to build and maintain relationships with not only customers, but also people I may want to work with, refer or hire. Simply having a collection of connections in your address book doesn’t cut it. You need tools to help.

Here are three that can transform your list of contacts and social media connections into useful information allowing you to get to build better relationships with your customers.

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Rapportive
If you spend any of your time at work behind a computer then chances are that a good chunk of that time is spent dipping into your email application of choice. If your among the millions who chose Gmail there’s an add-on you’ll find useful. Rapportive is a Gmail-only tool that replaces the unappealing ads on the right hand side of your screen with tons of useful information about the people you email. Just open up any message from someone and you will see information about their job title, latest tweets, and direct links to their social profiles.

Rapportive even provides a place at the bottom of the panel if you want to add your own notes about the person to view later. I have been using it a while and it comes in quite handy when you are communicating with someone new and want to get up to speed on their background and interests. I also find it helpful in quickly identifying my contact’s social profiles so I can avoid having to hunt them down on Twitter or Linked In. Download  Rapportive and tell me what you think.

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FlowTown
Has your company been building a database of contacts for month or even years? Maybe your marketing department is ready to test the waters with social media, but doesn’t know where to start? Flowtown might be able to assist. Import any list of email addresses via csv, Gmail, or even one of the many popular email marketing services Flowtown supports and you’re ready to rock and roll.

This service will spend a little time scrubbing the web for you as it collects as much publicly available information it can find. Flowtown then displays a ton of great information like a rundown of all their public social profiles along with insights letting you know where your contacts are most active online. This is a great starting point when deciding where to reach out and connect with your customers. Flowtown also offers up the ability to create segmented lists of your contacts based on their social information and to send targeted email campaigns to each list. I recommend checking out their product tour page to see all that they have to offer.

Gist
If you’re interested in an uber console of social information about your contacts then you might want to check out Gist.com. You can feed your contacts into Gist from almost anywhere and it will create a comprehensive dashboard of all your connections and any public social information it can muster. It displays recent tweets, blog updates, Google searches, and even your latest correspondances if your willing to connect your email service to the app.

One of the many nifty features is the “companies” tab which lets you drill down into a specific company, see all the relevant information and related contacts all in one place. Beyond their web interface Gist has apps to access your information via iPhone, Android, Outlook, Salesforce, and more. Gist can seem somewhat overwhelming with all of the information it provides, but considering the service is currently free to use I recommend you take it for a test drive and see what you think.

I’ve tested these three tools to help manage customer relationships and be better informed about my prospects. I’m sure there are others. Jump in the comments and let us know what you think of these and what others might be out there for us all to try.

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About Adam Helweh

Adam Helweh

Adam is CEO of Secret Sushi Creative Inc, a strategic design, digital and social media marketing agency. He specializes in the convergence of design and technology to provide businesses with more intelligent and interactive ways to connect with customers and grow. His clients have included Edelman, Broadcom, Stanford Federal Credit Union, the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Bunchball and others. He's also the co-host of the "SoLoMo Show", a weekly digital marketing podcast, and he has shared the stage with professionals from companies including Facebook, Virgin Airlines, Paypal, Dell and 24 Hour Fitness.

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Pingback: 3 Social Business Tools to Manage Your Customer Relationships | Dr-Net

  • http://ethanbloch.com ethan

    Adam, appreciate the detailed mention! You've been a longtime supporter :-) Much love!!

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      No problem Ethan. I like supporting good products.

  • Nancy

    Very cool! I started playing with Rapportive today. It is a great little add on to my gmail account. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Seiji-Kato/631878571 Seiji Kato

    Wow. This is a very useful article and the 3 programs are truly a 'must-use' for any business person. You have to get use to sorting out all the information though initially, as it can be quite overwhelming. At least from what I can see, you have to figure out what information you want to read and update on and that which isnt of much use.

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      Seiji what service are you finding most useful in your day to day routine? Glad you liked the aricle.

  • http://twitter.com/jennewilson Jennifer Wilson

    I use Gist and really like that I can see news about all of my contacts and their companies. I'll have to check out the others. Thanks for the suggestions!

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      Great Jennifer. Interested to know how you use Gist in your daily or weekly routine? Let us know your thoughts on the other two tools when you get a chance to kick the tires a bit.

  • http://www.mac-live.com Shane Mac

    Hey Adam,
    Thanks for the love and let me know if you ever need anything with Gist!

    Keep rocking!

    -Shane Mac
    Gist

    • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

      Shane, I have been playing around with Gist since you launched it. You guys really pack a lot of stuff in there. Keep up the good work.

  • http://www.brosix.com/ Brosix

    I've heard a lot of good things about FlowTown.

  • rahulvohra

    Hey Adam, just wanted to stop by and say thanks for including Rapportive in the write-up. If you have any questions/feedback, we'd love to hear them!

    Here's two neat Rapportive tips you might not have across: 1. Try hovering over any email address, or any name on the subject line of any email — the sidebar will update to show you information about that person. 2. If you use MailChimp, checkout their awesome Raplet: http://blip.tv/file/3859911 :)

    Rahul, CEO of Rapportive

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  • hust0058

    I've played with Gist some, but if you are stuck in Outlook – I highly recommend using Xobni. Shows social networks and status updates, but it also indexes your email and helps you find all correspondence with a particular contact.

    Awesome post. Looking forward to trying Flowtown and Rapportive.

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  • http://hotmicrocapstocks.com/ shasad

    Make your budget and manage your finances. To make your business grow online, you also have to make sure that your finances for advertising and marketing are well managed. Although there are free ways to promote your business online, some of the quick and effective ways to promote online may also cost you. Although this may not be as big as the cost of conventional advertising, it may also need some good management as online advertising may mean costs per click or commissions per sale.

  • http://www.scrubly.com Scrubly

    These are some great tools to use