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This week’s tip focuses on the power of LinkedIn. Some people use it as their system of managing customer and partner contacts. Some find new employment by schmoozing their network – some even use it as the launchpad for their next career.

Hands up who’s ever thought that a work colleague suddenly connecting with them, means that work colleague is a soon-to-be-ex one? Or been in the middle of a meeting and had a LinkedIn request from someone (external) who’s currently in the same room?

LinkedIn is undoubtedly a powerful business connection tool, and using clip_image004it in Outlook makes it even more so. First step, if you haven’t done so already, is to enable the Social Connector. In the past, this was a separate addin to Outlook, but in 2010 was included (though you had to install each social network provider as a separate addin). Now in Outlook 2013, Facebook, LinkedIn and internal SharePoint services are all built in.

There was a recent issue with LinkedIn that could mean even if you had previously configured it to work with Outlook 2013, it may have broken – to check all is well, look at the bottom of the preview of an email (in the “People Pane”) from an external user who is in your LinkedIn network, and see if there is an error message, or if you’re seeing LinkedIn status messages. To ensure you have everything configured correctly, go into the View -> People Pane menu in Outlook, then click on Account Settings to ensure you have the correct username, password and options set.

clip_image006Enter your own LinkedIn username & password, and if you also check the “by default, show photos…” option, then you’ll see the LinkedIn photo of any contact – external, or in fact internal too – within any emails etc that sit in Outlook.

An interesting point – if you look at any standard LinkedIn list of people, or of the individual profile of any one person, their photos are typically shown on the left side of any text. Since we mostly read text (in western cultures) from top left, and all the way down to the bottom right, this lends itself to preferring photos which are facing left-right, especially if placed on the left of the page; so it looks as if the individual is looking on approvingly of their own profile, rather than dismissively starting away from it. Thanks to Eileen Brown for pointing this out.

Try it as an experiment on Linkedin.com: look at all your own contacts, then open up a few who are facing left-> right and others facing right-> left, and see if you agree. Time to change your picture?

clip_image008clip_image010Anyway. LinkedIn contacts, once the Social Connector is configured, show up in a separate contacts group within Outlook’s People view – you can “Peek” by hovering the mouse over the People icon on the shortcut bar, and search details of contacts there, both those in your existing Outlook contacts list and those from LinkedIn. If you click on the People icon, you’ll see lists of Contacts that can be searched in or filtered as appropriate – so if your contacts in LinkedIn have allowed it, you can see email addresses and phone numbers within Outlook.

If you open up a LinkedIn contact and make a change – let’s say, added a mobile number that you’ve gleaned from their email – then Outlook will make that a copy of that contact in your own Contacts folder, and make the change there. Synchronisation of content from LinkedIn appears to be one-way – and if you get into creating custom fields and categories on LinkedIn itself, they might not synchronise at all. Best try a few experiments out before relying on information being available everywhere.

clip_image011There are other ways of using, and benefitting from, LinkedIn integration – and we’ll explore some of these in a future Tip o’ the Week: how LinkedIn plugged in via your Microsoft Account can mean you can share info across Facebook, Twitter and other services, for example.

Careful though – It sometimes makes sense not to cross the streams of “work” and “life”. Like Monty Python said, “…don’t take out in public, or they’ll stick you in the dock, and you won’t come back.”