Over the last few years LinkedIn have acquired companies such as Connected and CardMunch as well as developing functionality on their platform to assist in bringing offline networking and online networking closer together.
I have always felt that the two should really compliment each other but its only recently that I have figured out how this can actually work in practice. By using a mobile app and a LinkedIn feature I have devised the following workflow which is really starting to pay dividends for me;
Once you have met someone make sure you swap business cards (nothing revolutionary in that I know....stay with me here!)
Take a snapshot of the business card using the CardMunch app on your iPhone and upload it, you could even give the business card back at this point!
CardMunch will do its magic and match the email address to a LinkedIn profile and send you back a digital record usually within 48 hours. From this record you can connect on LinkedIn but (as with all mobile apps) you can't personalise the message so I wouldn't recommend that. You can save the contact to your phone and send an email (see below) although you may wish to delete the horrible 90's phrase 'touch base' in favour of something less cheesy!
Now this is where it gets clever! Once the digital record has been received from CardMunch the new contacts profile (who at this point is probably not a connection) is automatically saved to LinkedIn Contacts on the desktop version of LinkedIn. Go to your LinkedIn account and click Network > Contacts and then change the 'sort by' field to 'new'
Note the Cardmunch symbol on the right of the contact entry.
Alternatively you can find the new contact by filtering by 'source' and 'CardMunch' as below.
Now hover over the person you added and you will see the option to connect (see 1st pic in step 4), click on this and you are able to send the invitation to connect without the need for email addresses or a silly 'reason' as with normal invites. In addition you can personalise the message.
Now 'tag' the contact to categorise them in a way that makes sense to you (you can create up to 200 of your own tags). I use tags such as 'associate', 'prospect', 'customer' etc. This can also be done in the 'relationship' tab in their profile but the easiest way is from this page in Contacts.
Now you can go to the profile and in the relationship tab type notes in the 'How you met' section. The 'who introduced you' field is where you can (in theory) type the name of the connection who introduced you, creating a link to their profile - unfortunately this feature rarely works in my experience (I reported this fault about 6 months ago and nothing has improved!).
As you can see you can also make other notes, set reminders and further tag in this section.
So there you have it, I have been using this workflow for about 3 months now and I am finding it a much more effective way of organising my new contacts met offline allowing me to be much more efficient in one of the most important aspects of networking - follow up.
None of this will cost you anything, LinkedIn Contacts does not require a premium account and CardMunch is a free app although it appears to only be available on iOS (iPhone).
What do you think? Is this something you could see working for you?