GMail is the most useful email program I have come across. I use a single GMail account to manage about a dozen different email accounts for my business. Handling everything in one place makes for easier management and helps me keep my sanity! Aside from being able to manage multiple email accounts through one login, GMail also plays nicely with others, and allows companies to develop useful extensions users can add to their account for various purposes. I covered one of these before when I wrote about how SaneBox helps me manage my less important email.
Another tool I use on a regular basis is Rapportive, which is a free GMail plugin that works with GMail and Google Apps Mail (it’s available in FireFox, Chrome, Safari, and Mailplane). When you install Rapportive, it replaces the GMail ads on the right column with a visual profile of the person you are emailing. The image at right is the Rapportive profile for one of my email accounts (I must have about a dozen of them!).
Instantly know who you are communicating with. I love this tool because it allows me to quickly see who I am writing to, and lets me quickly decide if some people are worth responding to. This isn’t about being elitist, this about about eliminating spam. I get dozens of emails every day, many of which are poorly crafted solicitations for my business. I have found that to a high degree, people who work for legitimate companies use emails branded to their domain and have profiles that show up in Rapportive. They usually have other quality signals as well, including other social media profiles such as Twitter, FaceBook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. (Note: Rapportive is now owned by LinkedIn). Many low-quality companies and spammers use generic free GMail accounts and rarely have any additional quality signals or social media accounts.
All of the information Rapportive displays is publicly available, and is parsed together through various APIs and data sources. For example, the image you see comes from Gravatar, which is linked to my email account. If I leave a comment on a site with this email address, the image of my face will appear. To change the image people see, all I need to do is change my image hosted by Gravatar. If you don’t have a photo through Gravatar, you can sign up at here.
Rapportive also links social media profiles such as my Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook, and other accounts. You can even follow people by clicking a link in the Rapportive tool. It’s very useful!
Keep tabs on people. Another great feature is the ability to add private notes to help jog your memory. For example, let’s say you meet someone at a conference and send them an email the next day. You could then jot down a quick note about how you met them, what business they are in, etc. Only you will have access to the notes you keep and they can be a great way to quickly remember small, but possibly important, details.
The Rapportive tab also shows recent mail to and from the person, so you can quickly click on a recent email if you need to reference something in a previous email.
Are You Worried About How Others See Your Profile?
It makes sense to be concerned that others might “see too much” about you. The good news is that you can control what others see. When you are logged in to your account, click the little “my profile” link at the bottom of the profile section. You will see a popup that looks like this.
Take control of how other people see you on Rapportive. You have the opportunity to change almost everything people see about you, including your image, linked social media accounts, and more. Using this feature can help you protect your online image, as well as show people right away that you are a real person, not a spammer. You can highlight your personal website or social media profiles, your business site or social media profiles, and more. Use it well.
What About Privacy?
I understand how something like this can seem unnerving. Many people desire to remain private. This is difficult to do online, and as mentioned previously, Rapportive only displays information they can publicly obtain.You also have the opportunity to edit much of the content that displays for your profile.
Give Rapportive a Try
As a small business owner, it’s important that I highlight myself and my business in a professional manner. By controlling what others see, I can create a good impression and show people that I am a real person. As a user, Rapportive helps me see person at the other side of the email in a different light. This can be useful for connecting more easily, keeping notes, or simply determining if it is likely they are a spammer. This is a free app – give it a try on their installation page.