If social networking is important for your business, you might consider using web-based application Nimble to manage your presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. (Nimble says that they'll be adding Google+ within 60 days). Unlike TweetDeck or HootSuite, Nimble assumes that the most important part of social networking isn't the ubiquitous stream of postings, but how the ongoing communications relate to your business relationships and building your professional network.
Setting up Nimble involves bringing together your contacts database with your social networks. Importing your contacts from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Contacts, Outlook or other (CSV) contacts applications is intuitive and hassle-free. Nimble even merges duplicate contacts from the different sources into a single record. Once that is done, whenever you open a Contact's page, if you are connected to him/her on only some of the networks (such as Twitter and Facebook, but not LinkedIn), Nimble will search the other network(s) for their ID and suggest possible matches. However, at present, you need to set up the import periodically, to include new contacts you've made. Nimble says that eventually it will automatically check for new contacts on your social networks.
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Nimble's easy-to-navigate tabbed interface has four major sections: Contacts, Messages, Activities and Social. As you would expect, the Contacts tab lists the people you're connected to, sorted by name, company, recently viewed, or recently added. Each individual Contact page shows traditional information (photo, company, email, title, address, etc.), as well as on what social networks you're connected with him or her.
Below this contact information is a tabbed window. The first tab lists all the conversations you've had with him/her, or in which you are mentioned, filtered by method (All, email, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn). The other tabs list tasks, events and activities related to that contact. A sidebar box displays their Social Stream from all their networks. Without leaving the Nimble interface, you can respond to or "like" their postings, as well as create a task based on a posting. In addition, you can send a message to the individual directly through any of the social media or emails listed, plan tasks or events, or log an activity.
The Message tab is an inbox for all email, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn messages you've received or sent. You can view your entire inbox together, or separated by network.
The Activities tab functions as a calendar and task list, with two views: list or calendar. While Nimble doesn't sync with Microsoft Outlook (other than to import and not export Contacts), it does work seamlessly with Google Calendar (which, in turn, can be set up to sync--via a Google app--with Outlook). In our tests, any changes we made to the Nimble calendar showed up immediately in Google; however, changes made to the Google calendar took several minutes to refresh in Nimble.
The Social tab displays all the communications in your social streams, separated into sub-tabs that displays all activity, what's happening in each network, or focus on postings from an individual contact.
On both the Message and Social tabs, clicking on a person's name, handle or photo will display a widget with information about that contact, pulled from that social network. In addition, you can view messages and activities from Nimble, related to that contact. Depending on which social network was the source of the message, Nimble has various other options. For instance, if it is a Twitter message, you can click to Follow or Mention the person, Retweet the message, or import the contact into Nimble. If you choose to import the contact, Nimble will offer to merge it with any it finds in your database that appears to be a duplicate to it. In both the Message and Social tabs, you can also create and send status updates to any of your social networks. Unfortunately, scheduling of the updates is not yet implemented.
A current fifth tab is Deals, for tracking the status of your business interactions, sales and other dealings. However, in two months, Nimble plans to introduce a paid version, at which time the Deals tab will be removed from the free version, and will become part of the (paid) premium service. Nimble says that other premium application components will include integration with third-party widgets available from a soon-to-be-introduced Nimble App Store (such as for forms from Wufoo or email marketing via MailChimp), and greater customization of the interface.
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During our testing, we found Nimble exhibited issues related to known issues connecting with the Twitter API; the vendor claims that they are being solved. Growing pains notwithstanding, Nimble brings a whole new dimension to contact management, allowing a business user to develop a clearer overall picture of a client's or prospect's personality and needs, and to more effectively use social media to improve and grow business relations.