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Quickview: Latest App Tackles Your Hulking Contact List

New app aggregates all of your contacts' profile information from a variety of social media sites and lets you search them in practical ways.

Bill Winterberg, 07/26/2012

As a successful advisor, you know how important it is to maintain a sizable and up-to-date catalog of contacts associated with your business. But if you also use social media to connect with others, you likely have seen your list of professional and social contacts easily grow into the thousands.

It's impossible to remember each individual's specific characteristics or skill set, and attempting to organize thousands of contacts in your CRM or email program is a tedious process that requires continuous updates. Thankfully, new apps are being developed that aggregate all of your contacts' profile information from a variety of social media sites and let you search them in practical ways.

My first Quickview column of 2012 highlighted a tool called Contactually (see Add Automation to Your E-mail Follow-Up), though its strength is in recommending follow-up messages to people with whom you haven't spoken to in some time.

The latest app to help you better organize your contacts is called Brewster, currently available for iPhone (Android support is probable in the future, according to Brewster founder Steve Greenwood).

Brewster first imports contacts stored in your phone and email accounts and then attempts to aggregate their information with social media profiles on the Internet. You can sign in with various social profiles including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more to facilitate data aggregation.

Like many contact organizers, Brewster is useful for merging basic contact information together, but I find its search feature to be far more powerful than that of the typical address book. Brewster's advanced search lets you find contacts by location, company, and mutual connections. For example, the location search filters contacts by metropolitan region, rather than return exact matches for a specific city name. Using the latter technique, you'd be hard-pressed to find colleagues in the Atlanta metro area if their offices are located in the surrounding cities of Roswell or Alpharetta.

One of Brewster's signature features is the "smart list." Smart lists automatically sort contacts on your behalf according to their relationship with you. By default, Brewster sorts people by new connections, professional industry, geography, and former colleagues. Contrast that to Contactually, where you must play the "bucket game" and manually categorize contacts into one or more "buckets" of certain characteristics.

Brewster is still a developing product and is not perfect. I discovered several contacts that had incorrect photos from someone else's LinkedIn profile, though I suspect it's a consequence of people who share the same first name and include the CFP® designation in their LinkedIn profile name. Nevertheless, Brewster is a clever app that attempts to add automation and intelligence to the way you identify, update, and retrieve information about your contacts, and it is definitely worth a try if you're feeling inundated by your existing contact list.

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Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.
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