I wasn’t in the audience at the time, but the very first time I saw the video of Steve Jobs presenting the iPhone to the world I was in...
Contact management tools are an unmitigated disaster. Some have suggested that social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn could fit the bill. Unfortunately, they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Social networks seem like a logical choice for managing one’s contacts. They generally hold most of your important contacts in one place, gives you a pretty thorough view of your contacts, and keep you posted on what your contacts are doing. On the surface, this fits pretty well into the three key functions of a solid contact management tool; maintains golden contact record, enables quick research, and keep you updated on relevant events.
The problem with using a social network for contact management is that their main purpose is to be social. It is not an address book, it is not a CRM tool, and it is definitely not meant to increase your productivity. Social networks want you to spend more time in their apps whether it for entertainment, news, or some other function other than looking up a contact.
A contact management tool on the other hand is about productivity. A smart tool should make you more productive and get you out of the tool as quickly as possible. The distractions should be kept to a minimum, and that is decidedly not a social tool. It is the Google mentality; you do a search, get the relevant results quickly, and click to your destination.
There are a whole lot of specific points however where social networks fail as contact management tools. These are only the more obvious problems faced by the major social networks, which for purposes of this discussion would be Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, and Twitter.
While any one of the social networks could make the requisite changes to address functional holes, the fact is that doing so in not in their DNA or even to their benefit. It is like Google’s lame attempts at social or Facebook trying to do location check-ins. These never work because they simply do not proceed in a way that is focused on what users actually need. These leaps into other domains are on their own terms and within their own framework of thinking, which leads to failure every single time.
Contact management is not a feature. That is exactly what it is to the social networks and most CRM tools oddly enough. Contact management is an entire domain that has the potential to spawn really interesting products and ecosystems and perhaps useful CRM tools. Already there are a few forward thinking startups that are getting it based on the responses to my previous essay. These solutions could not come soon enough.