Ever since I started using email, oh so many years ago, one of my top stumbling blocks has always been contact management. With the advent of social media, that problem has been thrown into overdrive. I have contact information for virtually everyone I have contact Where to begin?with – and it’s all over the place. Not only is it hard to manage but it’s a huge time waste when it comes to keeping it all reeled into one place.

If you are like me, you prefer to use web-based email. I really just enjoy the flexibility of being able to check my email from any computer and having the same experience each time. I used to be an Outlook guy for ages but with everything Gmail has done over the past few years, I have converted and am not going back. Gmail isn’t perfect though so that leaves room for other companies to make improvements to the experience that is Gmail.

One tool that I found and really like for its simplicity and convenience is Rapportive. Essentially, Rapportive is a plugin that will go out and search any email address that hits your box and pull back any social networks that the email address in question may be registered with. This is a very useful tool when it comes to doing a bit of research on someone I don’t know well, Email conversation with Mike Muelleror at all. Just as importantly, if I know them, or want to know them, I can easily sift through any of their social networks and easily send connection requests to them. This is very handy for recruiters/hiring managers or anyone looking to establish a business relationship with others.

A similar tool I have encountered is Etacts. It operates similarly in many ways but also incorporates a quasi-CRM component where it will let you set reminders to contact certain people and also let you know how long it’s been since you had contact with them. It’s nice for keeping your contacts fresh. If your business was dependent upon staying on people’s minds, this would be a good tool to use.

If you really want to get serious about your contact management, there is another service worth mentioning called Gist. Although you will get the biggest benefit from this product if you use their interface on the web, they have a Gmail plugin that will let you make good use of Gist’s contact aggregation and research capabilities. Gist will take all of your contacts, social networks, emails or just about whatever else you have from wherever they are and put them all in one place.

Gist is a much more advanced service and I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. However, if you have many networks and maintain a very large contact list, this may be the move for you.

Now, new toys are always great but you want them to serve a purpose. At the end of the day, you want to pick the tool that’s right for you – the one that will save you the most time and headache. These services are intended to make you more efficient in your contact management and research. Don’t be afraid to try them all out, but I would not use more than one plugin with Gmail at a time.

Take your time and find the right contact management tool that helps you view your contacts quickly and easily. This effort will pay off when you are able to obtain immediate information on anyone that emails you within a matter of seconds, which saves you time to do other important things, like your job.