Rapportive is a free browser add-on developed for Firefox, Chrome and Safari that allows you to view your contacts’ social media profiles and activity right inside Gmail. The add-on works with both Gmail and Google Apps. Give it a try! It’s quick and easy to set up and it truly enhances your traditional mail client.

There are a handful of popular social CRM (customer relationship management) tools available that integrate with your mail client.

Last month, RIM (Research in Motion) announced the acquisition of Gist, one of the more widely used applications that enhance email contacts by displaying profiles that includes blogs, social networks and more. The future of Gist and how BlackBerry users will utilize the product remains to be seen.

The well-established Microsoft Outlook add-on Xobni will finally be releasing the tool for Gmail and are now accepting registration for a private beta preview.

However, since making the transition to Google Apps at Residential Properties Ltd, I have been enjoying Rapportive.

What is Rapportive?

Rapportive was launched in January 2010 by three developers: Rahul Vohra, Martin Kleppman and Sam Stokes. The successful venture capital firm Y Combinator, whose portfolio also includes Dropbox, reddit and Posterous, funds the company. Interestingly enough, it is also funded by Paul Buchheit, the creator of Gmail.

Unlike other similar services, Rapportive streamlines your contacts’ social profiles directly in Gmail without having to leave the mail client and access a separate CRM application. Having one less site or service to log into is always refreshing.

After a quick installation of the extension, connecting social networks is super easy, and all of the major networks including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are supported.

After your networks are added, just open an email and your contacts profile is displayed in the side bar with a wealth of information including a profile picture, Twitter user name with recent tweets, the latest Facebook activity and links to other social networks.

I also found the add-on to be an extremely useful discovery tool as well. You can follow a contact on Twitter or send a Facebook request right from the mail client. Editing your own profile can be accomplished right in Gmail as well. Also, one of my favorite features of Rapportive is the ability to assign a "note" to your contact, which is private and can be viewed only by you.

How does Rapportive obtain its data?

Rapportive states on their site that they "combine information from several sources; at the moment, these are Academia.edu, Bitbucket, CrunchBase, Econsultancy, Facebook, Flickr, GitHub, Google Profiles, Gravatar, LinkedIn, Plancast, Posterous, Rapleaf, Stack Overflow, Tungle.me and Twitter, as well as thousands of organisations’ public websites." You can learn more about this and their privacy policies here.

Raplets

Another feature that differentiates Rapportive from other services is the ability for vendors to build extensions, which are called Raplets. There are few good extensions that can easily be added, including BatchBook, MailChimp and Klout. Raplets can easily be added or removed right from inside Gmail.

Rapportive is a handy little tool that brings social media right to your inbox. The add-on is lightweight and fast loading — I would love to see a mobile app. Those who spend a fair amount of time in Gmail will appreciate having everything integrated in the mail client without having to access a third-party CRM application.

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