One of the biggest benefits of a social network is the ability to see who you’re talking to, links to webpages that have been shared, content that has been uploaded and activity. Email, on the other hand, can be a far less informative and contextual experience.
Enter: Rapportive. This plugin lets you see everything about the person who is emailing you all within a Gmail sidebar. I’ve been using this extension for quite some time now and I’ve shared a link to it in the past, but if you haven’t signed-up yet I highly recommend you do.
Here’s how it works:
You email me, and when I hover over your name I will get a sidebar that loads within Gmail that pulls all public information about you. It will show your photo if you’ve uploaded one to a social network, links to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, as well as recent activity from those networks. Right away, you go from being firstname.lastname@example.org to being a person with layers of valuable context for me to learn about you.
Here’s how it looks, using profile information from one of Rapportive’s co-founders:
If you connect with a lot of strangers throughout the day, this tool is invaluable. And when you connect with people you know, this tool helps you discover more links to more info about them.
Rapportive has become my secret weapon with email. When I get a cold contact from someone I’ve never connected with, or when I’m trying to connect with someone I don’t know much about yet, Rapportive adds a tremendous layer of context for me.
This is one Gmail extension I could not live without. You can download it here.
Update: Google has announced a “People widget” that does a lot of what I’ve discussed above.