Over the past few years, social media has altered the way we use the Internet and communicate online and it has brought many neat tools.
One downside, however, is many people have information spread across a variety of places: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and many others.
With more information available than ever on potential contacts and sales leads, how do you keep it all together?
At first, Network Hippo seems to operate like other CRMs. It has a contact import (Gmail, Hotmail, CSV and vCard among others) to place people in your network and you're then able to rate the importance and strength of your connection to that contact. Notes and the Web 2.0 staple, tags, can be also be added.
Where Network Hippo shows its power is the "On the web" tab in the contact page.
Clicking that tab will show the user additional information available on that contact from around the web, including photos on Flickr, their LinkedIn profile, online news clippings and the contact's Twitter feed.
That said, the web-search feature can require some user input if the person you getting new information on happens to have a fairly common name, in which case you'll have to specify which results are relevant and which are not (as was the case when importing Techvibes president Rob Lewis.)
The search results can be integrated into the CRM in different ways. For example, you can set a photo from a contact's Flickr gallery as their profile photo.
There are other ways to "Feed the hippo" as well.
Network Hippo can import e-mails from an IMAP account to look for communication patterns, as well as keeping notes on phone calls and meetings and setting reminders of tasks that need to be completed with your network.
The service generates reports based on the information it is fed and provides information such as who has been contacted most often and can note how long it has been since any kind of communication or activity has taken place in the network.
In keeping with the social media theme, the service also makes it easy for colleagues to pool their contacts.
Finally, there's one more feature that differentiates Network Hippo from other CRM apps: personal accounts.
Mercury Grove is encouraging users to set up a personal account which can be easily linked to a corporate account and take their connections with them, even if they move to another company.
The service is up and running, offering free (ad supported) personal accounts and company accounts for $29/month per user. Non-profits can get that price discounted to $19/month.