Best business networking apps for iPhone / Android

Thanks to third party iOS apps, it feels like you can use your iPhone for almost anything. I use mine mainly for communicating and business. Here's a rundown of the most helpful add-ons I've found for doing these things.

LinkedIn (Free)

What it does: Organises your professional network, streamlines the process of business networking online.

The iPhone app for LinkedIn works pretty much the same as the website, but with a more compact and streamlined interface. The app does everything that the website does, keeping you up to date with your contacts' careers and professional activities, letting you send messages and make and receive introductions to new contacts.

You can also use LinkedIn groups to network with people in your industry that you aren't directly connected with. The LinkedIn app also allows you to see who has viewed your profile, which the website does not offer, as far as I know. This app is indispensable.

Buffer (Free)

What it does: Schedules your social media postings, saving you time and ensuring that your messages arrive when your contacts are likely to see them.

A big part of social media is about sharing things that are useful or interesting to the kinds of people you want to interact with online. Buffer helps you with this, letting you schedule all your posts, and taking care of the delivery timing for you. This means you can do your social media sharing in one speedy batch. Buffer also allows you to share across most major social networks, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Using Buffer is simpler than having to manually schedule your posts in advance through a twitter client, and stops you bombarding your followers with a bunch of posts at once. The app is invaluable for those who share a lot online.

Hootsuite (Free)

What it does: Helps you to keep track of, and manage multiple social networks via one client.

Hootsuite is a convenient way to be very social! It supports the following social networks: Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Foursquare, Myspace, PingFM, Wordpress and Mixi. As well as simplifying everything, it also keeps everything within Hootsuite's familiar tabbed framework. This means that you don't have to know all the nuances of each network you are on to use them all at once.

With Hootsite, you can also schedule messages in advance, or customise the appearance of your client using themes. At the time of writing, the Pro version (which costs $10 a month) offered unlimited social profiles and integration with Google analytics and Facebook insights. Hootsuite Pro is probably more suited to businesses with a large online presence and the money to spend, but the free iPhone app works just perfectly for your average user.

Smartr Contacts (Free)

What it does: Unifies all your contacts from various sources and automatically builds rich profiles for them.

Smartr is a handy CRM (contact relationship management) tool that integrates into yours and your contacts' 'digital footprint'. It really proves itself a huge time saver when looking up a pre-existing contact. Smartr does all your background research for you, building a profile that collates their online presence, and an history of your email communication with them. Searching with Smartr also an effective way to look up new contacts before contacting or meeting them.

For me, Smartr seems to be doing a good job of organising the 9000+ people and organisations on my list, allowing me to find names I've forgotten by searching through fields like company or title. Very handy.

Gist (Free)

What it does: Similar to the above mentioned Smartr, Gist builds profiles and ranks your contacts by it's definition of their importance to you. Unfortunately Gist seems to have some teething troubles, for example ranking some people as 'most important' that I don't actually know, nor really interact with.

It sees Gist would work quite well if you set aside quite a lot of time to manually organise and tidy up your contact database, but I haven't yet done this. That said, as an alternative to Smartr, this app has a lot of potential.

Lazyshoutout (Cost £0.69)

What it does: Simplifies the process of sending shoutouts and 'friend follows' via Twitter.

Friend follows are a great way to network and Lazyshoutout makes that process of showing love to groups of people on Twitter easy. The app allows you to use existing twitter lists to tweet your shoutouts to at the click of a button. And if there are too many charecters for one shoutout, to split each shotout into multiple tweets. For the busy Twitterer, Lazyshoutout is a time saving application