How Plaxo Enables Technological Networking

Relying on only 50 employees, Plaxo helps 1 million users keep their e-mail addresses and contact information updated automatically. This is how they do it
Plaxo, a US-based online business, uses technology to link people to their colleagues and friends through their electronic address books. Relying on only 50 employees, the company helps 1million users keep their e-mail addresses and contact information updated automatically. Address books can be ac-cessed through AOL and synchronized with popular software such as Microsoft Outlook. As information changes, Plaxo populates the correct information into each affiliated member's address book.

Plaxo warehouses its data in an Oracle system and analyses usage statistics in de-tail, providing users information about their networking activity. It even "measures" the extent of personalization by tracking cus-tomer behavior in the first month of usage, based on the number of hits on the landing page (the page the recipient gets to when he or she accepts an invitation) and conver-sion rates. Recently, the company teamed up with Jajah, an Internet calling service, to provide customers with a feature called "Click to Call" that enables them to click on a name in their Plaxo address book and call that person directly. Also available is a mo-bile product that allows customers to access their address book on their cell phones.

Thanks to Plaxo's intensely personalized interface, users benefit from the system without having to do anything differently. "Nobody has to do anything special as in other social networking sites like Myspace, Facebook, or Friendster," says John McCrea, Plaxo's vice president of mar-keting. "[Plaxo] has embedded the DNA of the system into the tools you already use." Members are electronically identified and their personal details added to the user's ad-dress book; when users invite friends or col-leagues to Join Plaxo, the invitee is sent to a Web page that sports a picture of the person sending the invitation. Mr. Mc-Crea believes Plaxo will grow into a large consumer Internet company like Google, Ya-hoo! or eBay through viral growth generated by requests for contact information updates, birthday reminders, dynamic signatures and invitations to join the network.

Michael Astel writes for Cisco Systems, Inc.

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