When I was a kid, my friends and I collected baseball cards. We would spend hours buying, trading, reviewing, discussing, and, of course, organizing them in shoe boxes. Boy, did all those shoe boxes drive my mother crazy.  Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 10.36.18 AM

But it was those shoe boxes and our primitive organizational system that made the cards much more accessible when it was time to find a specific statistic about a player or make that "big trade."

As I reflect on this, I probably did a better job keeping tabs on my heroes (whom, of course, I was never going to meet) than I do with my collection of much more important people--my LinkedIn connections.

New Year's resolution

In 2015, I plan to do a better job of categorizing and organizing my connections so I can more efficiently help a lot more people. That's where the features included in LinkedIn's Relationship section come in. No shoe boxes. Just some pretty useful features that most people aren't taking advantage of yet.

The Relationship section is automatically part of Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 10.15.42 AMthe profiles of your first-degree connections. To add the Relationship section to anyone else's profile, click the star below the person's photo. This person will then be added to your Contact list. This is a separate list to help you track people who are not yet first-level connections.

5 ways to capitalize on the Relationship section

This section consists of five subsections. I'm sure you will find many creative ways to use them, but here are some simple ways to use them to your advantage. And keep in mind that everything you include in the Relationship section can only be seen by you.

1.  Note.  This is a perfect place to detail potentially useful information about the person, such as spouse's name, important dates, hobbies, colleges their kids attend, favorite wine, etc.

2.  Reminder.  This can be used as a very simple follow-up system. Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 10.17.52 AMYou can have LinkedIn notify you to take a particular action with someone in your network in a day, week, month or recurring every week, month, three months, six months, year or your own custom recurring period.

3.  How you met.  Because I sometimes have trouble remembering where I met people and who introduced us, this works great for me. This subsection has places to include both of these bits of information.

4.  Tags.  These are like personalized file drawers where you can put people in self-defined organizational categories. You can create up to 200 unique tags. Once created, you can review all the people in a specific tag group and message them individually or in groups of up to 50 at a time. You can message first-degree connections for free, but you'll need to purchase an InMail to message anyone else.

Because placing your connections into tag groups can be time consuming, start by taking some time to identify the tag groups that will help you most effectively communicate with groups of your connections. This might be geographic area (e.g., Chicago, Illinois, Midwest), title, industry, associations they (or you) belong to, customers or prospects.

You can also make tags that combine multiple tag groups. For instance, if you have tags for HR prospects, people who live in Chicago, and members of SHRM, you can make a tag for HR prospects who live in Chicago and belong to SHRM.

You get 200 self-defined tags. Taking time to set them up correctly will be time well spent.

5.  Connection communication timeline.  By clicking the circled "+" sign, you can review all the communication you have had on LinkedIn with a person all the way back to your initial connection date.

I'm sure you'll agree that this is pretty cool stuff. So why not join me and get your connections more organized in 2015. No shoe boxes needed.

Leave a comment and share any other creative ways you've used the Relationship section.