How To: Categories vs. Tags On Your Contacts

I recently got a question from a new user that I thought was really good… a lot of people that I explain tags to usually aren’t using them, but I tag almost every single contact I put in! Here’s the question:

What confuses me is the fields categories and tags. If I understand it correctly you can only assign one category per person but multiple tags. Can you give me any example of categories?

The category/tag thing came about because of the two e-mail systems that I’m most familiar with. Let me explain the differences there, and how that transfers to your network contacts.

Jason's Outlook FoldersIn Outlook you can create new sub-folders under your Inbox, and then file each e-mail message in a subfolder. My Outlook account right now has no less than 72 folders where I will file things. I’ve used this system for over 10 years in every job that I’ve had. I love some things about it, and hate other things. But its all I had known… until I started to use GMail.

In GMail I was completely confused by the lack of subfolders, which are replaced with what they call “labels.” I’m going to just call them tags, since they are the same thing. Anyway, when you want to file something in GMail you put as many tags on it as you want. My Gmail account right now has 49 different tags, and I can tag each e-mail with any combination that I want. What this means is that if I want to see all of the e-mails tagged “family” then it will show them all to me, no matter what else I have tagged them with (or how I have categorized them). Its like taking categories and making them 3-D.

I have worked in, and love, both systems. In JibberJobber you get the best of both systems.

Categories and Tags, when adding a new contactThe major benefit of using categories in JibberJobber is that you can include “Category” as a column on the List Panel, and group your contacts by category. The same is true for premium users, when they want to create a printable phone list – they can group the contacts by category. But just like Outlook, you can only assign one category per contact.

That’s where tags comes in. Create as many tags as you want, and put any number of tags on each contact you have. While you can’t really order or group the List Panel by tags, you can use the search function and search for all contacts with a certain tag. I just searched for “friend” and got all of the contacts that I had tagged as friend.

There is not magic in any of this, just two different ways to help you organize your contacts. Use one, or the other, or both. I use both, here are some examples (note that both categories and tags are user defined – that means that these are my categories and tags, you will have different categories and tags that you choose):

I met John at a networking function. I put him in the category Utah Networking and tagged him as Executive.

I met Thom Singer online. I put him in the category Blogger/Career Expert and tagged him as author, blogger and digg (because he has a digg account)

I met Drew through e-mail. I put him in the category Advisory Board and tagged him as internal recruiter.

I met Wendy through blogging. I put her in the category Blogger/Career Expert and tagged her as coach, blogger, personal branding.

I met Kent through the You Get It award of the month. I put him in the category Professional Contacts and the tags blogger, winner.

Notice that I’m not categorizing or tagging by location, area code, company or any other fields that are on that user’s profile. I’m also not categorizing or tagging by the strength of the relationship – that’s what the stars are for.

Some of the categories that I have are:

  • Professional Contacts – these are people that I meet that are just regular folks like me, and I group them here for quick-reference.
  • My Service Providers – I got tired of looking for phone numbers for my mechanic, my plumber, the garage door guy, etc. So I put them into JibberJobber!
  • Networking (Local) – this is for people that I run into at local networking events
  • Networking (Online) – this is for people that I came across online, and don’t fall into other categories
  • Networking (LinkedIn) – this is for people that I came across in some kind of LinkedIn setting

Some of the tags that I have include:

  • alumni
  • author
  • blogger
  • personalBranding
  • executive
  • coach
  • … and it goes on and on

One more thing, when you are importing from Outlook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, CardScanner or any other system, pay particular attention to this. You’ll want to add a new column on the spreadsheet for Category, and one for Tags – that way you won’t have to go into every single record and “fix” them.

I hope this is helpful – I have every single contact either categorized or tagged, and most of them have both categories and tags! Would love to hear feedback on how to to make this more effective for YOU!

2 thoughts on “How To: Categories vs. Tags On Your Contacts”

  1. Sure thing Kent – I tell anyone who wants to start a blog to check out yours first (and then to check out the book BlogWild! – even though I haven’t read it!)

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