Friday, October 01, 2010

Using Facebook's new Skype option to boost your productivity

Once my clients begin using tools like Facebook for their external communications to key audiences, it occurs to someone on the team that there's another way to make Facebook work for them: as an internal or business-to-business collaboration tool that will keep the team productive.

And why not? After all, if you're doing more and more of your communications work on Facebook, it makes sense to take advantage of the site's tools for the rest of your work whenever you can. 

Using Facebook for work emails; sharing documents, photos, links and video with fellow project team members; instant messages; and in private groups has long been possible. (And the option for private communications on Facebook makes it perfect for work purposes.)  But now, Facebook is getting ready to integrate with Skype, which would allow both text-messaging and video phone calls, as well as the ability to merge your Facebook contacts into your Skype calling lists. It's worth noting that Skype has begun support for multiple-person calls up to 10 callers, that means conference calls on Facebook could be possible.

The Skype-Facebook option is still in beta tests and will roll out in a few weeks, which gives you time to mull some possibilities, like:

  • Virtual briefings by your experts for reporters, congressional staffers in Washington, or even your Facebook page's top fans;
  • Design meetings and reviews with your graphic artists, software developers, photographers and others--meetings where you need to see it to say it--could move to Facebook.  These might be boosted by another new Facebook option:  The rollout of high-resolution photo-sharing on Facebook. 
  • Customer service or sales calls might be an interesting option--customer support's among the top 5 brand trends on Facebook noted in this recent article.  Calling options are a natural extension of this growing trend. I already know of retail operations that use Skype to show distant customers how products work, fit, or look on a model.  If that option can be integrated into your Facebook page, contact list or other functions, you've got a wider platform on which to make customer connections and base your sales.
  • Coaching, training and advisement via Skype lets you take the webinar or conference call with an expert to new levels.  Those "open office hours" now popular using video on sites like Stanford University's Facebook page could go to a whole new--and live--level, albeit with fewer viewers at one time.
You can try a different video chat service right now on Facebook, using the Rounds app, already attracting thousands of users; it allows social multitasking so you can chat while collaborating on virtual whiteboards, shopping, playing games and more with other users.  If that sounds annoying, note that video chats went up in duration--from 3-4 minutes to around 19 minutes--once more features were added.  The app also allows developers to create educational experiences and embed the video chat features for them right on your website, although you may want to keep all that on Facebook if your audience is already there.  Read more about it in this in-depth interview.

How might you put this new functionality to use on Facebook? Share your ideas in the comments.

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