Most important, in my view: Getting in the habit of beta testing gets you ready for changes, new features, and new ideas. Instead of bemoaning a small design change on Facebook, you can smile knowing what's coming next. It's a selling point when you're seeking advancement or new opportunities, and it's a smart way to stay a step ahead. You also may get direct contact with the creators. I've had tech support from the founders of Tweetdeck when it was in beta, and just yesterday, from the co-founder of Feedly Pro. Here are a few more substantial ways I think communicators can benefit from betas:
- Get a jump on what's next in media relations: Beta options let the savvy media relations pro stay a step ahead. The New York Times lets you test drive new features on its beta620 site, where you can ask for new features as well as learn about what's in the experimental stage. NPR has a new beta test group you can enroll in to preview new mobile listening options. Signing up for sites like these lets you get ready for changes in the reader/listener/viewer experience, and for how and where your information might appear.
- Get more functionality from apps you use the most: Want to see what Evernote's working on? Just use Evernote Hello, the app that Evernote says is like a public testbed for new ideas it may expand to other platforms. Or go to the Evernote Conference September 26-27 in San Francisco. Users are actually encouraged to attend and mingle with developers, and you'll find out which developers' apps will be next available in concert with Evernote.
- Get limited-edition gadgets earlier: Check out Grand Street, where limited-distribution gadgets made by entrepreneurs are made available; often, these toys got their start as Kickstarter-funded projects. Inc. magazine rounds up a few new products from the site here.