Skype flipped the switch on a new online community aimed not only at helping small business owners to massively expand their professional networks, but also to help them establish strong, business-boosting connections with potential customers, suppliers and partners using the power of video and voice.
Dubbed Skype in the Workspace (SITW), the free online service's name alone provides a strong clue to what sets it apart from other small business communities. Deep Skype integration allows you connect via chat, or with voice and video calls, for instant and oftentimes face-to-face communication. Social media support helps bring outside social networks into the fold.
What's In It for Startups and Small Business Owners?
The service's capabilities combined with SITW's focus on professionals "enable [SMB owners] to overcome the boundaries of location, time and resources" as they seek to get their businesses off the ground, says Ural Cebechi, head of small business marketing at Skype.
Skype is undeniably popular. Its free and low-cost communications options have attracted millions of small business workers across the globe, many of whom use the service to collaborate and keep in touch with colleagues and clients. The Internet calling, video conferencing and messaging platform boasts "280 million monthly active users", says Cebechi. Little wonder that Microsoft paid more than $8 billion last year to acquire the company.
Now, Skype is using that big user base and global reach to provide entrepreneurs with a one-stop online destination where they can share expertise, build partner networks and offer potential clients personalized attention. Cebechi expects that SITW members will use the service to heighten their profiles and open up their marketing channels. "Think of this as an open business directory" that's indexed by popular search engines for better online exposure, says Cebechi.
During its six-month private beta, 500 businesses have already signed up purely by word of mouth, according to Cebechi. Currently, SITW offers more than 140 different services, but Cebechi expects those numbers to swell dramatically as it opens its virtual doors to the public.
Part of the reason he's bullish is that SITW makes it simple to schedule and create live Skype sessions to demonstrate products and services. As promotional tools, these offers and opportunities, as Skype terms them, give startups a structured, social-enabled way of engaging the small business community.
Skype in the Workspace is open now. Visitors can sign up with their existing Skype or LinkedIn accounts.
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