New Skype Platform for Small Businesses Launched

Skype, the Microsoft subsidiary whose services allow users to communicate with each other by voice, video and instant messaging over the Internet, is reaching out to small business owners with a new service called Skype In The Workspace (SITW), an online platform aimed at helping them connect with business partners worldwide.

After a six-month beta trial involving 500 businesses, the free-to-use tool was launched in early November. Or, as one online technology publication heralded the arrival of SITW, “Skype Grows Up, Goes to Work”. It is expected to allow millions of small businesses, entrepreneurs and startups to promote their products and services by providing a central hub for connecting with experts, coaches and consultants who can help them develop their businesses. Users can improve their existing connections and establish new ones by instant messaging, talking to or meeting face-to-face with peers and business prospects over Skype.

According to the Skype website, SITW helps businesses in three specific ways:

  1. To find the services they need from a global community of experts.
  2. To promote their services to make new connections, share inspiration and help grow business.
  3. To organize businesses to get the most from their Skype connections.
To get started with SITW, businesses join the community by using their existing Skype accounts or creating one. They then use a series or promotional tools to create public “offers”, inviting other members to live demonstration sessions of products and services via Skype. Users can also book appointments with potential customers or suppliers and keep track of them with a meeting notification service. Users can also offer testimonials of products and services.

“With more than 280 million connected users each month, Skype offers a huge range of contacts for the small-business community,” notes Ural Cebeci, head of SMB marketing at Skype, in a prepared statement. “We aim to connect millions of small businesses with Skype in the workspace and believe that, by taking advantage of this shared network, businesses can develop the range of tools they need to grow, regardless of location or industry.”

Two early adapters of SITW agree that the service really delivers. “There’s a big difference between a professional network and a social network, and Skype In The Workspace seems to understand this distinction,” says Jorge Parra, a Florida-based professional photographer and avid Skype user. “It is the perfect companion to my existing online presence and generates connections that will actually bring me business.”

Cindy Bidar, owner of a U.S. startup providing expert advice on how to design, build and maintain an online presence, says that “Skype In The Workspace has offered something other online platforms couldn’t — a community of business-focused individuals who can explore my services and interact with me in real time.”

“Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy. For these businesses to survive and grow in what is still a tough economic climate, we understand that good communication and connections are key to their success,” says Cebeci. “We feel we’re helping connect businesses face-to-face with their customers and prospects, no matter where they are located. It opens up a world of opportunity for them.”

About the Author: Beth Longware Duff is a professional editor and award-winning writer whose work on a wide variety of topics has been published in print and electronic media. She currently writes on a wide range of topics dealing with electronic payment processing and credit card processing services for Merchant Express.