What Does Facebook's Integration with Skype Mean for Small Businesses?
As widely speculated since the official start of summer, Facebook has delivered on a big promise to roll out what the social networking giant's CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls an "awesome" new feature.
Now boasting more than 750 million registered users, Facebook has announced its integration with Skype for the purposes of creating a groundbreaking video calling platform that will not only change the way friends and family interact online, but also the way small businesses can correspond with current and prospective clients.
“Your least technical friend is going to be able to get online with video chat and get connected,” Zuckerberg said upon introducing the new feature. “You’ll connect with your friends on the social network that already has all your friends.”
What's true for casual users is also true for small business owners who use Facebook for promotional and customer relations purposes.
"I think Facebook is really making an inadvertent overture to the business community with the Skype platform," business analyst Mike Randazzo tells the Intuit Small Business Blog. Like other social media and business analysts, Randazzo believes there may soon come a time when small business owners may want to hire someone to take incoming customer video calls on Facebook.
"When you think about its various applications," Randazzo says, "you can provide outstanding customer service to clients. You can offer consulting services, you can trouble-shoot, or you can even take orders and handle billing inquiries. The applications for this feature in a small business setting are beyond plentiful."
The simplicity of the platform is what will ultimately drive customers to a rapid adoption of the service, social media experts largely concur.
Facebook has integrated Skype in a way that doesn’t place cumbersome setup or installation burdens on the user. To utilize the new feature, for example, Facebook registrants simply install a small plugin and the video chat functionality becomes accessible from that day forward. In fact, users aren't even required to have a Skype account to enjoy the service.
Once the plugin is installed, profile pages will display a new button that's located between the "Message" and "Poke" buttons. The added button says "Call." Once you click it, the page registrant or Facebook friend receives a popup message asking whether they want to accept or decline the call. If it's accepted, the video call immediately commences. The entire process takes just a few seconds.
"With time, I can see Facebook expanding this platform significantly," Randazzo says. "For the time being, video chat in Facebook is a web-only feature. That's going to have to change. Before long, users are going to demand the 'call' button on their Facebook smartphone application."
"It will take time for these sophisticated tweaks to happen -- the ability to receive multiple video calls, video call transfers, video call conferencing, video call waiting, etc.," Randazzo concludes. "But we'll get there. And it will be supremely beneficial to small business."
Michael Essany is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.