Posted on April 29, 2016 by Charlie Galaviz
It’s that time of the month. The VirtualPBX 5 is back at it again with our favorite topics, gadgets and news from the month of April. This month we were fortunate enough to have virtual tickets to Facebook’s F8 Conference and Social Media Marketing World 2016. We were impressed with the developments towards optimizing human interaction to say the least. But even more so, we are inspired by the overall theme of individuality. Whether your goal is to work remotely from the French Alps, make quirky viral videos, run a marathon, or provide the world with clean drinking water, technology allows us to connect our passions with our environments.
Here are our 5 favorite connected technologies for the month of April.
- Smart phones, smart watches and now smart clothes. Lumo discretely combines data and performance enhancing coaching into your everyday life.
- If remote employees were superheroes their capes would be Lifepacks. This mobile office will keep your superpowers charged.
- Facebook Live will disrupt the world’s largest social network in 2016.
- A solar panel water bottle that interconnects the atmosphere to make fresh filtered water.
- Samsung’s Gear 360 camera is a game changer for consumer video recording technology. There is no limit to which environment humans will become immersed in next.
Posted on April 28, 2016 by Dan Quick
In the concept of an open marketplace in the earliest days of business, there was basically a need for vendors to have literally the loudest voice in order to make a sale. Now that we aren’t all competing for the ears and attention of consumers in a single, isolated corner of the world but rather for the attention of the global community, simple yelling just won’t suffice. It’s with that in mind that we’ve put together a few tips for maximizing the effect of your communications strategy along with suggestions on how to make it happen.
1. One-to-One Communications
Yes, this means have a conversation. Though you will be addressing thousands or even millions of people every time you email, tweet, or post online, you need to recognize that each time you do that you are inviting the possibility of just as many individual conversations as well. In fact, in many ways the level of success you have with a social campaign will be measured by the engagement you have from each post, only strengthening the importance of opening with a conversational tone. Billboard-style statements will only carry so far these days, so instead consider each line of text that your company presents as an opening line of dialogue. When consumers have as many different channels to engage with a brand as they currently do, if you aren’t positioning yourself to have a dialogue, they may just have it without you and you do not want to be left out of the conversation.
2. Be Authentic
This should go without saying, but with the increasingly segmented nature of social media, there has been a distillation of the communities that frequent certain areas. This can be either a boondoggle for companies that have focused in on the characteristics of their market ad potential customers, or it can also be a recipe for disaster. A problem arises only when brands have assumed that they can waltz into new social arenas to engage with targeted demographics without respect for the authenticity it takes to also be a credible voice. The best way to avoid this happening is to remain humble and honest (two of the most important tenants of authenticity) by gradually establishing a foundation of credibility. Fans of a certain television show or recreational pastime who share key demographics with your ideal customer will likely warm to your presence in their community as long as you aren’t blatantly disregarding the importance of actually talking about whatever it is that makes that community unique. Remember, you are not the expert in their hobbies, and they can smell a phony a mile away.
3. Relevance is Key
This is perfect segue into the topic of relevance. It should go without saying, but like in all communications, the first and foremost important concept to address is considering the audience. For consumer communities who are based around technical and work-related topics, it’s appropriate to discuss the more proprietary aspects of your product or service that provide a performance benefit. This type of content, however, will not be as useful in an arena focused on the finer aspects of Harry Potter fan fiction. The point is that you want to be seen as a credible resource for when your audience is ready for some buying questions, and you will only get there by establishing a reputation for consistently offering relevant and credible information.
4. Qualitative Versus Quantitative
This is probably one of the hardest things for marketers to accept, but focusing on quality over quantity is pivotal in accomplishing the previous steps to boost a brand’s communications strategy. Every good business endeavor will have certain characteristics and certainly measurability is a big one. In marketing that means that growing the social footprint, increasing the total number of impressions, and generally widening the reach of a particular megaphone will likely be both the way to measure your success and the way to justify the value of your work to your organization as a whole. This is why it is often hard for marketers to remember the value of a single, high-quality interaction in the face of mountains of analytics. Considering, though, how a single review can make-or-break a young business or how a truly empathetic customer service interaction can humanize and bolster a larger organization, the value of treating each and every interaction like it is the only customer you have cannot be overemphasized. This may be a difficult sell to the folks in the corner office, but success here will mark success in all of the other steps as well.
5. Have Some Fun
It’s important to remember that your customers aren’t employees 100% of their lives, and neither are you. That’s why it’s important to loosen up a little bit from time to time. Your brand has a personality, and so do you and your fellow marketers, so make sure to showcase that from time to time. Many companies have various charitable endeavors that they find near and dear to their hearts and that’s a safe place to start, but remember that it’s okay to just have a little fun from time to time, too. Even if you are following the four previous tips to the letter, speaking only about features or products that provide a performance benefit can fatigue your audience, so mix it up a little. Doing this will differentiate your brand and keep your audience interested. And remember, an interested audience is an engaged audience.
For more of our useful business information, helpful communications strategies, and for a little bit of our fun side, you should follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. We’re always online and would love to hear what you have to say about this or any other post from our blog. In the meanwhile, we’ll probably be found discussing the season premiers of Silicon Valley or Game of Thrones.
Posted on April 25, 2016 by Dan Quick
For millions of people, commuting to and from work represents both the means to achieving their professional goals and the pure bane of their existence. It is estimated that Americans spent a whopping 42 hours a year of their lives in traffic heading to and from work. After that settles in and you’ve stopped plotting ways to get out of the office ahead of the crowds, let me offer some observations I’ve had in my daily grind.
To be clear, before I continue, you might get the wrong impression but let me assure you- neither I nor any member of the VirtualPBX community is opposed to team sports. Quite the contrary, in fact. That being said, for anyone who lives and commutes in a major sports market via public transportation has probably encountered some of the same problems me and my fellow CalTrain commuters experience during baseball season. Yes, even in an even year, the San Francisco Giants home schedule is a royal pain when it comes to getting home from work. To get an idea of the challenges that Bay Area denizens experience when there is a home game in the evening allow me to offer the following analogy.
Vanpool Meets Van Wilder
The CalTrain is effectively a big carpool for people trekking up and down the peninsula to their various schools and offices each day. Like any such community, there is a familiarity and solidarity that comes from sharing this experience; we all ride or walk to the stations when it’s raining, we all are delayed the same amount of time for mechanical troubles, and so on. The group also shares a love-hate relationship with the Giants’ home schedule because it means that our otherwise peaceful mini-van is injected with about 1,500 rowdy, seat-occupying, noise-making sports fans. Oh, did I mention that drinking alcohol is permitted on the train? Because it is, and it’s also a big part of what makes the quadrupling of train’s regular population so challenging. Anyway, as you can imagine, these nights can motivate people to try and avoid the crowds as best as they can.
Tools For Telecommuting
However, for those who are fortunate enough to have an employer who has embraced a work from home policy, there is hope! For anyone who needs to change their schedule to be at home, due to a baseball game or a newborn or anything between, having an array of hosted communication tools for distance working is irreplaceably helpful.
- A VoIP Softphone will allow employees to appear to be at their desk whether they are taking an earlier train home or simply working from a home office. This is good for not only receiving calls away from work, but for placing them virtually from an employee’s office number, too.
- For me personally, Follow Me Calling is incredibly useful because I don’t ever have to know in advance where I will be to accept a call, the incoming call finds me by following a series of numbers I decide for it to try.
- Finally, for folks who need to stay flexible in their hours, they need to have the same flexibility over what devices they can use, too. Dash from VirtualPBX has one of the most comprehensive device compatibility platforms ever seen, so you can be sure to be able to use whatever hardware you want to get the job done.
While commuting will never likely be totally free of hassles, I suspect nobody really expects that to be an option. Using these helpful telecommuting tools from VirtualPBX is a surefire way to eliminate many of the objections an employer may have to adopting a work-from-home policy, however. And seeing as how it has been proven time and again that remote workforces are more productive and profitable than their in-office compatriots, hopefully you’ll have everything you need to, ahem, pitch, your boss the idea of how to avoid the baseball crowds moving forward.
Posted on April 22, 2016 by Dan Quick
Earth Day is a great time to remind ourselves to live with a small footprint, especially at the office. We all know that there are recycling bins and composting services becoming more common, but what else can you do from an operational standpoint to be kinder to the world around us? In addition to one of the only comprehensive e-waste recycling resources around, we’ve also put together this handy infographic to help you jumpstart your eco-strategy.
Posted on April 15, 2016 by Dan Quick
There are some common features to designing a fully functioning home office that everyone should know, but what about designing the tools you use when you’re working from home or on the road? For starters, it’s important to know that the options for distance learning tools are continuing to grow and discerning the difference between them all is getting increasingly difficult. Fortunately, we love to try new software and we’ve been known to work with several different platforms concurrently just to see which works best for our teams. It is with that experience that we’ve put together these 5 essential tools for teams with distributed workforces.
Trello is probably the most feature-rich project management platform available. I say probably because there’s still a fair-to-midland chance we’ll demo a few more by the time this publishes, but the fact is that Trello has everything you could possibly need to keep projects on track. Multiple users can edit, different benchmark alarms can be sent, and most importantly it’s totally transparent so nobody is left off the back, no matter where they’re located.
It seems we’ve been bitten by the love bug with Slack. We’ve written in the past about how well the company runs itself from an operations standpoint, but that isn’t a surprise when you consider how well it helps employees communicate and stay productive. Often times conversations on one side of the building don’t migrate to all of the offices, much less to those folks working from home, this isn’t a problem with Slack. Plus they keep widening their array of Bots that help execute various tasks that makes an adequate summation of their total benefit a moving target. PLUS, they now have a Taco Bell Bot that will order tacos for you which makes working lunches easier than ever. Score.
For teams that are dispersed over a large area, sharing files isn’t quite as easy as just printing out a file and walking it over to their desk, and Dropbox solves that. Dropbox is admittedly just one in a growing sea of options for file sharing on a large scale, but the storage veteran has added a variety of neat features that make it unique. But with file upload/download being a breeze, plenty of integrations into a variety of other software, and the ability to save various web content for later use, Dropbox is definitely a contender for the invaluable file-sharing member of this list.
Newer to the market than these other list members but still vitally important, Dash is the latest in hosted business communications technology from VirtualPBX. The intuitive unified communications software allows total replication of an in-office presence for anyone through their existing office phone number, whether they are permanently displaced or simply business traveling, all without compromising the privacy of the employee’s personal contact information. Furthermore, the user-friendly interface makes it so that anyone will be able to use it without having Nick the IT guy come by and walk them through it. Nick is busy anyway, give him a break.
And seeing as how you are able to contact people so easily with these other great platforms, as a courtesy it would be a good idea to always consider the time change from location to location. EveryTimeZone is your one-glance solution for this. Ideal for traveling members of the team (if for nothing else just to stay on top of what day/time it is!) and for those back at the office who may forget that Stephanie probably hasn’t seen the doc you shared an hour ago because it’s 4:00 AM in London. Let the poor girl sleep.