This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.
When it comes to business communication, Skype is an invaluable tool. Its impressive array of features make it ideal for sending files, checking in on business partners, holding video conferences and making international calls.
Its popularity cannot be denied; the VoIP client has over 550 million users and actually accounted for 12% of the world’s international calls in 2009. There’s definitely a reason why one-third of Skype users use it primarily for business.
Very few get the full value out of Skype, though. Many in the business world don’t realize just how useful Skype can be or how much time it can save for those that know its best features or the tricks for getting the most of the desktop client.
We could write a book-length guide on using Skype, but here are just five of our favorite tips for getting the most out of Skype for small business.
Tips for Better Utilizing Skype
1. Screen Sharing may be Skype’s best feature: It amazes me how many people still don’t know that you can share your computer screen with the person on the other end of the video call. It’s an ideal way to remotely give presentations, show code to another programmer and show others what’s currently in your browser. Just right-click during a video call and click “Share Your Screen” (or “Share Screen” on a Mac).
2. Download Skype Extras: Skype is an extensible platform through its many plug-ins, known as “Extras.” You can download apps that do everything from enable you to play games to record Skype calls. For example, Unyte provides advanced small business collaboration tools, while Pamela includes call recording, Outlook integration and Voicemail.
3. Set up call forwarding: This is one of the most important things to set up if you’re a regular Skype user. You can forward incoming Skype calls to your cell phone, even if your computer is turned off. You need to set up the feature under the “Tools” menu, and you will use up Skype credit during forwarded calls, but it’s worth it, especially if you don’t have the Android or iPhone application (both of which run in the background). In fact, we suggest setting up call forwarding anyway, because the Skype mobile apps are well-known battery hogs.
4. Check in on the house/pets while you’re away: There’s an old trick for checking out your house if you’re away and have a home computer. Create two Skype accounts and log in to your new account at home, set it to auto-answer any incoming calls, have it set to start video automatically when you are in a call, and enable Skype Video. The end result is that, when you call this account from your business trip in Beijing or your office downtown, you will automatically be able to see what’s going on at home and put your mind at ease.
5. Turn Skype into your customer service tool: You don’t have to put your Skype username on your website to provide customer support; you can use a handy Skype button to make it easy for customers to contact you with issues concerning your product. That way, you can make it known that you’re available via Skype without distributing your username to the world.