Do you really need another business professional or social network? Apparently, Skype thinks that it has something unique in a new online platform called Skype in the workspace (SITW), which it is touting as a way for small-business owners to promote their products or build on existing connections and business prospects.
Given the number of small companies that use Skype as a communications tool and the number of people that use Skype -- more than 280 million connected users per month -- the company may be on to something.
Its idea is to create a central resource where small businesses could find contacts to help them build their business, or whether they could book appointments with potential suppliers or customers. It has been testing the concept with 500 businesses for the past six months.
One beta user is Jorge Parra, owner of a photography studio in Florida. "There's a big difference between a professional network and a social network, and Skype in the workspace seems to understand this distinction," he said. "It is the perfect companion to my existing online presence, and generates connections that will actually bring me business."
The platform will enable small businesses to do things such as invite participants and prospects to product demonstrations or seminars. It could also be used to book appointments, to keep track of upcoming discussions and to deliver feedback or testimonials, according to Skype.
"We aim to connect millions of small businesses with Skype in the workplace 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," said Ural Cebeci, head of SMB marketing at Skype. "From the designer in San Francisco looking to source textile suppliers in Thailand, to the London consultant connecting with clients in Milan, the possibilities are endless."
Pretty much anyone with a Skype account is being encouraged to register for the site, and I'm sure we will hear a lot more about services and pricing models in the coming months.