Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Basic tools for online business collaboration

The technology of the Internet, especially all the freely available tools like Twitter and Gmail, are a key part of any business that relies in any way on the Internet, and that involves two or more people to make the business run.

If you're thinking of being an online entrepreneur, or even if you are thinking of working with other people to develop an idea that may one day become a business, you'd be smart to have a handful of tools that are ready to use so that when the idea hits, or when you find one or more collaborators, you can immediately get down to business.

Why go to the trouble of getting these collaboration tools?
Quite simply, these tools allow you to use the Internet to freely share information (as in without restriction and also without cost) with a group of people without letting outsiders see what you are doing or thinking. While you can certainly use email to trade ideas and messages back and forth, the tools mentioned in this article make it easier to share other things like documents, photos, and media files.

What every business needs
Most businesses, even businesses that don't have a product or service ready just yet, will have a few basic needs, namely the ability to communicate amongst the people working in the business; the ability to create, edit, and share documents; and the ability to communicate with the outside world.

ACTION STEP - get Gmail
Probably the smartest thing to do is to get a Gmail account. If you already have an account, get another one that'll be used strictly for your business. In fact, if you don't stop right now and take a few minutes to get your new Gmail account, stop reading this article because otherwise you are wasting your time.

AFTER ACTION EXPLANATION - Why is Gmail important?
There are a lot of reasons to use Gmail, but maybe the most important is that Gmail is run by Google, and when you get a Gmail account, you get access to dozens of other useful free Google tools. Some, like Google Docs (described below) are immediately useful, and others may come into play later. Another important reason to get a new Gmail account, even if you already have one, is that it is good to keep your personal affairs separate from your business affairs, especially email.

After you get your new Gmail account
Your first steps after getting your Gmail will getting your other basic tools. for all of your other business related accounts that are necessary. The following are the minimum set of basic tools you should have, and why they are useful:

  • Google Docs: This is like an online Microsoft Office, allowing your to create and edit word processing documents, spreadsheets, and presentation slides. Just as important, you can allow one or more people edit those documents, even simultaneously.You can also export Google Docs in formats that work with Microsoft Office.
  • Twitter: Before you start using it for work related collaboration, you can use Twitter to get update in real time on events of wide interest to individuals or the news media. For business, it can be one of your best free marketing tools.
  • Bitly: This is a tool that allows you to shorten URLs, and more importantly track how many times someone clicks on the link. This can be used to measure aspects of your marketing efforts, and to measure what topics if of interest to your audience.
  • Dropbox: This is an online storage application that allows you to share files with people who are not your collaborators, including your audience.

What about web sites?
Web sites are still an important part of any business strategy, but at the beginning of any collaboration, it may be too early to think about getting a web site. However, by getting a Gmail account, you also get a freee Blogger account, which you can use to create a very basic web site.

What about Facebook and LinkedIn?
Both of these social media sites may be useful later on for promoting your idea or project. Since they are both connected to an individual, you may want to go ahead and one or both for your own reasons, but you don't need them to collaborate online.

What should I do now?
If you actually followed the advice earlier in the article and created a new Gmail account, use that account to sign up for Twitter, Bitly, and Drobox. After that, get your collaborators on board with the idea of using these tools. If you don't have collaborators, start looking.

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