Using software to communicate

Gosh – what a title!
This is a huge subject, and this page can only scratch the surface. For more up to date information, follow 3rd Sector on twitter, where I try to keep up to date with the latest stuff and point you in the right direction.

But for now, how can you use software to communicate? There are lots of ways, and let’s consider a few of them.

Like ’em or not, websites are here to stay, and everybody, but everybody, has a website. A large proportion of the population immediately reach for Google when they need an answer to a question. If your organisation doesn’t have a presence on the web, then your organisation will never be the answer that Google finds. And if their question is “Who is a good cause for me to work for?”, you’ll lose out.

So websites are a great way to communicate with – let’s not beat about the bush – the world. It’s your shop window to tell anyone who’s interested what your organisation does.

People who need your help will turn to the internet, so your website should be a means for them to find out what they need to know.

Blog is short for Web log, and as the name suggests, blogs started off as an online diary. Pretty soon it became clear that you can use it to keep people up to date with, well, anything.  These days a blog is just a special sort of web site where there can be a mix of static pages (for example a contact page) and pages that are regularly updated, like a news page.

Businesses use blogs to engage with their customers and suppliers, to build up a relationship with them, and hope to increase sales.  3rd Sector organisations can use blogs to engage with their supporters, funders, clients, and the general public. You can use your blog to keep people up to date with your project and/or your organisation.  The possibilities are endless.

Setting up a blog takes a little while, but the software is free, so the major investment is time. Once it’s set up, it’s just a matter of keeping it up to date.  If it’s targeted at Joe Public, then you must, must, must keep it up to date or Joe Public will get bored and start to ignore you. You don’t want that to happen.

Blog pages almost always have a space for comments, where readers of the blog can interact with the writer, so a blog can be a two-way communication.

When it comes to managing projects, you could set up a special blog for the project, and arrange it so that it’s private and only those with permission can get to access it. Only team members can see the blog, and only team members can comment on posts. In this way, you have a means of communications that is restricted to your team, but enables them to engage from anywhere on the planet and at any time.

Or you could set up a public blog so you can use it as a way to publicise your project.  Or maybe a mix of both – some private pages in a public blog.

Twitter is a special kind of website where people can post small amounts of data, less than 140 characters. Lots of people these days have Twitter set up on their mobile phones.  This makes Twitter a great way to communicate with people.  You only have 140 characters, but you can use this medium to alert your project team, for example, to the fact that there is an updated document and provide a link for them to use to get it.  Or you can alert them to a meeting or another project event.

This is a software product that you can install on desktop computers and your mobile phone.  It allows people to make telephone calls over the internet.  If the person at the other end is also on Skype then the call is free.  If they’re not, then you should only get charged for a local call.  It means you can call anywhere in the world for nothing providing everyone is on Skype.

There’s now a video system so you can make video calls provided each person has a webcam connected to your computer.

This is a system for creating a virtual classroom.  The students attend a class whilst sitting at their own computer, and the teacher is at his or her computer.  There are various pieces of webinar software of various levels of sophistication which will allow you to do almost anything in a virtual way.