As a remote employee with a passion for socialization, I am in a bit of a conundrum. How can I stay social while working out of my house (which happens to be in a relatively remote location, in a relatively remote town, in a relatively remote part of the state)? What I’ve learned is that the two can be harmonious, in fact, I can be even more connected from my home office than I was from my previous office job. How so? One word.


Today, I am connecting with Radian6 coworkers, customers, community members and prospects across the world from my home address. And as my remote team grows and more of us need to converse at once, we are expanding our video conferences and conversations to include other people at the same time. It’s a network of great minds sharing ideas face to face in real time. And these are people I might not have had the opportunity to experience if it were not for video. Perhaps I would have waited until a conference or kept our correspondence to 140 character or less.

Video combines social with technology. Without these two ingredients, the concoction would not be as impactful. But your technology weapon must be chosen wisely since there are a lot of great video tools out there. However, some outperform others based on the extremity of your social needs. And I’d say mine could get extreme at times.

The Tools

I had to start at Skype. As “Google” means search, “Skype” means video chat. It’s the most popular app for video chat by Lifehacker and with good reason. Tons of people are on it and know how to use it, it’s easy and I’ve hardly experienced dropped calls. There’s a great chat function and you can choose to do just a call (great for bad hair days). When I need a quick chat with a coworker or customer, this is perfect. Both impromptu and scheduled video chats can easily take place here. I think I “Skype” at least twice a day now.

However, it does have a downfall – conferences. Video conferencing including more than two people requires a paid account and with other tools out there doing the job for free, I find myself skipping Skype for those team meetings and other conference discussions.

Enter stage left. When Skype got the hook for video conferencing, Ooovoo stepped in to try and help. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Oovoo but I have yet to really experience its almighty power. Perhaps it was my Internet, but it crashed when more than one person entered the chat. When my screen went black, other could still see me. That’s a bit unnerving. I will try Oovoo again and if you have experiences to share, feel free. With constant updates on the social web, I wouldn’t be surprised if my issues have already been solved.

Alas, we arrive to the video conference mecca. While many have yet to experience the beauty that is Google Hangout, I highly recommend it. Our weekly team meetings include five people and three of us are remote. We can easily converse and share for an hour or more with minimum hiccups. Last week, we set our own record with eight different people in the call. It worked as well as it did with two people. Plus there are a number of great features that bring it way up on my charts.

  • Before you join the video chat, you can check yourself out on video first
  • It encompasses the spirit of social by letting your circles know you’re “hanging out” and enables others to join (but you can set it to “private” if you prefer the meeting to remain behind closed doors)
  • When someone is speaking, their video is displayed larger than the rest (that means talking over one another does confuse it a bit, so you have to have some order in place)
  • It’s all within Google so there’s no additional programs to open. Easy!

I have done about a dozen or so of these hangouts and I am starting to fall in love.

Other Tools

I do enjoy my time in Google Talk for more personal 1-on-1 conversations. It’s a convenient add-on to Google Chat, which is my IM client of choice. I just recently signed up for Spreecast, where podcast meets video meets chat. I’m very intriged to learn more since it truly combines all of my passions.

For my fellow iPad lovers, Skype and Oovoo have amazing apps. Unfortunately, Google Hangout lacks in that category.

I enjoy connecting with the world from my second floor and I will continue that trend. Find me on Skype at mileigh13 or hangout on Google Plus. Let’s get social and share some amazing conversations.

Do you use video chat for work or personal? Which tools work best for you? How has video chat changed the way you do business?