Wednesday May 13, 2015
Small business owners, it’s time to embrace the live feed.
You’re already acquainted. When you post updates on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn, they’re going to live feeds. If your business has a popular blog, many people likely follow it using RSS – another live feed. Even the comments section of your blog, and other blogs you post on, is a kind of live feed.
In fact, you probably use the live feed in all kinds of ways to put information about your company out into the world. That’s because the live feed is a great communicator. It tells your customers what they need to know instantly, allowing them to scroll and skim through updates to find what’s important.
If you aren’t using live feeds as part of your external communications strategy, it’s time to start. Most of you know this. After all, you probably found this article through a social media live feed!
But have you ever considered how a live feed can improve your business’s internal communication strategy?
What Does an Internal Small Business Feed Look Like?
It looks and operates a lot like a social media timeline. The big difference is, instead of gathering updates from your network of social contacts, a business live feed gathers updates from your business.
- New orders from all your points of sale
- Internal client notes from anyone on your team
- Tasks as they’re passed from person to person
- Timecard notes for all employees
- Abandoned ecommerce carts
Just like a social live feed, a business feed operates in real time, is available through the cloud from any internet-enabled device, and gives you alerts when there’s important new information.
Here’s how an internal live feed can increase awareness among employees, facilitate a higher-speed of communication, collectivize knowledge, and give rise to a strong workplace culture.
Access Important Company Information at a Glance
The most obvious benefit of an internal live feed in a small business is the quick and easy insight it gives to a small business owner at a glance.
AllProWebTools’ founder Dave Kramer is constantly on the go, but he uses our version of the business live feed, called the Workflow Timeline, to make sure he doesn’t miss anything. If a new order comes in, if an employee is off track, or if a customer isn’t being handled to his satisfaction, he can intervene instantly. He doesn’t have to wait to hear about it when he gets back to the office.
Of course, it’s a great tool for small business employees as well. Everyone benefits from having up-to-the-minute company information available at all times.
Empower Employees to Self-Organize
Small businesses often survive on the ability of employees to make decisions on and collaborate on their own. The problem is finding the right balance between over and under managing. You want updates so you can realign anyone who’s going in the wrong direction, but you also want to give employees the freedom to work together and exceed expectations.
But how do you get those updates you need without taking up tons of company time in meetings? How do your employees collaborate without distracting each other? A live feed solves both problems.
The business owner can see exactly what’s going on as tasks, client notes, and timecard notes show progress on a project in high level or granular detail, depending on the need. We only have a few meetings per week at AllProWebTools, because all the updates happen automatically through our live Workflow Timeline feed.
For employees collaborating, it’s easy to see who’s busy, pass around tasks to ask for help and input, and see what needs to be done on a project. Everyone benefits from a completely transparent flow of information.
Make Management Easier
Being a manager in a small business can be tough—mostly because they’re almost never just a manager. They usually have tons of other responsibilities, and there just isn’t time to hold employees’ hands.
Again, there’s the problem of needing updates, but having no time to get them.
I think the timecard portion of AllProWebTools’ Workflow Timeline solves this really well, so forgive me some self promotion. Our employees clock in and out of specific tasks, meetings, projects, and clients rather than for large blocks of unspecified time. This allows the Timeline to paint a clear picture of who’s doing what, when, and for how long.
It provides an indisputable log of the daily activities of each employee. If an employee isn’t completing work on schedule, for example, a manager can look and see exactly what is taking so long. You might find that some employees are more overloaded than you realized, or see that others could stand to be challenged more. This makes you a better manager, and ultimately improves your employees’ experience.
Increase Employee Engagement
The key to employee engagement is finding ways to make your employees feel like they’re a part of something great. When an employee is stuck doing just a few tasks all the time, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. Where is the company going? What is my part in the system? Does what I do matter?
Putting the big picture in a live feed makes it really easy for employees to see what others are working on. They see new orders come in even if they’re not in sales. They see how projects they aren’t working on are progressing. They see where what they do fits into the company’s larger systems.
It creates a really unique workplace culture, which employees find it very satisfying to be a part of.
Create a Thriving Virtual Workplace
Business live feeds do have a truly social factor as well. It involves the creation of a virtual shared office space. Each post is accompanied by names and profile pictures, creating a sense of camaraderie and personal interaction.
Live feeds are a huge help to the ever-increasing number of remote workers—and the people who manage them from afar.
Culture and camaraderie is vital to a small business’s success. Having a live feed can help create a culture of hard work, collaboration, and focus, with a highly personal touch.
Keep Your Tools Simple
So how do you create a live feed for your small business?
Many small businesses create franken-systems by combining a lot of different apps from Google, Twitter, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Skype, and so on to meet their needs. This strategy can be effective, but it’s inconsistent, difficult to integrate, and too complex for new employees onboarding as a small business grows.
There are tools that can help you integrate all these different cloud-based options, but it makes more sense to me to look for a tool that covers all your bases in one solution.
We live in a world where, like it or not, we’re used to frequent if not constant updates in our social lives. Why shouldn’t that extend to our businesses as well?