On Customer Service
Does Learning Make You Less Productive? Probably.

Making the Most of Netvibes for Learning, Advocacy, Marketing and Customer Service

I've been playing a lot lately with Netvibes. The more I play, the more possibilities I see for learning, advocacy, marketing and customer service. The ability to create and share tabs is what really got me excited. It means that you can essentially put together a customized dashboard of information and materials and then share that with other people.

If you know how Netvibes works, then scroll down to where I start describing some of the ways I think it could be used. If you have no idea what Netvibes is, then read about that first so that the rest of this makes some sense.

What is Netvibes?
Netvibes is a personalized start page. On it, you can include RSS feeds, bookmarks, calendars, to do lists, "sticky notes," email, etc. It's similar to  Yahoo or Google start pages, but to my mind is much more versatile. There are a ton of modules you can put on your pages, you can organize and color-code your materials and most importantly, you can create customized tabs.

This is what a Netvibes start page looks like

  • Netvibes_start_page_2







A few key features I want to highlight.

Tabs
As I've said, Netvibes allows you to create tabs. They're similar to file folders that you might have on your desktop. Like a file folder, you can name each tab anything you want. Which means that depending on your preferences you could have tabs that correspond to:

  • Topic areas that interest you
  • Work vs. personal items
  • Projects that you're working on
  • Different job functions
  • Advocacy areas for your organization
  • Events

Modules and Resources for Each Tab
Within each tab you can include:

  • RSS Feeds--virtually anything is available via RSS. You can subscribe to newspapers and magazines, blogs, Google Alerts, de.licio.us and Technorati tags, updates to wikis, videos, podcasts, Flickr photos, To Do lists (like "Remember the Milk"). Just about any online resource you can imagine is available through RSS.
  • URLs--depending on how you're using your tabs, you can have URLs to project sites, commonly used sites, documents, etc.
  • "Sticky Notes"--With the "Web Notes" feature, you can create a digital Post-It note to stick anywhere in your Netvibes. This means you can "jot down" ideas and reminders and include them in your tabs.
  • Access to email and social networking, including IM, Meebo, MySpace, Facebook
  • Calendars
  • Maps and weather

You also have the ability to color code items within each tab and to add a variety of other modules created by users.

Tab Sharing
What really got me thinking about the possibilities of Netvibes was the fact that they now offer tab sharing. This means that I could create a tab that corresponds to a particular project, event, learning area, advocacy area, etc. Then I can load it up with related RSS feeds, URLs, videos, podcasts, "to do lists," notes, etc. After I've created my customized tab, I can put the code on my blog or website for others to copy. Or I can share it via email or chat.  With tab sharing, I can make life a whole lot easier for a lot of people because I've done the work for them. I've gathered relevant links and resources and put them into a module that they can easily add to their workspace, integrating it into an existing tool.

Right now, there are more than 3,500 tabs developed by other Netvibes users available for sharing, so you could certainly start there. But what interests me is how we could set up tabs customized for our own organizations, learning, etc. and then share them with others.

So some possibilities . . . .

Getting a New Hire Up to Speed
Picture this. You've been hired to start a new job at an environmental advocacy group. Before you start your job,  your manager asks you to set up a Netvibes account (if you don't already have one). You set up your account and check your email where you see that your manager has sent you an Orientation tab. This tab includes links to your organization's wiki where the new hire paperwork has been stored for you to download and complete. There's also a link to the organization's Ning social network that you can visit to set up your profile (including a photo) and then "meet" your co-workers before you start.   It also has a link to a welcome video from the organization's Executive Director, and there's a sticky note embedded in the tab that lists a few things you should bring on your first day, as well as contact information for your manager should you have any questions. Pretty cool, huh?

For Staff Training and Development and Project Management
I see a few of possibilities for this one.

  • Staff could set up tabs based on their interest areas that include links to the best blogs and resources, tools, etc. Staff would be encouraged to make copies of these "learning modules" that they've created. These could then be stored in a central repository (a wiki?) and be available for co-workers to download when they wanted to explore a topic. Staff could start with a sort of "master template" of resources that are particular to their job function, organization, areas of interest, etc. and then customize from there. If they customized the tab, they could add their version to the repository. When they're finished with it, they could delete the tab from Netvibes.
  • Training staff could also set up tabs based on needs identified either by staff or their managers. The tab could include links to training materials, instructional videos, etc. Again, it could be maintained in a central location as its own learning module. It could also be emailed as needed.
  • If we wanted to get really daring, we could share tabs between organizations so that access to the modules would be expanded.
  • Another option--set up a tab for each project you have going on. Include a To-Do list, a calendar, links to resources. Send it to your staff who can then add items to it as they work on the project and be able to update themselves in one location.

For Advocacy/Marketing
A few things that occurred to me:

  • Create a netvibes tab related to particular advocacy topics--global warming, homelessness, whatever. These tabs could include things like feeds to tagged articles, links to research, and a "To Do" list of items the user can do to move advocacy forward. It could also include links to an advocacy guide, to Flickr photos, to a video on a topic related to your advocacy area, to your organization's blog or website--the list is pretty wide open. Then make the tab available on your site for download. Or email it to new people on your mailing list as a free service.
  • Do the same thing for a particular event. Create a tab. Include links to registration materials, Flickr photos you've tagged, your blog, etc. Create a "To Do" list of things the person should do to prepare for the event. Include a map and a weather forecast feed (if it's an outside event). Make it available to people who are interested. Keep updating information and they'll be able to use the tab before the event to get prepared and after the event for you to share follow-up info.

Services to Customers
I think there are a lot of possibilities here, too. You just need to think about what kinds of tools, services and information your target customers might like to access in one location and then create a customized tab with those options. For example:

  • For those organizations that help people find employment, you can set up Netvibes to support job searches in different occupational areas. Create tabs with feeds from various job search sites, links to video on how to interview and to sites on how to write a resume, etc. I wrote previously about this idea here.
  • If you're an association, then create a tab that is useful for association members with links, feeds, etc. not only to your resources, but to other information and resources that association members might find helpful.

I know that there are other ways to provide this information and resources to people. What sparked my imagination here was the ability to customize a tool that other people are already using, rather than doing something that's completely separate from their current processes. Even if a person had to sign up for Netvibes specifically to access your tab, they're still doing so through a tool that they can use for other purposes. To me, it's like giving someone an addition to their Swiss Army knife, rather than expecting them to grab a new tool each time they have a new task.  I think it makes it much more likely they will use the tool.

As always, feedback welcome.

UPDATE--To see how this kind of tab sharing could work, check out my post on nonprofit management resources. I created a Netvibes tab to go with it that you can access at the bottom of the post.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Hi Michele!

I was so fascinated by the possibilities of Netvibes as you laid them out here, I spent the better part of my weekend setting one up and tooling around with it. I'm encouraged by the potential of use for Netvibes, wikis, and other spaces in improving what I've found to be mostly unproductive staff development for nonprofits. If we could use tools like these to customize staff learning, and without huge $ investments, perhaps the whole culture "divide" of training vs. learning could be better bridged. Anyway, thank you for this resource!

Rosetta


For very large projects, I wonder if this would really be robust enough. Do you think that compared to a bigger project like Vertabase (http://www.vertabase.com) the tool would be effective? What is needed to be able handle huge detail?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)