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Email is boring. It has its place and it’s an important method of communication, but if you really want to stand out, it can be hard to do that through a simple email. Text and emoticons can only accomplish so much, especially when the recipient may have an inbox full of similar messages to read.

Contrast that with video messages which allows the viewer to experience your tone of voice, hand gestures, and facial expressions. I also find that if the process isn’t too complex, recording and sending a short video is actually quicker for me than typing out an email. Enter TokBox. MakeUseOf has previously touched on it Tokbox & Etherpad: Potential Google Wave Competitors, Available Now Tokbox & Etherpad: Potential Google Wave Competitors, Available Now Read More but I’ll take a deeper look at it today.

What Is TokBox?

The primary feature of the TokBox web application is its video chatting functionality. You can create a free account, integrate your contacts from other IM services, and video conference with up to 20 people at the same time using your computer’s webcam.

The core features of TokBox are free though there is a premium pay-as-you-go level for people wishing to add moderation features and scheduling to their account. Thus, TokBox can be an incredibly useful app for professionals looking to organize web-based video conferences.


But here’s what is especially useful about TokBox: It also includes a feature that allows users to record video messages up to ten minutes in length directly from their webcam. While I do use the video chat feature, I mainly use TokBox to send video messages. Recipients of your video messages need not be TokBox users either.

I have yet to find an app that works so well for both me as the sender and the recipient. You could record and upload a video to video-sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo, but I find that you either have to make the video public for the world to see, or you have to set it to private and jump through hoops to make sure only your intended recipient(s) can view it. TokBox videos are technically public in the sense that you don’t need a password or special clearance to view them (you can even embed them on your own site if you wish), but their URLs are hidden from public view.

When I record my video message, I can enter in an email address for the recipient, type a quick text introduction, hit Send, and the receiving party gets the message in their inbox soon after. TokBox doesn’t send the actual video file to them. Instead, the recipient simply clicks on a link in the email to open a browser window that displays the message in flash video format ready for viewing.

TokBox then sends back a message that the recipient has opened the video file. This feature alone has been extremely useful in cases where followup might be required. You’ll know for a fact that they watched your video message and when they actually watched it.

Why Send Video Messages?

There are plenty of situations where sending a “video voicemail” can be beneficial and allow you to maximize your impression on the recipient. I have personally used TokBox’s video messaging to introduce myself to potential clients, thank past clients for their business, pitch ideas to companies, request interviews with people in my field, respond to emails from readers of my blog, and ask questions that might be too difficult to explain in a typed email.

On a personal level, none of the aunts, uncles, or grandparents in our family can expect to celebrate a birthday without receiving a video message from my kids singing “Happy Birthday” to them. I’ve even used it to send a message to a friend who was stationed in Iraq for a year.

There are infinite other ways in which you could use video messaging. If you’re a teacher, send a video to a particular student who is performing well in one of your classes. Send a friend a video to cheer them up or offer encouragement. Send a thank-you message to your sister for the awesome birthday gift she gave you. Offer feedback to a company that produces a product you use. Send an introduction video with your resume to a potential employer.

TIP: You can send the TokBox video link through your primary email platform. Simply send yourself the initial TokBox message, copy the hyperlink that points to the video, and paste it into the email with the resume attachment. Here’s an example of a linked video.

If you can email someone, you can send them a video message. Let your imagination run wild!

Sending A Video Message

The steps to record and send a video message with TokBox are simple. First, create your free account and log into the app. Over in the left-hand navigation you’ll see a link to send a video message. Click on that.

If you’ve already configured your computer’s webcam to work with web-based apps, you’ll be all set to record right away. If not, click on the “Settings” link on the video message window to configure your computer’s webcam and microphone. If you’re feeling adventurous, hit the “Greetings” button next to settings. You’ll find some neat ways to spruce up your video.

Once you’re ready to record, simply hit the Record button and start talking. Hit Stop when you’re done and you’ll be able to review your message before sending.

TIP: Respect the time of the person who will be viewing your video message. Know what you are going to say before hitting record so that you keep your video as short as possible.

If everything looks good, enter the email address of one or more recipients, add an intro message, and hit “send.”

At this point, good things will happen. You’ve just set yourself apart from everyone else who is sending plain old text emails to communicate.

Do you send video messages? Which online service has impressed you the most? Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section below.

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