I would never have written an article like this a year ago when a friend first told me about Voxer.
Friend: “Angela, you HAVE to get on Voxer.”
Me, skeptical: “Why? I already have enough social media accounts.”
Friend: “No, no, this is different. It’s like text messaging, only instead of typing, you just talk.”
Me: “So…I have to play your messages to know what you said? That’s like voicemail. I don’t do voicemail. Who wants to listen to a bunch of voicemail messages?”
Needless to say, this friend was not successful in bringing me onboard the Voxer bandwagon. However, I kept hearing about it from other friends on Twitter, and reading blog posts about how people were using Voxer in schools. I couldn’t imagine how. So I attend a Voxer session at the HackEducation unconference this past June when I was in Atlanta for ISTE. Educators sat around informally and shared how they use Voxer, and answered all the questions of the newbies like me who, honestly, still didn’t get it.
I had a hard time understanding why it’s useful, and how to manage listening to all those voice messages. But, I was intrigued, so I decided to give it a try. Within a week, I was HOOKED. I have become a Voxer evangelist. Here are my reasons.
Why Voxer is better than texting, PMing, emailing, or calling
- You don’t have to disturb the person by calling them for something minor
- You don’t have to let the phone ring and then wait through their voicemail recording
- You don’t have to type anything out: perfect for leaving messages on the go
- You can hear each other’s tone (so tough with other social media!)
- You can share more than if you were typing—it takes 10 seconds to say it but 60 to type it
- You can get your whole thought out without being interrupted
- You can listen whenever it’s convenient: while driving, cleaning, exercising, etc.
- You can communicate so much more easily with a group: no more “reply all” email threads!
- You talk only with people you know (& possibly their friends): it’s more intimate than FB/Twitter
- You can be in constant connection without burying your face in your phone screen
How I’m using Voxer right now
As it turns out, listening to Voxer messages is more like listening to podcasts than like listening to voicemail:
With my husband: He hates typing text messages, so it’s perfect for him! We leave each other Voxes throughout the day, and it’s great to hear each other’s voices without having to coordinate our work breaks. I particularly like using Voxer to share little details of my life that I would otherwise forget to tell him or that are too silly to interrupt his work for. I also like using Voxer to give directions that I want him to be able to reference anytime but am too lazy to type out: “When you go to the store, can you pick up some spinach and also those little things that I forget what they’re called but we had them at the barbecue? Thanks, honey!” HUGE time-saver.
Non-professional individual chats with friends: We Vox each other when we have a story to tell, mostly. It’s faster than typing, we love to hear each other’s tones and expressions, and it makes us feel more connected than reading a message.
Non-professional group chats with friends: A have a small core of friends that live in different places: we post photos for each other in Voxer and ramble on about our day.
Semi-professional group chats: These have 2-4 people in them. We live in difference places and wouldn’t otherwise be able to keep up with each other’s lives so intimately. They’re all education entrepreneurs in some capacity, so we talk about how we’re using our time, new strategies we’re trying, and so on. This is my FAVORITE use of Voxer. Because the groups are small, they’re easy to keep up with and feel intimate. Chatting with these ladies inspires me–they’re the people I would get together for coffee with or a girl’s night if I could, and Voxer is the next best thing. Possibly better, since I get small doses of their awesomeness on a daily basis.
Mastermind Groups/topic-focused chats with groups of people who push my thinking: Now that lots of educators are on Voxer, there are all kinds of chats cropping up among people who work in separate schools but have connected via Twitter or conferences. The ones I’m in have between 8 and 20 people, and talk about specific aspects of learning and teaching. I am not a huge fan of this use of Voxer yet, probably because I don’t know all the people in my groups personally and the larger chats can be a little overwhelming because there are so many messages. But it’s interesting to connect with like-minded people and hear their ideas. If I have a question about something teaching related or just want to discuss something that’s on my heart, I can toss it out the group and hear a wide variety of perspectives from people who work I admire.
Book clubs: This will be a new use of Voxer for me this fall. I am so, so excited because I think Voxer is the perfect tool for it! We’re going to read a chapter of a book a week, and whenever we read something that speaks to us, we can just get on Voxer and start reflecting aloud! Then, we we have free time, we can play each other’s messages and respond. I think the discussion will be much better than an online book club where we have to type everything out, check our spelling, re-read to see if it makes sense, and so on. I know for sure I will share more because it’s going to be easier and quicker.
How I make time for Voxer and manage all my messages
I listen to Voxer whenever it’s convenient for me—unlike other forms of social media, there is no obligation to check it or respond at right away, and I don’t have to be tied to a screen in order to connect with people. I have a rule: no Voxing time-sensitive messages. For example, if my husband needs me to get something done and it’s easier to explain over Voxer, he’ll text me and say “Just Voxed you about fixing the sink.” That way I know I need to listen right away. If I don’t get a text like that, I know I can listen to my messages whenever I want.
I play my Voxer messages when I am sitting in traffic, going for a walk, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning the bathroom, putting on my makeup…pretty much anytime that I might have been either listening to music/podcasts or having the TV on in the background. Listening to messages from the most inspiring people in my life makes mundane tasks go by more quickly and energizes me.
How you can get started on Voxer
- Create your free accounton your phone. There is a pro version if you want to choose your own username and do very large group chats. I have not needed to upgrade at this point.
- Upload a photo of yourself. Since you can’t pick a username, it will be easier for your friends to recognize you with a picture.
- Voxer automatically shows you a list of all your contacts that have Voxer accounts already. You can start Voxing with them, create a group chat for multiple friends, or invite people that aren’t yet on Voxer to join.
- Explore the app! The interface is pretty straightforward. Check out the various settings and practice leaving messages for a friend. You’ll have the hang of it very quickly if you’re willing to experiment.
I recommend changing the settings so you don’t have to hold the talk button down if you want to leave longer messages: choose the setting where you can just tap the button once, and it will keep recording until you tap it again. You may also want to turn off the setting that shows your location, if you want to keep that info private. One word of warning: Right now, there is no way to delete a Voxer message–you have to delete the entire chat to get it off your phone, and it won’t erase the messages for everyone else in the chat. And Voxer messages could theoretically be shared with other people. So, treat Voxer like you do with all other forms of social media: think carefully about what you put out into the world.