What’s the best instant messaging for your business?

A versatile instant messaging app is a necessity for the modern business. Here's why, as well as the best options

Instant messaging is an excellent service for all types of businesses. These are just some of the reasons why your company needs a good internal messaging system.

Instant messaging connects team members in all locations

In the modern business environment, it’s becoming increasingly rare for all employees to work in the same office all the time. At any given moment, you may find employees working from various company locations around the world, at home offices, or at collaborative workspaces like WeWork offices. Instant messaging applications help people in all these physical places come together in a central chat location.

Instant messaging is great for collaborative projects

Instant messaging programs let you add as many participants as you like to a chat session. This makes them ideal for collaborative projects.

You can sometimes add an additional person to a telephone conversation, but you can’t add as many participants as you can when you’re instant messaging. Emails let you transmit copies of all correspondence to an unlimited number of participants, but these conversations are much slower than over instant messenger platforms.

Face-to-face conferences obviously have benefits for group chats, but they can’t provide the records instant messenger applications do. Many instant messaging programs let you save chats, creating records of what’s discussed. Chat participants can reference these records when they want to clarify points about their projects.

Instant messaging complements existing communication tools

Instant messaging doesn’t look to replace existing means of communication. Face-to-face communication and phone calls provide a human touch that will never go out of style, while emails make it easy to compose thoughtful correspondence rather than communicate on the fly. However, instant messaging services can complement these existing communication tools.

Most of us have been on the phone and needed information from someone else to answer the caller. In the past, we’d have put the caller on hold or ask whether we could return the call once we had more information. With instant messaging services at our disposal, we don’t need to interrupt our call.

Instead, we can type a message to our superior and send it in real time. Since instant messaging platforms issue instant alerts, it’s unlikely the message will be overlooked as an email might. The third-party can type a response and send it back, delivering the information the speaker needs to pass on. This instant messaging process is seamless and efficient, so it’s a great way for businesses to improve their customer service standards.

Instant messaging platforms overcome language barriers

In a global marketplace, communicating verbally with colleagues and clients of different nationalities can be challenging. Anyone who has spoken to someone from Australia or Scotland over the phone, for example, understands the challenge of speaking to someone with a thick accent. The difficulties are only heightened when communicating with people who do not speak English as their first language. Instant messaging can make communication with these people much easier because it reduces conversations down to the written word. Users also have time to respond, so they can select their words carefully and make sure they’re using the right ones.

Instant messaging platforms are affordable

In many cases, instant messaging platforms are available for free. Some business services have paid subscriptions, but even these are usually much cheaper than long distance telephone services. That’s because users don’t pay by the minute. There are also no Universal Service Fund fees or Presubscribed Interexchange Carrier Charges to consider.

Email can also be costly for many companies that rely on it as their primary method of communication. Long email reply chains and emails with large attachments can consume valuable server space, forcing businesses to upgrade regularly. This makes instant messaging platforms a more cost-efficient alternative to other electronic communication.

Instant messaging services have added functionality

When most of us think of instant messaging services, we think about sending simple text-based messages back and forth in real time. While this is a key functionality of instant messaging applications, it’s not these programs’ only feature.

Most instant messaging platforms let you attach files to your messages. This lets users see more detail about what you’re referring to in your conversations. Video conferencing is another common feature of instant messaging platforms. This functionality lets you communicate face-to-face with someone, much as you would if you were sitting in the same room. This gives communication a personalized touch which suits in-depth or important conversations.

Business instant messaging apps

There are a number of different business instant messaging programs that can help professionals communicate in real time. Consider the following instant messaging applications for your business needs.

Skype for Business: Popular business chat

Skype for Business is a pioneer in the professional instant messaging world. While it doesn’t integrate with as many other services as the newer instant messaging platforms do, its Microsoft Office Outlook integration is second to none. If you use Microsoft Office Outlook for emails and calendars, you’ll really appreciate this functionality.

Skype for Business also has video chat and screen and file sharing functionality. It helps you connect with business contacts even if they’re not using Skype for Business, as long as they have a phone or an internet connection. You don’t need to worry about the security of your conversations either, because Skype for Business employs strong authentication and encryption protocols. Cloud services are also available if your company has limited storage space.

Skype for Business plans start at $2.80 per user per month.

HipChat: Small business specialists

HipChat was designed with small business users in mind. It features all the functionality you’d expect from an instant messaging service, including group chat, video chat, and file sharing. Users can also share their screens with other users, a feature that’s ideal for providing technical support. The program also stores all your group chats and shared files on its secure servers, so you can easily look up vital information that you’ve discussed in the past. Or you can deploy HipChat on your own server for added peace of mind.

You don’t need to worry about talking about sensitive, confidential business topics with HipChat. All instant messages are transferred with 256-bit SSL encryption, the same high-level protocol online banks use. HipChat’s customizable alerts are another real advantage rarely seen in instant messaging platforms. You can get in-app notifications or receive email, SMS, or mobile push notifications instead.

HipChat is also compatible with just about every platform you could hope for. As well as the standard web app, HipChat runs on Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and Linux. The program synchronizes across all your devices so you can easily pick up where you left off when switching technology. There are no limits to the amount of chat windows you can run at once, so you won’t have any problems multitasking on a range of projects. HipChat also integrates seamlessly with hundreds of popular business applications including Bitbucket, GitHub, JIRA, and Google.

HipChat does offer a free subscription, but HipChat Plus users enjoy added functionality, like unlimited file storage, group video chat, and group screen sharing. HipChat Plus requires a $2 monthly subscription fee.

Adium: Free service for Mac OS X

Unlike most instant messaging platforms, Adium is always free. That means you can enjoy all of its features without ever paying a cent. However, there are some pretty powerful catches that mean it won’t work for everybody. Firstly, it only works on the Mac OS X operating system, which is bad news for workplaces that prefer PCs. It’s also not available for mobile devices, so you’ll be chained to your desk while using it.

If those downsides don’t dissuade you though, you’ll likely appreciate this adaptable open source system’s user-friendly interface and functionality. It supports a number of popular instant messaging services, including Gtalk, AIM, and Yahoo Messenger. This makes it easy to communicate with your clients and coworkers using programs other than Adium.

Adium’s address book integration and combined contacts are really smart. They mean you don’t end up with multiple contacts for the same user with different instant messaging accounts.

Your messages and the file sharing function are also secure, which is ideal for anyone worried about cyber threats. Messages are also searchable, so you can easily locate pieces of information from past conversations.

Instant messaging for business makes sense when you need to securely communicate with colleagues and clients inside and outside of your office. Research all your options, so you can find the best instant messaging application for your business.

Interested in workspace? Get in touch.