Whether all of your employees are in-house, some employees work remotely, or you have some contract workers who come and go, you likely need some form of communication tool that allows you to communicate from your computer when getting up to chat or picking up the phone isn’t an option. In this post, we’re going to look at some free and premium options that will allow you to communicate privately with your employees through one-to-one direct messaging and group interactions, including the pros and cons of each.
Skype is a popular and versatile tool in a lot of ways for business communications. For starters, you can use it for text chat between in-house and remote employees to ask quick questions and get quick responses when the person is available.
Beyond that, you can get into more advanced uses, as shown above, such as group calls via phone or video, screen sharing, document sharing and much more. Think of it as a virtual meeting/webinar software for up to 250 people.
You can also set up permanent text chat groups with people in your organization, your contractors or your clients so you always have a line of communication open with the people who matter most. That way, people can chat day or night, which is perfect if you want to leave messages for colleagues in different time zones.
Like most communication tools, Skype is accessible on most desktop and mobile applications. Skype is free for simple text-based chatting or calling other Skype members. For business features such as group calls with screen sharing, enterprise-level security and more, expect to pay rates starting at $2 per month, per user.
Slack is another communication tool that is quickly gaining speed in the business world. It allows you to create a Slack team for your business, invite people to your team, and create specific public and private channels for your business’s needs.
For example, you could have a general channel for everyone in the business to join in and chit chat. You could have public channels for your sales people, your marketing department, your advertising department and similar groups. You could have a private channel for human resources and the chief officers of the company. And everyone can privately message everyone individually.
Additional features of Slack include admin and moderator functions to send messages to everyone in a particular channel using @everyone so that everyone gets notified. This would be great for, say, the head of the marketing department to make sure that everyone in the marketing channel gets the latest about a specific project update.
Slack also allows you to share files and links privately or publicly with the group. If you have channels dedicated to communication between your team and specific clients, it would make file sharing a much simpler and easier to trace process.
Most features in Slack are surprisingly free. If you would like to add in features like unlimited searchable messages, two-factor authentication, guest access, and other business features, your pricing would start at $6.67 per active user, per month.
- Facebook Groups
Looking for a simpler, more casual solution? You can always try Facebook groups! If you create a Secret Facebook group, only you and the members within the group can see the group, the posts within the group, and the fact that anyone is a member of the group. You can learn more about Facebook group privacy settings here.
Effectively, you know that your employees are likely on Facebook anyway. By getting your employees to join a private Facebook group for communication, you get a couple of advantages.
- You get to learn more about the public-facing side of your employee’s profiles. This might be important if your customers could come across them online and if that might make an impression that could affect your business.
- You can teach your employees how to use Facebook effectively. If your employees get used to using groups to communicate with each other, they could start using other groups to help market your business!
Aside from being free, Facebook also has a few extra advantages. You can pin posts to the top of the group wall for everyone to see. You can share links, photos and videos. All members can live stream videos from their phones.
You can also add files to the file repository in the group. We wouldn’t recommend it for back and forth revision file-sharing, but it could be a good place for resources that never change that need to be accessed by in-house and remote employees.
- Facebook Messenger
In addition to Facebook groups, any conversation that needs to be done in private can be moved to Facebook Messenger. This is the private chat you have on Facebook that can be done between two or more individuals via text or calls (and soon, video). This would allow you to continue business conversations from the group in private if they became inappropriate for the entire group.
The best part about Messenger? It’s available inside Facebook on your desktop, as a standalone website on your desktop, and as a standalone app on your mobile device. And like Facebook groups, it’s free, which is great. Just tone down the use of stickers and Gifs, depending on who you are chatting with.
If you are looking for something that is a little more robust and combines communication with project management, then consider Redbooth. While it calls itself an online project management tool, it’s really more of an online communication tool made for businesses with lots of project to manage.
In addition to traditional project management features, it also has built-in text chat which can be converted into task items in a project, video chat so that team members and clients can discuss issues face to face no matter where they are located, screen-sharing, the ability to comment on virtually everything, and much more.
Think project management meets instant messaging meets video chat meets online meeting, all-in-one, accessible via desktop and mobile apps.
While this tool is not free, it can be deployed amongst small businesses with pricing plans starting at $5 per user per month. Don’t feel like you have to be an enterprise level corporation to have the best in project management and communication.
Every business has different needs when it comes to communication. Definitely give these tools and others a try to see which one enhances the flow of communication between employees the best. The goal is to increase communication and productivity, not to make work life more complicated!
Do you use different apps for communication in your team? Let us know in the comments below!