Instant Messaging for Business: An Ultimate Guide

Live chat allows us to get the information we need much faster, it’s generally a more engaging way of communication that suits the needs of those working in dynamic environments.

Instant Messaging for Business

Imagine a situation where your day started just as it does each morning. You woke up at 7 a.m, made your first cup of coffee for the day, and turned on your laptop, announcing the beginning of the workday with a slow rumbling sound. Suddenly, as you were preparing the second piece of toast, a chill went down your spine. You remembered that you were supposed to have a meeting, but don’t know the exact time.

You type: “Hey Mark, can you help me with something” in your office chat, and sure enough Mark is here to save the day. Lucky he was online!

Instant messaging for business isn’t just handy in avoiding embarrassing situations, but it can be a powerful tool that drives productivity, boosts collaborative spirit, and increases employee morale and engagement.

That’s why we decided to explore the benefits of instant messaging for business, providing you with an in-depth overview of why your team should use it, to drive success.

Benefits of Instant messaging for business.

Let’s first talk about the benefits of instant messaging for business, and why your team should consider using it on a daily basis.

It connects staff members regardless of their location.

The digital era allowed companies to attract and hire talent regardless of their location. Instead of limiting themselves to one specific geographical area, companies can now hire the perfect talent that matches their needs and preferences across the globe.

Having an instant messaging solution is extremely important in these situations where employees are physically apart. Instant messaging aims to close the gap physical distance has brought and enables employees to stay connected, engaged, and productive, even when they’re miles apart.

It promotes collaboration spirit.

It’s easy to know what your coworkers are thinking when you’re in the office. They show it with their tone of voice, gesticulation, and the words they say. However, collaboration becomes a challenge in the remote setting.

Instant messaging for business helps remote teams gather at one central spot and exchange work-related ideas and thoughts that drive success and innovation. It allows teams to communicate both in group and private chats, enabling them to stay informed on the things that matter such as deadlines or task assignments. This, further, increases the team’s transparency and allows people to get to know each other better.

It supports other forms of communication.

Instant messaging isn’t useful just in cases where employees work remotely. Instant messaging in the office can serve as a complementary way of communication. For example, let’s imagine that you’re in a meeting, and a coworker needs to tell you something urgently. With an instant messaging feature they can just send you a message via your private chat you can look at your convenience. Furthermore, you can use the instant messaging feature as a personal notebook. Most chats allow you to send yourself messages, which is useful in times when you need to write down something fastly and ensure you remember it.

It boosts employee engagement.

It’s a wide-known fact that open communication paves the way for a more engaged and motivated team since it promotes more informal, and friendlier communication. When they have a few ways of communication, team members can also engage in informal communication that can help them get to know each other better. When they understand their coworker’s motivation, employees are more likely to collaborate with each other in a more effective way, which can, in turn, make a positive impact on their productivity and engagement.

It’s better than email

chat is better than email

Email is considered to be the king of corporate communication, and it’s not going to become obsolete anytime soon. Email is reliable, and we trust that our messages will be delivered and formatted to the purpose. However, going through emails to find the information you need can prove to be cumbersome. On the other hand, live chat allows us to get the information we need much faster, it’s generally a more engaging way of communication that suits the needs of those working in dynamic environments.

Furthermore, instant messaging chats are easier to scroll through. Most of them offer the search feature which allows users to effortlessly find the information they need.

Chats also allow people to build relationships more effectively, since communication is more dynamic than email, and it's usually more informal than email, which allows people to relax much faster.

Disadvantages of instant messaging for business.

Although it comes with a wide variety of perks, instant messaging for business comes with its own set of setbacks. Here, we’re going to provide you with a brief overview on what are the main drawbacks of instant messaging for business.

It can be a distraction.

Real-time communication can be burdening at times, especially if you don’t put clear boundaries about how you prefer to communicate via chat. People usually expect immediate answers when they send an instant message, especially if they can see you’re online on the chat. Responding to each and every message, especially if they aren’t work-related can distract us from our regular work duties which can, in turn, take a toll on our productivity.

It’s not good for any type of communication.

Instant messaging comes in handy when you need fast information, and at times when getting this information doesn’t require a lengthy response. Furthermore, instant messengers aren’t good if you need to discuss something that involves a larger number of people given that messages can be misplaced and some members might not see all the relevant information.

Likelihood of miscommunication.

Chat communication comes with one major downfall - the lack of non-verbal communication. By some statistics up to 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. When we exchange messages online, we miss out on the important part of communication, that can open a room for a different interpretation. When we communicate in person, we can hear the tone of voice, see gestures, and get a better sense of the things people we’re communicating with are trying to tell us. Instant messaging inevitably puts a barrier between us and requires strong levels of communication skills to get our message across, without fearing miscommunication.

Furthermore, instant messaging, if used excessively between participants, can lead to the displacement of essential information. If team members use the chat option excessively, they can clog the chat which makes it harder to find essential information needed for the project to be finished. That said, users should be wary about how they use it, ensuring the essential information always reaches the right person.

93%

93% of communication is non-verbal. When we communicate in person, we can hear the tone of voice, see gestures, and get a better sense of the things people we’re communicating with are trying to tell us.

Instant messaging etiquette tips.

Now, when we went over the biggest benefits and drawbacks of instant messaging for business, we should see what are the rules to follow while communicating via chat.

Start with a short greeting.

A good way to start a conversation over instant chat would be with a simple “hi” or “hello”, following up with a question about whether they’re available for chat, or when it’s the best time to contact them. The online signal doesn't necessarily mean they’re ready and available for conversation, and you should always make sure to double-check with them.

Keep it short.

Instant messaging, although convenient and fast, isn’t good for every type of message. For instance, if you need to write a lengthy message that would take some time to answer, it’s better to write an email instead. Generally, make sure to send short and clear messages via the chat platform.

Be careful with abbreviations.

We grew to use a lot of abbreviations while instant messaging. However, unlike chatting on Facebook or Whatsapp where we usually communicate with peers, using abbreviations in business communication can confuse some people, and it might not be appropriate in business communication. Generally, it’s only acceptable to use abbreviations that are widely known, otherwise, just make a full sentence.

Respect working hours.

We grew to use a lot of abbreviations while instant messaging. However, unlike chatting on Facebook or Whatsapp where we usually communicate with peers, using abbreviations in business communication can confuse some people, and it might not be appropriate in business communication. Generally, it’s only acceptable to use abbreviations that are widely known, otherwise, just make a full sentence.

Don’t SHOUT.

We grew to use a lot of abbreviations while instant messaging. However, unlike chatting on Facebook or Whatsapp where we usually communicate with peers, using abbreviations in business communication can confuse some people, and it might not be appropriate in business communication. Generally, it’s only acceptable to use abbreviations that are widely known, otherwise, just make a full sentence.

Keep your humor in check.

It’s easy to joke while you’re among your group of friends, as you know them better, you share the same interests, and you’re more likely to be the same age and have the same cultural background. However, humor isn't a universal thing, and it should be practised with caution, especially if we work in a diverse workplace. That said, make sure to tone down your humor to a minimum while chatting at your workplace, to prevent miscommunication and offending someone.

Be wary of how you’re ending the conversation.

It’s easy to joke while you’re among your group of friends, as you know them better, you share the same interests, and you’re more likely to be the same age and have the same cultural background. However, humor isn't a universal thing, and it should be practised with caution, especially if we work in a diverse workplace. That said, make sure to tone down your humor to a minimum while chatting at your workplace, to prevent miscommunication and offending someone.

How to make Instant messaging more effective?

Now that you know the benefits of instant messaging for your business, and what etiquette rules you should follow, let’s discuss some of the best ways that you can make instant messaging more effective.

chat status

Make use of your status.

Most people want the information they need instantly. When we see that the person we messaged is online, but still fails to respond to our messages promptly, we might feel frustrated. On the other hand, the person on the receiving end might become anxious about not responding to the message right away, and end up multitasking.

A good way to give yourself some time and room to work and communicate with your coworkers and clients are to make use of the statuses which will notify the people from your organization about your availability, and give you room to finish more pressing tasks.

chat discussion

Discuss one thing at a time.

Given the nature of instant communication, it’s very easy to end up discussing three or four different things via chat. However, clumping up the conversation with different information can only lead to confusion and misinterpretation. With that being said, to make online chat work to your advantage, make sure to always answer one question at a time and make sure to finish each topic before starting another one.

reading messages before responding

Re-read before responding.

Instant messaging is dynamic and fast, which is probably its biggest benefit but also one of the major liabilities. While instant messaging, we might be tempted to respond fast, without carefully checking what the other person wants from us. To avoid confusion, and be more effective while chatting for business, make sure to re-read messages, ensuring you understand the message and give the right information.

group chat

Group messages

Furthermore, to make instant messaging work to your advantage, make sure to group chats around people that need to know the information you're sending. Having too many people in the chat, who aren't necessarily affected by the things you want to say, can just make confusion and lead to miscommunication.

Another good tip would be to use reactions instead of words to messages (when it's appropriate) to decrease the number of irrelevant messages in a chat and allow an undisturbed flow of essential information. So, instead of "ok" or "me too", you can either react with a thumbs up or a plus sign.

Types of communication in the workplace.

There are two types of communication you can use while instant messaging for business: synchronous and asynchronous communication. Each of them comes with its own set of perks and downfalls, and we’re going to see which situation is best for which one.

Synchronous communication through chat

Synchronous communication

Synchronous communication usually happens in real-time, with all chat members engaged simultaneously. This type of communication is useful in situations where we need an answer to a question immediately, which is its greatest strength. Synchronous communication is also good during brainstorming sessions, as it allows the undisturbed flow of ideas, enabling team members to communicate more efficiently.

However, real-time communication isn’t good for all occasions. Synchronous communication falls short with teams who operate in multiple time zones or have problematic internet connections. It installs a sense of urgency which can be troubling for those who cannot engage in communication instantly. What’s more, synchronous communication requires full and immediate attention, and different people from the group might have different priorities that don’t necessarily align with the discussed topic.

This type of communication can also be damaging to productivity. Since it happens in real-time, it moves our focus away from the task we’re doing, and we constantly need to get back into the zone, which can be time-consuming and annoying. Simply, different people work under different schedules, use different methods, and complete different tasks, which makes synchronous communication unbearable at times.

Lastly, synchronous communication allows little room for error. For instance, during a video call, if the technology fails, everyone has to wait for the problem to be resolved or reschedule the meeting.

Asynchronous communication through email

Asynchronous communication

Compared to synchronous communication, asynchronous communication doesn’t require all parties to participate simultaneously to be effective.

Asynchronous communication works best when immediacy isn’t required as it allows all parties to read and respond to content at their convenience. Additionally, this type of communication leaves more time to gather information, thoughts, and opinions before answering questions, addressing concerns, or offering ideas.

This type of communication allows room for mistakes and tech problems. Let’s say your computer crashes in the middle of writing an email, you can just go back to it when it restarts. Furthermore, using this type of communication, you have more time to craft a message, ensure its accuracy, and review for mistakes before sharing.

However, asynchronous communication isn’t as effective in times of crisis or when you need an answer right now. Furthermore, this type of communication can be less engaging or personal than synchronous communication.

Wrapping it up.

After all, that’s been said, we can see why instant messaging for business is important. It allows remote teams to work as if they’re in the office, helps them engage with each other, collaborates, and be more productive. However, instant messaging for business isn’t perfect, and it comes with its own set of risks and liabilities we should be wary about.

We tried to provide you with an in-depth guide of instant messaging for business, its benefits and drawbacks, but also tips to make it work to your advantage.

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