Looking for a simple way to improve communication in your small business? Chat tools can help. Faster than email and easier than phone calls, instant messaging is a convenient way to ask simple questions, bounce off ideas or quickly send a memo to everyone. Users can also use chat platforms for real-time collaboration with file-sharing capabilities, audio and video calls, project management and more.
Here are five affordable and easy to use chat tools for small business. The best part is they all offer free plans for small business users.
Slack offers a robust and comprehensive chat tool for small businesses. In addition to one-on-one and group chat, Slack comes with individual and team audio calls and videoconferencing.
Slack also makes collaboration easier than most chat tools. Users can organize multiple projects, teams and other items using hashtags as well as share files by dragging and dropping them into the platform or via Google Drive, Dropbox and other file-sharing services. All files and chats are also synced, archived and searchable for future reference.
Additionally, Slack offers a wide range of other third-party integrations, including Google Doc, Sheet or Slide for sharing and viewing files within conversations and during calls. [See Related Story: Collaboration Tools for Small Business]
HipChat is an easy-to-use chat app that also offers collaboration tools. HipChat comes with one-on-one instant messaging, group chatrooms, file sharing, screen sharing and video conferencing. HipChat also integrates with a wide range of third-party apps – Facebook, Dropbox, Google Apps and Salesforce – so it becomes a streamlined part of a company's communications.
Businesses can use HipChat either straight from the app's website or install the platform on their own servers at an additional cost. Either way, HipChat is accessible anywhere using a web browser, desktop client and mobile app.
3. Skype for Business
Skype is all about simplifying communication with a fuss-free chat tool that plays well with Microsoft Office. It offers both one-on-one and group instant messaging, audio calls and videoconferencing for up to 250 participants. Features include screen sharing, recordings and real-time PowerPoint, Word and Excel presentations. It also integrates with the rest of Microsoft Office, such as Outlook for scheduling meetings and OneNote for in-meeting note-taking.
Flowdock is a chat and inbox platform that lets teams collaborate and keep communications easily accessible in one place. It offers one-on-one private chat with individual team members, group chat and threaded discussions. Its team inbox feature, on the other hand, keeps and organizes emails and messages related to project management, customer support and other sources.
It accessible anytime, anywhere – over the web, using the Windows or MacOS app and on iOS and Android devices. Push notifications are available across platforms and devices, so no one misses an important chat request, email and other messages. Other features include @ mentions to call a specific user's attention as well as hashtags and chat histories with searchable transcripts.
Part of the Basecamp project management software, Campfire is a web-based chat tool that eliminates the need to install any instant messaging apps or clients. Simply create a password-protected chat room and invite team members to chat. Users can share files with live previews within chat rooms; supported files include image files (PNG, JPG and GIF), Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more.
The service also comes with such extras as conference calling, chat transcripts and add-ons for integration with popular Windows and Mac business software. In addition to the web, Campfire is also accessible on mobile devices and using the dedicated Campfire iPhone app.