5 Best Instant Messaging Services for Small Business Project Collaboration

For small businesses and startups, instant messaging services are important for project collaboration and communication, especially when you are working with freelancers, remote employees, traveling clients, or on projects that need immediate attention.

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An instant messaging service should enable quick problem solving, allow users to share information, and send large files in real time.

They should also be user-friendly and provide a variety of functions, such as video chat and even conference calling options. In fact,  we recommend only choosing an option that provides a video conferencing solution regardless of your business size.

Consider an instant messaging platform with video conferencing capabilities

Here are the top five free instant messaging applications for small businesses that won’t set you back financially.

1. Google+ Hangouts

With the reputable name of Google, it’s easy to see why Hangouts is one of the top apps for instant messaging. Hangouts is an extension of Google Plus. It requires a Google Mail (Gmail) account and works the same with Androids, Apple devices, and computers.

Because it’s easy and free to set up a Google+ account from your Gmail, which many of your employees might already use, Hangouts requires virtually no installation.

Much like the former IM service, Gtalk, users can see when people are online and when they’ve read your messages. One big difference is that it’s more akin to text messaging, in that the conversation won’t end if you’re offline; the message will be waiting for you when you return, much like a text.

2. Adium

Adium is an open source instant messaging system for Mac OS X, so if any of your remote employees or clients are PC users, this would not be the best service for your business. However, this chat client is a favorite among Mac users for its simple interface.

It is a multi-protocol chat client, so it conveniently supports Gtalk, AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and dozens of other services, allowing you to chat with coworkers, no matter what service they’re using. Adium also provides complete address book integration and combined contacts, so each name represents the person instead of individual accounts.

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3. Spark

Spark is designed specifically for business use and works great with small companies. Configured to allow businesses to link it to their servers, Spark enables employees to access it with their company passwords and IDs as they would their email, so it offers a little more security and privacy. It’s also fast and runs smoothly, without interfering with other programs that might be open on your computer.

4. Jabber

Jabber is another open source application, and while it functions much like Gtalk, it can also be customized based on specific needs and desires. Like Adium, it supports other messaging systems under the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) open source software. Your business’s IT department can also control it so that you won’t have to rely on a third-party source for technical support.

5. Yahoo! Messenger

Yahoo! Messenger was originally created for more casual chatting between online peers. However, Yahoo! is highly adaptable to business environments. It has an easily customizable design, as well as video and voice options, and advanced privacy settings. It incorporates text messaging through your smartphone and also allows you to share large files and photos up to 2GB, in real time.

When comparing instant messaging services, make sure it has all the features you require for your small business and fits with the devices and computers you’re using. Your preferences for open source software or a name brand is up to you. All these applications are customizable for your business, easy to use, and allow for effective communication between employees and with clients and customers.