The dos and don’ts of instant messaging in business

Instant messaging took a long time to become established in the business world. Even while messaging apps were getting increasingly popular outside of work, many companies continued using email as their only form of digital person-to-person communications channel. Now, finally, we’re starting to see a real upswing in the use of business instant messaging. But how does this change the way we communicate?

What does instant messaging mean?

When we talk about instant messaging, we refer to online conversations which are carried out through the exchange of comments from one user to another or within a group. The basis for instant messaging is each user’s ability to type messages into a chat window, and for these to then become part of a communication thread which can be seen by all members of the conversation.

Some of the most popular business messaging solutions are built into collaboration software. The likes of SlackSharePoint and Asana all have direct messaging functionality, which allows team members to have conversations around specific tasks or projects.

How instant messaging improves business

There are many reasons why a company might introduce instant messaging, but some of the most common ones are…

  • You have distributed teams
    Some of your employees may be located in different geographical locations and time zones, making it difficult to physically bring them together for team meetings.
  • You want to have an ongoing conversation over time
    There may be a particular topic that needs to be discussed over several months or years, which means it makes sense to have an open thread which can be accessed and enhanced over time.
  • You want to control access to information
    An admin user can monitor the rights of various team members and decide whether or not to restrict access to conversations based on a change in their role or their team.
  • You want to speed up communication
    Waiting for information and for people to answer questions can waste valuable time. Rather than send an email which may end up sitting in someone’s inbox unanswered, your users can send a direct message to the other person and trigger an instant reply.
  • You want to improve productivity
    Instant messaging users are often able to work through tasks quicker when they can have access to instant feedback and comments from other team members. Decisions can be made quickly, based on the information captured in a single conversation thread.
  • You want your teams to have fun
    Instant messaging is not just a good productivity tool, it’s also an opportunity for people to express their personality and share jokes and banter. Most of us are already using social media and messaging outside of the workplace to make people smile, so you may find that your teams soon start sharing inside jokes, gifs, emojis and memes to add a bit of fun to their workday.

Three tips for using business instant messaging

If you’re new to using instant messaging in the workplace and want to make sure you’re doing it right, check out these three tips.

Tip one: Be brief

The beauty of instant messaging is that it is by its very nature short and punchy. It was designed to deliver brief messages. As a contrast, email conversations can easily turn into long-winded trails of information that take a long time to trawl through in a busy inbox. Instant messaging invites us to be clear, concise and to the point – so make sure that’s how you approach it.

Tip two: Be active

One of the most typical scenarios when bringing in an instant messaging solution into a business is that everyone is excited about it in the beginning, and then gradually stops using it. However, as a business, you need to ensure you are getting value from adding the solution to your toolbox and ensure people are actually invested in being part of it. If activity starts to drop, you may choose to use regular incentives for the ‘most active user’ or ‘best team contribution online’.

Tip three: Be safe

If you employ some of the many thousands of remote or commuting workers who spend a great deal of their time working in public locations such as trains, business centres or coffee shops, it is critical that you have a detailed security policy in place. If there could be any sensitive information shared in the communication threads, your team members must keep their devices safe and out of view of other people.

(Here at DCSL, we designed a highly secure mobile app solution for Hospify, a UK start-up providing real-time communications between patients, clinicians, and support staff. If you have specific security needs, contact us to find out more!)

How messaging is evolving

Messaging software has the power to change the entire way a company communicates internally, but it’s also becoming hugely important for connecting with customers and the general public. In a later blog post, we’ll be looking at how to get real value from using direct messaging in the context of marketing, user experience and customer care.