Instant Messaging for Businesses

The days only seem to be getting shorter and shorter. With everything else that must be done, business executives have no time to talk with colleagues and customers over the telephone. E-mail is almost as bad because they take time to be received and answered. So are there business communication alternatives?

When it first began, instant messagers were a common medium through which teenagers could communicate to friends and relatives online. From that trend sprung the infamous “IM Lingo,” which consists of abbreviations of common phrases. It was uncommon to find an instant message conversation that didn’t include all-lower-case letters, abbreviations and incorrect sentence structure.

Recently, however, businesses have begun to use instant messagers as a way to effectively communicate with business associates and customers. If you’ve had communication issues within your business, or if you are looking for ways to maximize time management, take a look at the pros and cons to introducing instant messaging into your office.


1. Time Management. How often have you played phone tags with business partners? Or played the voicemail game with clients? E-mails get lost in cyber space, memos get trashed upon receipt and lengthy conversations take valuable time out of your day. So what’s the solution? Instant messaging allows people to quickly and effectively communicate their needs or information. With a click of a button, your message pops up on the recipient’s computer, regardless of whether or not they are at their computer.

2. Customer Relations. Be honest: are you always available for your customers to reach you by phone? Probably not. And voicemail messages can be garbled or even lost. With instant messages, your customers can reach you in just a few seconds, and you can either read the message as soon as you receive it, or tend to it later. You can also set up the “Away” message feature that tells people that you are away from your desk, and can even tell them what time you will return.

3. Technology. Now, rather than only having access from your PC at work or at home, you can receive instant messages virtually anywhere. They can be sent directly to your cellular phone, your PDA, or your laptop computer. This makes communication “on-the-go” much more effective. And you don’t have to worry about the annoying background noise at the airport or in your car that might garble a telephone conversation.

4. Professionalism. Rather than recording a new voicemail message or sending out an e-mail memo, you can simply inform your colleagues and customers of your whereabouts using the instant messager. For example, if you plan to be out of town, simply type a polite message into your Away pop-up that says when you will return and your contact numbers. Your customers will be pleased with this added service, and it will avoid a full voicemail box upon your return.


1. Security. Just like e-mail and other technological devices, instant messages are not entirely secure. For example, if you are away from your desk and a colleague sends an IM with sensitive information included in the subject, anyone who walks into your office can read the note. Hackers, viruses and spyware can also wreak havoc with IM systems.

2. Legalities. As with e-mail, you must be careful what you say. I would never advise you to have a heated argument with another person via instant messager. Not only might you say something you wouldn’t say otherwise, but the recipient will have a printed record of what you said. Also, many people feel more bold behind the anonymity of instant messager, and you might say something that you would never say over the telephone.

3. Misuse. If you provide instant messager services to all of your employees, there is no way to track how the service is used. You might find that half of your staff is using it to chat with friends while they should be working. IM users can communicate with anyone inside and outside the office.


If you have decided that instant messager would be an asset to your business, here are a few services from which you can download free IM’s. Choose the one that works best for your company.

1. AOL Instant Messager (AIM) – This is the most popular instant message service, with more than 300 million users worldwide.

2. MSN Messenger – This is the second most popular service, though it is more difficult to use than AIM.

3. JabberNow – This is an IM service designed specifically for small businesses. It has an open source XML-based platform and they also offer internal IM services.

4. Yahoo! Messenger

5. GoogleTalk

6. eMessenger

7. ICQ

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