Instant messaging (IM) allows multiple people to communicate in real time, via the Internet or an organization’s internal network. Simple, easy to use programs, called IM Clients, make this possible. Many IM Clients are available on the Internet for a free download and even as a free business software application. Messages most commonly contain simple text, but the technology also permits images, sounds, and other files to be exchanged. Speech and video communication, known as audio conferencing and video conferencing respectively, is also possible by using microphones and/or webcams.
Benefits of Instant Messaging
Unlike e-mail, instant messaging happens in real time. The software allows users to see when other users are online, and information can be received and replied to immediately. Instant messaging allows friends and family to stay in touch, and has replaced the telephone as a means of social communication for many, but it can also provide many benefits to business and other organizations.
Instant messaging has proven to be a very effective way of sharing information within an organization. For simple questions or issues that require a quick response, messaging instant text may be the best means of communication. Instant messaging is less disruptive than telephone calls and face-to-face conversations. Compared to long-distance telephone calls, IM saves money, as well. Instant messaging exchanges tend to be shorter than phone calls and in-person meetings, saving employee time, and IM conversations can be saved for future reference, if necessary.
Instant messaging is also gaining popularity amongst companies that offer their clients a way to contact customer support via live chat online. Tech support personnel chat with the customer via instant messaging while viewing the customer’s screen using remote access. Such situations are ideal for online computer repair and remote desktop support.
Beyond Instant Messaging
Instant messaging software is useful for far more than simple one-on-one exchanges. Contacts can be organized into groups, and messages sent to an entire group at one time. Most messaging programs also permit IM Conferencing, or the ability to exchange instant messages with multiple people at one time. This can include voice communication, if desired. Spreadsheets, word-processing documents, slide presentations and other files can be instantly sent to all participants. Often these files are too big to be sent as an e-mail attachment, but instant messaging has no such limitation. In addition, many IM programs allow instant messages to be forwarded to a mobile phone as a text message.
Some instant messaging programs are teamed with other forms of groupware such as free screen sharing and teleconferencing applications that can enhance the collaboration even further. This powerful combination is ideal for Internet conferencing, remote support or a net meeting.
Instant messaging, like e-mail before it, has become a powerful collaboration tool that is available – and will soon become indispensable – to any individual or group with a need to communicate.