Instant Messaging and Video Conference Applications

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify instant messaging applications and capabilities
  • Identify video conference applications and capabilities

Instant messaging, or chat, is a way to communicate with others in a more informal and more synchronous manner than email. Typically, instant messaging applications allow you to see whether or not the person you want to chat with is currently online, away, or busy. If they are not online, you can still send a message, but they may not see it until later (when they are online again or if they are set up to receive email notifications of messages missed). Even if they are online, it is possible that they may not see or respond to the message until later.

Although most people think of instant messaging as a way to get in touch with someone quickly, keep in mind that if something is really urgent, a phone call may be best. Also keep in mind that although instant messaging is less formal than email, you should still use good grammar and be professional in all your business communications.

Two people on a one-on-one video callVideo conferencing is a way to communicate with others in a live virtual setting with audio and video. A video conference is two-way (or more, if you have more attendees), meaning that participants on the video conference can communicate over audio and video. In contrast, a web conference, webcast, or webinar, even when it is live, is typically just a one way communication with the host presenting to a group of attendees, with limited participation capabilities afforded to the audience.

Both instant messaging and video conferencing can be done using many different applications. Some of the most common applications are listed below along with some of their key features.

Direct Messages Group Messages Video Calls Audio Calls Chat Accompanying Video/Audio Calls Screen Sharing on Video Calls File Sharing
Slack X X X X X X
Google Chat X X
Google Meet X X X X
Microsoft Teams X X X X X X X
Zoom X X X X
Facebook Messenger X X X X
Appleā€™s FaceTime X X
Google Duo X X

The first five applications on the chart above are commonly used for business and are covered in more detail below. The last three applications are more commonly used for personal communication.

Many organizations use Slack, which allows you to send direct messages to a single person or to a group of people. It also allows you to create channels, which can either be public (anyone in the organization can access) or private (only invited individuals can access). You can also share files and search for anything previously shared. Slack also has built in audio call and video conferencing capabilities. It allows a user to share their screen during a video call but does not have a chat specifically for the video call. In addition, Slack integrates with many third-party applications to further enhance collaboration, such as Zoom, OneDrive, Google Drive, Survey Monkey,, and Trello, just to name a few.

Google Chat is a communication software that allows direct messages and team chat rooms. It also has a group messaging function that allows Google Drive content sharing. Google Meet is the companion software that allows audio and video calls, between two or more people. It also has the following features:

  • Accompanying chat while you are in an audio or video conference
  • Screen sharing
  • Ability to call into meetings using a dial-in number in the US
  • Integration with Google Calendar and Google Contacts

Together, Google Chat and Google Meet are the replacement for Google Hangouts, which still exists as of this publication but is planned to be discontinued in the near future.

Video conference with many participants on a laptopMicrosoft Teams is a business communication platform that provides both instant messaging and video conferencing, in addition to file storage and application integration. It allows direct messages, group messages, channels, and audio and video calls that can be launched directly from any chat or channel. It is integrated with Microsoft Outlook email and calendar as well as Microsoft OneDrive for easy collaboration and storage within an organization that already uses the Microsoft Suite. It also integrates with many other third party applications including Zoom.

Note that Microsoft Teams is replacing Skype for Business, which still exists as of this publication but is planned to be discontinued in the near future.

Zoom is a video conferencing application known for its simple interface and usability, regardless of technological expertise. It was already gaining a large amount of traction before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and became even more widely used after it started. In April 2020, Zoom had more than 300 million daily participants. Under its free service, Zoom allows video conferences of up to 100 participants at once, with a 40-minute time limit if there are more than two participants. If a participant does not have the Zoom application installed, they can still join using Google Chrome or Firefox. Zoom does not have a separate instant messaging application, but does allow chat during a video call.

In order to facilitate good communication, there are some simple rules of etiquette you should follow on audio and video calls. One of the most important practices is to mute your own microphone when you are not speaking so everyone can hear the speaker clearly and without interruptions. Particularly if you are presenting, you should also consider making sure you are dressed appropriately, have good lighting, frame yourself in the camera well, and have a quiet place to join the call. You should also be on time, look into the camera, and pay attention during video conferences. For important meetings or when using a new video conferencing platform for the first time, it’s a good idea to do a test run to make sure your technology is working properly.