5 Communication Apps To Keep Distributed Teams Engaged

5 Communication Apps To Keep Distributed Teams Engaged

When opportunities to have the full team working face-to-face are limited, keeping communication lines open is a top priority for keeping everyone on-track. Emails have been the go-to method for long-form communication, but anyone who has attempted to keep up with an ongoing conversation via email has quickly realized they are not always the gold standard of communication. 

Group communication apps such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Workplace From Facebook, Yammer, and Chanty help keep your projects flowing and your teams communicating by giving them a centralized digital platform to connect with their coworkers. In today’s article, we will overview these diverse options in group messaging to give you a head start in your search for the perfect solution for your team.

1. Slack

Userbase

Slack and Microsoft Teams have been in steady competition with one another. According to Slack’s About Us page, their daily active user numbers for December 2019 is over 12 million, with Microsoft Teams rapidly rising to 20 million.

Key Features:

Communication & Chat Functions

Slack is marketed as a direct replacement for internal emails in companies, with their communications systems being their key focus. Slack’s communication system revolves around the use of channels – dedicated chat groups focused around specific projects, topics, teams, or departments. Slack’s integrated search features allow you to refine or broaden your search as needed to find the assets directly related to your project.

Slack’s platform also supports shared channels that allow for organized collaboration across multiple organizations without the need for multiple disjointed email threads, allowing collaborative organizations to consolidate their communications and ensure that key members are kept in-the-loop. Slack’s security features allow Admins to control exactly what existing content is shared with external members, giving organizations access to external collaboration opportunities while mitigating risk.

In Slack, typical text conversations can be enhanced with the addition of integrated and custom emojis, gifs, and reactions to diversify how ideas and reactions are expressed. These less-formal communication options help maintain a relaxed tone where appropriate.

Meetings

Slack allows users to communicate with audio, video, and screen sharing features during meetings. Audio and video features are compatible with mobile devices, allowing team members to attend meetings when out of the office.

Integrations

Slack offers a robust library of integrations targeted to a variety of industries including Project Management, Media, Marking, and Customer Support, among others. Integrations such as GSuite, Asana, Chat Bots, and Office 365 allows companies to use the tools they know and discover new opportunities.

For a full list of Slack’s integrations, visit their app directory.

Supported Platforms:

Desktop: Windows, macOS, and Linux (Beta)
Web: Web browser client
Mobile: iOS and Android

Pricing Tiers

Slack is available in four pricing tiers – Free, Standard, Plus, and Enterprise Grid.

Free Tier Features:

  • Unlimited private & public channels
  • 10,000 of your most recent messages
  • 10 integrations
  • File sharing
  • 1:1 voice and video calls

Standard Tier Features:

  • All of the features of the Free tier
  • Unlimited message archive
  • Unlimited integrations
  • Guest access
  • Priority support
  • 10GB of storage per user
  • Group calls with up to 15 team members
  • Screen sharing
  • Google authentication

Plus Tier Features:

  • All of the features of the previous tiers
  • Advanced identity management features
  • Guaranteed 99.99% uptime
  • Corporate data exporting options for compliance requirements
  • 24/7 priority support
  • Custom message history retention

Enterprise Grid Features:

  • All of the features of the previous tiers
  • Advanced security and compliance features (ex. support for Data Loss Prevention (DLP))
  • Advanced administrator customization
  • Support For Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM)
  • Legal support (ex. E-discovery)

A comprehensive and up-to-date overview of Slack’s pricing and features can be found on their pricing page.

2. Microsoft Teams (+ Office 365)

Userbase

The userbase for Microsoft Teams has been steadily increasing. According to an article from GeekWire as of the end of 2019, the number of daily active users of Microsoft Teams has grown to 20 million – up 53% of its former 13 million daily active users in early July.

Key Features:

Communication & Chat Functions

Microsoft Teams offers team members unlimited messages, 1:1 and group online audio/video calls, file sharing, channel meetings, and screen sharing. The Office 365 subscriptions provide added communication features with scheduled meetings, meeting recordings, and audio conferencing add-ons.

In Microsoft Teams, typical text conversations can be enhanced with the addition of emojis, stickers, gifs, and reactions to diversify how ideas and reactions are expressed. These less-formal communication options help maintain a relaxed tone where appropriate.

Meetings

Microsoft Teams is an ideal application for organizing and holding meetings with both internal and external members.  Prior to the start of your meeting, your meeting agenda can be shared and pre-meeting chats can be conducted with the attendees. During your meeting, you can take advantage of audio and video features as well as screen-sharing. After meetings, notes and recordings are archived in a central location, and with Microsoft’s integrated artificial intelligence you can automatically transcribe your meetings, making them easily searchable for future use

Integrations

Microsoft Teams allows for enhanced functionality with support for third-party integrations sourced from Microsoft AppSource.

Supported Platforms:

Desktop: Windows, macOS, and Linux
Web: Web browser client
Mobile: iOS and Android

Pricing Tiers

Microsoft Teams is available in two pricing tiers – as a free limited-feature standalone or as an enhanced version included with paid subscriptions to Office 365 Business Premium or Office 365 Enterprise E3.

The Free Tier Features:

  • 300 users
  • Unlimited messaging
  • Web versions of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Onenote)
  • Meetings
  • Calling
  • File Sharing
  • 10GB of team file storage + 2GB/user of personal storage
  • Unlimited app integrations
  • Screen sharing

Office 365 subscriptions include Microsoft Teams with enhanced enterprise security, customer support, additional cloud storage, and compliance features that are suitable for larger organizations.

Office 365 is available in two pricing tiers – Business Premium and Enterprise E3.

Office 365 Business Premium Features:

  • Microsoft Teams
  • 300 users
  • 1TB of cloud storage per organization + 10GB per license
  • Desktop versions of Microsoft Office apps + Outlook
  • Custom email domains
  • Access to other Office 365 apps such as Yammer and Sharepoint
  • Scheduled meetings
  • Access to an optional audio conferencing add-on
  • Added security & compliance features such as multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Office 365 Enterprise E3 Features:

  • All of the features of Office 365 Business Premium
  • Unlimited users
  • eDiscovery
  • Legal holds to assist enterprises with collecting assets for lawsuits and investigations

A comprehensive and up-to-date overview of Microsoft Teams’ (+ Office 365) pricing and features can be found on their pricing page.

3.Yammer

Yammer is an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) included with most Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions. Yammer allows organizations to share cross-organization updates using less formal “Facebook-style” communications, allowing senior leadership and constituents to engage with one another in a way that is more interactive and engaging than the standard email blast.  Yammer works alongside Microsoft Teams, operating within the “outer circle” of an organization, whereas Microsoft Teams is targeted towards an organization’s “inner circle”.

Userbase

Recent metrics for daily active users are not currently available for Yammer. The platform is best used in larger enterprises to improve the reach of organization-wide communications and announcements. Smaller teams may find less value in Yammer’s features if they are currently using other collaboration and communication tools.

Key Features:

Communication & Chat Functions 

While Yammer has many feature overlaps with Microsoft Teams (also included with Office 365), Yammer is optimized for less urgent newsfeed-style posts and updates rather than the rapid communications, telephony, and meetings focus of Microsoft Teams. 

Yammer supports 1:1 messaging, group private messages, “@mentions” to tag coworkers and flag conversations for their attention, allowing for collaborative and direct communications directly on the platform. While emoji support is not a direct feature of Yammer, users with access to an emoji keyboard can use it to insert emojis into conversations.

Meetings

Yammer is not used as a platform for meetings. With its inclusion in Office 365 subscriptions, the included Microsoft Teams will be the application of choice for standard team meetings. 

Yammer’s live event integration features allow you to plan and host events that support up to 10,000 simultaneous attendees by using Microsoft Teams or an external platform to broadcast the event to members of your organization Yammer network. Recordings of live events can be made available to your Yammer network for future reference and to give employees that missed the event the opportunity to review.

Integrations

As a part of Office 365, Yammer group conversations can use Office 365 connected groups features directly in the application, giving Yammer access many third-party applications as well as popular Office 365 products including Sharepoint, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Stream.

Supported Platforms:

Desktop: Windows and macOS
Web: Web browser client
Mobile: iOS and Android

Pricing Tiers

Yammer is included as an added service with most Microsoft Office 365 plans – see Microsoft’s Office 365 pricing page for options that include Yammer such as Office 365 E1, Office 365 E3, and Office 365 E5.

4.Workplace From Facebook

Workplace From Facebook is a social networking and communication tool that connects employees with an internal social network. Anyone that already uses Facebook and Facebook Messenger for their personal social media will feel right at home with Workplace From Facebook thanks to the common features and UI between the platforms. With Workplace From Facebook, team members are given a unique professional account that is separate from their personal Facebook accounts, limiting distractions and allowing your team members to tailor their professional profile differently than their personal profile.

Userbase

Metrics for daily active users are not yet available for Workplace From Facebook. According to the FAQ available on their website, the platform is used by over 30,000 companies around the globe. These companies span multiple industries such as retail, technology, telecommunications, entertainment, hospitality, and government.

Key Features

Communication & Chat Functions

Just like Facebook Messenger, Workplace From Facebook’s chat features allow your team to communicate with text, GIFs, stickers, emojis, and reactions to expressively tailor their messages and reactions. Team members also have the option to share unlimited files, voice clips, polls, and personal location data to streamline communication.

Workplace From Facebook’s video chat features supports desktop and mobile 1-on-1 HD video calls as well as video conference rooms with up to 50 members. Project teams can also be subdivided into messaging groups to keep conversations on-topic and focused.

In Workplace From Facebook, typical text conversations can be enhanced with the addition of emojis, stickers, gifs, and reactions to diversify how ideas and reactions are expressed. These less-formal communication options help maintain a relaxed tone where appropriate.

Meetings

Workplace From Facebook supports audio and video meetings for up to 50 simultaneous users. Meeting announcements and details can be communicated with Workplace From Facebook’s events feature, giving invited attendees an accessible pre-meeting overview with key details. 

Larger in-person meetings and conferences can be streamed live, giving remote workers an opportunity to attend the broadcast and chat live with other attendees. Recordings of live events are posted to the relevant group page, allowing workers that miss the initial live broadcast the opportunity to review them later.

News Feed

Workplace From Facebook’s news feed uses the same UI and basic functionality you are familiar with while leveraging integrated AI technology to prioritize updates from team members and projects that are the most relevant to each user. As with traditional Facebook, Workplace From Facebook allows you to share files and text updates to the news feed and receive comments/reactions from your team members, giving you instant feedback on your posts. Workplace From Facebook’s integrated newsfeed translation feature automatically translates text in the newsfeed to your team member’s preferred language, allowing for improved communication between multilingual teams.

Integrations

Workplace From Facebook has a catalogue of supported third-party integrations, allowing you to add additional features suitable for the needs of your team. Special integrations such as chatbots help to streamline repetitive tasks such as requesting/granting approvals, electronic signatures, and managing time off. Custom integrations are also supported, allowing organizations to develop their own solutions or have solutions made for their needs.

Supported Platforms:

Desktop: Windows and macOS (Dedicated Workplace Chat application)
Web: Web browser client
Mobile: iOS and Android (A dedicated chat app is also available for both platforms)

Pricing Tiers

Workplace From Facebook is available in three pricing tiers – Essential (Free), Advanced, and Enterprise.

Essential Tier Features:

  • 50 groups
  • 5GB of file storage per user
  • Integrations from their catalogue
  • 20 users per group video call
  • Workplace chat
  • 1:1 video calls
  • Auto-translate
  • Live video streaming
  • Tools for secure collaboration between companies
  • Basic support with their Help Center and Customer Resource Center

The advanced and enterprise tiers of the platform offer an add-on with adjusted pricing and features for employees that can be designated as “frontline workers” of your organization, significantly reducing the per-user cost of frontline workers that will not need access to all of the Workplace From Facebook features.

Advanced Tier Features:

  • All of the features of the Essential tier 
  • FREE for non-profits
  • Unlimited team and project groups
  • 1TB of file storage
  • Custom integrations & APIs for Bots
  • 50 users per group video call
  • The ability to flag posts as important
  • Organization chart
  • 24/7 Support
  • Added security, support & monitoring features 

Enterprise Tier Features:

  •  All of the features of the previous tiers 
  • Unlimited file storage
  • Enterprise-level live video features
  • Improved customer service response times
  • A dedicated support team with priority resolution for troubleshooting
  • Early access to new features

A comprehensive and up-to-date overview of Workplace From Facebook’s pricing and features can be found on their pricing page.

5.Chanty

With the Slack and Microsoft Teams competing for leadership in the business chat and productivity space, Chanty is an upcoming platform working to establish itself among the ranks as a more affordable and simpler alternative for small teams looking to increase their communication and productivity. Chanty’s integrated AI automatically prioritizes messages and provides message suggestions based on past user behavior.

To increase its efforts to compete with Slack, Chanty allows companies currently using Slack and other business communication apps to import their existing user base directly into Chanty.

Userbase

Metrics for daily active users are not available for Chanty at this time. Chanty is designed with small-to-medium sized businesses in mind, emphasizing their affordability and simplicity compared to their competitors. Chanty is a suitable option for teams searching for a basic task management and team communication option with essential text, voice, and video chat features.

Key Features:

Communication & Chat Functions 

As a budget-friendly minimalist communication platform, Chanty focuses on offering a more basic suite of communication features than its competitors.

Chant’s Communication Features:

  • Public and private conversations/groups
  • Group and 1:1 video/audio calls (group video calls coming in 2020)
  • Voice messages
  • Task management (create tasks, assign tasks, discussions in task-specific threads)
  • Screen sharing
  • File sharing (20GB of storage per user)
  • Reactions, gifs & emojis

In Chanty, typical text conversations can be enhanced with the addition of emojis, gifs, and reactions to diversify how ideas and reactions are expressed. These less-formal communication options help maintain a relaxed tone where appropriate.

Teambook

Chanty’s “Teambook” keeps your team communications and shared assets organized and accessible. As your channels are used, team activity is organized by conversation, task, files, links, and pinned messages for easy searching. 

Meetings

While lacking in features specifically designed for pre and post-meeting organization, Chanty’s integrated chat features allow teams to hold meetings remotely with text, audio, video, and screen sharing features.

Integrations 

Chanty supports integrations for a modest catalogue of popular third-party applications, with other integrations in development. Currently supported apps include Asana, Trello, and Google Drive. 

A full catalogue of integrations supported by Chanty can be found on their app page.

Supported Platforms:

Desktop: Windows, macOS, and Linux
Web: Web browser client
Mobile: iOS and Android

Pricing Tiers

Chanty is available in two pricing tiers – Free and Business.

Free Tier Features: 

  • 10 team members
  • Unlimited public and private conversations
  • Search features
  • 1:1 audio calls
  • Voice messaging
  • Task management
  • Community support
  • 99.9% guaranteed uptime
  • 10 integrations
  • 20GB file storage per team

Business Tier Features:

  • All of the features offered of the Free tier
  • 50% discount for nonprofits
  • Unlimited team members
  • Unlimited integrations
  • 20GB file storage per user
  • Group audio calls
  • Group video calls (coming later in 2020)
  • 1:1 video calls
  • Screen sharing
  • Dedicated support line

A comprehensive and up-to-date overview of Chanty’s pricing and features can be found on their pricing page.

In conclusion, distributed teams and remote working roles are only becoming more popular which makes the needs for effective communication technologies so important.  As more individuals look to remote work options, there are many roles such as software developers, telehealth and Graphic Design that have significant opportunities for remote work options.

Dale Strickland
Dale Strickland
Dale Strickland is a Marketing Coordinator for CurrentWare, a global provider of endpoint security and employee monitoring software. Dale’s diverse multimedia background allows him the opportunity to produce a variety of content for CurrentWare including blogs, infographics, videos, eBooks, and social media shareables.