In light of public health concerns, many companies are turning toward online platforms to continue business remotely. This switch can be easier for some companies than others, and as a small business like Spotted Yeti Media, looking into financially responsible options for working remotely is a topic that peaked our interest. Here are five different resources that are great for video conferencing. Luckily, some of these may just be an extension of software programs you already have integrated into your work life. Let’s dive in and discuss the pros and cons of all five platforms.
Zoom is used by universities, such as Berkley and The University of Sydney. Their free plan can host up to 100 participants, unlimited one-on-one meetings and the usual instant messaging options. My biggest call out is that there is a 40 minute time limit on video chat meetings, and these meetings can only be three people at a time. However if you upgrade to Zoom Pro for $15 a month per host the meeting duration expands to 24 hrs, but to my surprise their description of Zoom Pro does not say if the amount of people for video chat grows.
Updates as of 3/16/2020:
In a commitment to continuing education, Zoom is now offering all K-12 schools in the USA, Japan and Italy free access to “unlimited time video chats”, which in past has cost $15 a month, per host.
Learn more: Zoom CEO Eric Yuan is Giving K-12 Schools his Videoconferencing Tools for Free (Forbes)
2. SlackSlack is a platform that was built for companies and large teams to communicate over instant messaging in what they coined as “channels,” or conversation threads by topics of your choosing. Slack is a great resource because it limits all messaging that is work related to one platform, verses using Facebook Messenger where your work and social life are intertwined on the same site. Slack is free to use for most purposes, but still extremely cheap even for large teams that require a high volume of file sharing and app integrations. Slack offers file sharing, archiving, and video calls. The Slack Basic Plan, which is free to download and operate offers limited messaging (10k messages which is still hefty) and unlimited one-on-one video calls. For roughly $7 a month per person you can upgrade to the Standard Slack Plan which offers unlimited messaging and group calls up to 15 people with screen sharing. I recommend the Standard Slack Plan for companies of 15 people or fewer who are willing to pay a fee to keep their work discussions separate from social media. It’s a small price to pay to keep your employees healthy and happy while working remotely and having one central hub of communication.
Our team uses Slack to post video inspiration and help each other answer quick questions on the fly.
3. Google Hangouts and Hangouts Meet
Another seamless option as a workplace platform is Google’s G Suite. So many companies have free Gmail accounts and use the G Suite for sharing documents, creating spreadsheets and the calendar for staying organized. But did you know they offer a Basic Plan that can become your central hub of workplace communication beyond what you already use? For $6 a month, per user you gain access to what they call “Hangouts Meet” which is their version of video and voice conferencing. With Hangouts Meet you can have up to 100 participants. The best feature, in my opinion, is how the video conferencing can be linked to calendar and email invites. All you have to do is click on the link and you are joining the conference call. And you can get a 14 day free trial.
Updates as of 3/16/2020:
Beginning this week, G Suite is providing free access to their Advanced Hangouts Meet subscription across the globe. This means up to 250 people can be on a call, live streaming can support 100,000 viewers and the ability to record meetings and save them on Google Drive.
Learn More: Connecting businesses and educators with advanced Hangouts Meet capabilities (Google Cloud Blog)
4. Workplace by Facebook
Workplace is a platform created by Facebook that was created exclusively for teams and large organizations. To be honest, my eyes rolled when I discovered the platform because it feels like Facebook has to be competing in every online market these days, but then I read about what they offer… Workplace’s free plan can host up to 50 people on the platform and group video calls can manage up to 20 people. If you upgrade to the Advanced Plan for $4 a month per person there is an unlimited amount of people that be hosted for much larger organizations. As for video chatting, this feature jumps to 50 people per call. The best part? You can try the Advanced Workplace Plan for 30 days for free, and non-profits get free access to Advanced Workplace, never having to pay for $4 per month, per person fee.
Bonus: Here's a great breakdown on the difference between Slack and Workplace.
5. Facebook Messenger
Facebook Messenger is first on the list because although it is not built for a company workflow it has all of the main features the other four platforms carry. It is worth noting that for a small business, Facebook Messenger may be the best option because it’s free (assuming all of your employees use Facebook). Messenger is an app for mobile devices and also can be used through your web browser on a desktop, so it’s easy to keep in touch with coworkers. You already know that Facebook Messenger is a great way to spread a message to a bunch of people at once, but it may come as a surprise that Facebook Messenger also has serious capacity for video chatting and group phone calls. Video chatting supports up to six people at a time, and a phone call can support 50 people. This is substantial for being an app most of us already have installed, and I recommend it as the most cost effective option, at least when it comes to adapting quickly and getting everyone on the same page quickly.
Video Conferencing Tips
Some of us may be more used to video chatting than others, but when it comes to using video chat as a part of your profession remember to keep a few things in mind:
Make sure you are somewhere that is quiet! I know working at a coffee shop or at home with your toddlers is what may work for you, but when it’s time for a video chat make sure you are aware of your surroundings and there are no background noises or distractions.
Can your coworkers see you? You may have found a quiet place, but is it too dark? Are you lurking in the shadows? Make sure you’re in a well lit area and your computer is positioned on a desk to avoid getting any glares on your camera.
Finally, yes - pants are optional if you’re working from home— so long as you stay seated!
Staying on top of media trends is something we do at Spotted Yeti Media. While we admit that video conferencing is not a daily part of our current business, we now realize it is a real thing to consider. Video chatting is a surprising but important part of the video industry as more of the workforce is becoming remote and flexible. You can stay on top of this and other trends here, or check us out on Facebook for even more timely updates on video marketing strategy.
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