The “death of email” has long been predicted. Futurists, tech entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley luminaries have been forecasting the demise of the long-in-the-tooth messaging system for the better part of a decade.
And yet… here we are. Many of you are unlikely to get through reading this story without being pinged, pushed or otherwise prompted to open an email or check your inbox, even though, as per our earlier article on workplace distractions and productivity, it drives most of you nuts.
So is email really likely to be phased out any time soon as the soothsayers predicted? No. The truth is that email’s near-ubiquity makes it the only way for businesses to reliably communicate externally, and it remains to this day the most used – and most effective – digital marketing tool.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t better options for collaborating and communicating internally. Below we look at four email alternatives that might give you pause next time you’re passing the company suggestions box.
What is it: Slack – an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge” – is a collaboration application based around conversational threads that take place on team or project channels. You can also link dozens of other apps like Google Drive and Zoom, allowing you to trigger actions in other systems.
Why it’s good: Used right Slack can be a live, searchable conversation that facilitates transparency and collaboration in a way that email inherently can not. More than that, it can become a central hub for all communication, project and document management activity.
Why it’s not: Some users do complain about its complexity and there’s definitely an argument that this is the kind of tech that mostly excites geeks – which makes sense because it was originally developed for use by video game developers.
What is it: Workplace by Facebook is essentially a work-y reimagining of the Facebook you know and love/loathe. You can post in team and project groups and follow colleagues for profile updates, just like you’re used to. And, importantly, your Workplace profile is separate from your personal one so Mum can’t accidentally jump into your quarterly sales results thread.
Why it’s good: It’s familiar, practical, and you’re on there half the day already.
Why it’s not: It’s not as functionally rich as Slack and it kind of locks you into the Facebook environment. Also: do you really want your work and personal lives to collapse into each other any more than they already do?
What is it: WhatsApp is a simple smartphone-based messaging, voice and video service that links to your mobile phone number.
Why it’s good: The most popular messaging app in the world – 1.5 billion users, apparently – WhatsApp is great for quick messages and updates. You can easily create new groups so you can manage communications among different teams and projects, and you can download a PC version that mirrors the activity on your phone.
Why it’s not: It’s a pure messaging app, so it’s not the place to share your 12,000-word vision statement. Also, unless you have separate work and personal smartphones, using WhatsApp for work makes you incredibly contactable after hours.
What is it: Hangouts is Google’s messaging, phone and video application.
Why it’s good: If you’re already using Google apps for work – Docs, Sheets, Drive, etc – Hangouts is a pretty logical choice. It’s simple and reliable and if you use WhatsApp it will feel familiar.
Why it’s not: It lacks the sheer range of functionality you get with Workplace by Facebook or Slack, and unless your office is a Google shop it might be hard to achieve universal adoption. Also, Hangouts is no longer available within Google’s G Suite paid subscription environment, so the free version may not be with us for much longer.
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