A large part of getting organised in your business and your life is being willing to embrace different ways of communicating with your clients, your suppliers, even your family. This also important when you look to market a business for sale and how you will communicate with buyers.
If COVID has taught us anything in business it’s that the ability to continue to work virtually was not only possible, but a number of our clients and staff actually preferred it. No more lost time commuting between meetings, rather a smooth day of leaping from one meeting to another using one of the many virtual platforms available.
The platform that seemed to get the most noise during the COVID crisis was without a doubt Zoom. It wasn’t without its glitches as many of us adopted this new way of doing business, but, it certainly was the most flexible in assisting us to easily stay connected. Business Brokers were using Zoom during the covid lockdowns to connect buyers and sellers and ultimately selling businesses.
Many business owners messaged me during this time asking questions about Skype (now known as Microsoft Teams) and Google Meet (formerly known as Google Hangouts). Essentially all the questions were around security and why one platform was better than another.
Let’s take a look at each of the major platforms, share a little of their strengths and weaknesses and give you enough information for you to go forth and find the best solution to use in your business moving forward.
As I just mentioned, Zoom certainly got the most press during COVID. The platform itself has been around since 2011. It was created as a video communication platform. You could meet with another person in a virtual space while maintaining as much similarity as a face-to-face meeting as possible.
As a free platform you can schedule one-to-one conversations with people with no time limit, or you can schedule a group call with up to 100 participants for a 40-minute timeframe. You aren’t limited by the number of meetings you can schedule each month, and, for the most part, the quality of the calls on Zoom is excellent (this of course depends on participants’ internet speeds at their end).
With Zoom, you or your participants can share their desktop screen (handy for walking through demonstrations or fault-finding) and you can record the conversation, perfect for training calls.
A number of businesses, myself included, have been using a paid version of Zoom for years to allow additional functionality. Once you find yourself with a paid account, you no longer have time restrictions on group calls (well, as long as your meetings are less than 24 hours, that is).
With the paid version you’re able to ‘live stream’ to your Facebook or YouTube account (super handy if you wanted to interview someone as an example), and you can begin to get some reporting functionality, like meeting registrations. You can also opt for the webinar functionality if that’s something of interest to your business.
There were some concerns during COVID around Zoom’s security. These gaps have (mostly) been plugged now and, overall, it’s the perfect video conferencing tool to use with people who aren’t terribly tech-savvy as there is nothing to install or do prior to connecting.
I rate Zoom as the top video conferencing performer for small business owners.
Skype was one of the really early players in the video conferencing market, coming out in 2003. Owned by Microsoft, Skype is the preferred means of communication for Government and large corporate organisations, primarily because they are already operating within the Microsoft operating system and because of the inbuilt security features Skype offers.
Skype offers everything that Zoom does, and is perfect if you live in the Microsoft universe.
If you’re looking for webinar-style features, you’ll need to pay for ‘Skype for Business’; once there you can accommodate up to 250 participants.
My main issue with Skype is that it can be a little ‘glitchy’. The call quality overall tends not to be as good as what you’ll get with Zoom, in part I believe this is due to the additional security Skype has built into the platform. It also tends to be a little more convoluted to get into the platform and connect with people. While Skype say they have removed the need for participants to have installed the app prior to using it, I’ve had a number of small businesspeople find Skype difficult to use and navigate.
If you live in the Apple universe (like I do) you may already be familiar with FaceTime. It’s the inbuilt app on your Apple devices that allows you to easily call another Apple device via phone or video. You can chat one to one or do a group chat with up to 33 people. I love FaceTime for my personal life, connecting with family and friends, but it’s not a business application that you’ll find yourself using.
If you subscribe to the Google universe, chances are you already have access to Google Meets… maybe you just haven’t come across it before. It’s a great platform for collaboration inside the Google sphere; that is, if your team works in G Suite using Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc. Google Meets is a handy platform to consider bringing your team together.
Anyone with a Google account can host up to 100 participants for an hour, quickly and easily… perfect for collaborating or team catch-ups. Like Skype and Zoom, if you’re a paying Google client you’ll gain some additional features with your various plans, but essentially, it’s the same service as the others we’ve covered. It’s worth noting though that like Skype you cannot host a webinar inside Google Meets. The best usage for this platform for me remains for those clients already operating inside the Google G Suite universe.
While I’ve covered the most popular current video conferencing platforms, it’s worth mentioning there are a bunch of other options available in the marketplace, particularly if you’re interested in hosting and delivering your own webinars at any point. WhatsApp and Facebook also offer their own video chat features, but these so far for me remain options for our personal connections, not for a business setting.
Edited extract from The End of Technophobia: a practical guide to digitising your business (Publish Central $34.95) by award-winning digital specialist Tracy Sheen.
Tracy Sheen is a small business digital trainer, certified practising marketer and author of Australia’s 2021 business book of the year The End of Technophobia.
Tracy is a 30-year veteran of small business marketing and technology who is passionate about helping close the digital divide in Australia.