Virtual Teams Dealing with Communications
As a freelancer working out of a coworking space, I deal with virtual teams and virtual communication daily. One day I’ll work with a client over the phone, and the next I’ll meet and communicate with a whole team of individuals on projects.
Virtual communication refers to information being passed from one person to another through electronic means, the information is generally sent via computer, cell phone, or tablet. In this day and age of global economies, freelance workers, and companies looking to be more mobile and creative, virtual communications run the gamut of use and requirements.
In a series of blog posts, I’ll explore the top virtual communications systems used by various companies and organizations. In addition, I’ll show you how each type of communication is used and its best practices.
Virtual Bulletin Board
Let’s say you, your management or someone in your company has something for the team to see but it isn’t a rush, why not post it somewhere electronically instead of clogging up email? It’s for this reason that things like Facebook Groups and Slack are gaining traction.
As reported in 2016, there are over 1.7 billion active users on Facebook, and leveraging the experience that people already have with this social media platform. In other words, you could set-up a team on a Facebook group and generally require little or no education on how to use it. A Facebook group is a page that someone creates, and the rest of the team joins. Within a group, page members can post text, files, images, polls, and direct messages.
The nice thing about a group is that once you create it and all of the team or company joins it, everyone in the group receives notifications on anything that’s posted to that group, making it more useful than the standard Facebook newsfeed, where things can get missed.
However, Facebook isn’t necessarily the best option. If your group is too big – posts can get buried with all the other posts! Some companies don’t want their employees on Facebook during a workday, and there are some individuals who really don’t want to be on Facebook or have an online profile, so that’s where Slack comes in.
How I’ve Seen It Used
Facebook groups are great for small groups (I’d say 100 or fewer individuals). You can see what’s going on and get involved in the conversation. The drawbacks are when your group gets too big, posts get lost among all the other posts – making it difficult to keep up.
Slack isn’t a social media platform, it’s more of a messaging center with greater functionality than a Facebook group. You or your company set up a free Slack account and invite all your company or team to join the account. Messaging and posting is strictly for your team or company.
Unlike Facebook groups, conversations in Slack are separated into channels, so you could have a channel to talk about the latest project or a channel to talk about next week’s potluck, etc.
If you have a conversation that’s private, you can create it as a private conversation and only allow certain people on the team in, for example, if you were sharing information about a new hire and wanted to keep that information within the hiring team only.
Use the Slackbot
You can also set up Slackbot programs in Slack to react to certain words shared on posts. These are handy if you need to know the office wifi password. Set up a bot that recognizes any question about “office wifi” and it will respond to that question. Or maybe you’re trying to encourage others to eat healthier so when someone posts, “I had a salad for lunch”, Slackbot can respond to the word salad with “Way to Go!”
In the same way that Facebook allows you to share information, you can share files, images, and more in Slack. What’s nice about Slack is you can archive older posts and Slack allows you to easily search for any posts, documents, or files.
Slack has better functionality than Facebook, but some of the team might have to be trained on how to use it efficiently. Just like any tool in a toolbox, if you don’t know the best way to use it, you might be missing out on the benefits of having it. But the bottom line is, free up your email box for those things that are more important!
How I’ve Seen It Used
I’d have to say that Slack is my favorite tool. FatPipe ABQ (where I rent a desk) has a Slack that everyone in the building is on. We let each other know about important events and it’s a great way to spread the word about important things. Okay, so maybe that important thing is that someone brought in tiramisu for the office, but that’s important, isn’t it?
Stay tuned for the next blog on Virtual Communications! Meanwhile, if you need a writer for your small business, drop me a line.