Instant messaging has come a long way since the days of in-network AIM chatting. Check out these new features that make IM a fully featured business tool.
Read the writing on the wall
Handle these sticky social networking situations with a careful click of your mouse.
1. The situation: A client asks you to write a LinkedIn recommendation, but you have nothing nice to say.
2. The situation: Your intern adds you on Facebook.
3. The situation: A colleague confronts you for dropping her as a "friend."
4. The situation: You get an uncouth comment.
5. The situation: An employee is annoying you with inane updates on Facebook.
6. The situation: An associate posts and tags a less-than-classy photo of you.
Skype isn't the only big player in computer-to-phone communications anymore--and it isn't always the cheapest, either. AIM, Google, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo have added SMS support, so you can text your colleagues for free.
Plenty of IM apps now offer multimedia voice and video chat, like AIM, Google Chat and Yahoo Messenger. Many more offer instant file sharing, and some even let you do a screen share, like Apple's iChat and Skype 2.8, which is great for troubleshooting.
Instead of downloading a desktop app, a lot of IM clients let you chat right in the web page you're using. Google Chat works across many of your Google pages, from Gmail to iGoogle. And Facebook and MySpace's IM apps work anywhere within their respective sites.
If you have multiple IM accounts, you can use an app that'll get your contacts in one place. Top players are web app Meebo, desktop apps Adium and Digsby, and mobile and multiplatform apps Palringo and eBuddy. The only problem is you may not get the full video, audio or texting functions available on your individual accounts.