As you work to stay connected in this COVID-19 season and beyond, there are a number of tools available to you. To help with sorting through these tools, compiled below is a list of the most recommended as you strategize on how to stay connected. The two primary forms of communicating at a distance are text messaging and video calling. Here are some things to consider.
If you are just looking to keep informed or stay up-to-date on your contacts, text messaging is one of the simplest ways. One of the obstacles to this is that the two predominant phone operating systems, Android and iOS (iphone) do not play well together. So when you try to reach out like you normally would with text messaging a group of people the message can get lost or shared files (videos and images) can lose quality. As a result, you need to consider a messaging platform that works on both Android and iOS.
There are other applications and platforms you can use; however, Group Me and Facebook Messenger are the two that have the least barrier to entry, are free to use, and are fairly commonplace for most people. They both can be used on any device.
Group Me is a Microsoft application that allows you to begin communicating through the app or on the web through the creation of an account using only your email and password. Very little hoops to jump through, and you can easily invite others to join in on the platform.
- Allows groups up to 500 people
- Share events, files, etc.
- No integrated video calling
- Easy to use, start, and invite others
Facebook messenger is a separate application that is already integrated into your Facebook account. This is an easy choice if the audience you want to engage is already using Facebook. If you have a younger audience, there is a chance that they use Facebook messenger and not Facebook. Another nice feature is that video calling is already integrated into the application so you can do both with one tool.
- Up to 50 people on calls
- Up to 250 people in a messaging group
- Share events, files, etc.
- Can be overly complicated for the less tech familiar
If you want a more personal feel to meetings, you’ll want to use a video conferencing tool to communicate. Don’t be fearful if you are unfamiliar with the tools, they are easy to learn. This list includes the simplest of the available tools and are in order of recommendation. All of these tools can be used on your computer, tablet, and mobile phone, FaceTime being the only exclusion.
Zoom is the current leader of these tools. You don’t need an account to join calls. The free tier accommodates most normal use needs. Zoom has a number of helpful guides and help videos to navigate using it. If you are looking to begin video conferencing, Zoom is highly recommended.
- Easy to use
- Account not required to join calls, but host is required to have one
- Hosting is available with a free option, but limited to 100 participants for 40 minutes
Skype has been around a long time and is another Microsoft product. It is free to use and now works similarly to Zoom. This tool is a hybrid like Facebook Messenger. Skype can serve both as a messaging service and a video calling. Video calling sessions can be held with up to 50 people at once for about 10 hours daily.
- Up to 50 people at once
- Set-up and use slightly more complicated than Zoom/FaceTime
- No Longer Requires Skype Accounts
If your audience is entirely on Apple devices, FaceTime is an easy way to connect. It is already built into your Apple iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer. The likelihood however that your entire audience has access to an Apple device will be rare, but there may be some creative ways to use this tool if you feel as though no other tool is possible.
- Apple Only
- Up to 31 people at once
- Integrated into your normal iPhone use, so no additional account required
Google Duo is a possibility for audiences not Apple only, however you are limited to 8 people, you’ll need an additional account, and to download the application. If you are going to have meetings longer than 40 minutes and have a small audience, then this might be something to consider if you do not want to pay for Zoom.
- Up to 8 at once
- Requires Google Duo Account
Google's new product to compete with Zoom. It is perfect if everyone you plan to enlist into the meeting has a Google account. Otherwise, you will need to pay money to use the service with people without a google account
- Free for anyone with a Google account.
- Up to 100 participants for up to 60 minutes per meeting
- Requires a Google Account in the free tier.
You may have heard about these tools, but these are not options unless you are looking for a business type solution. Stick to one of the tools above if you are looking to video call in a ministry context or for personal use.
- Geared toward business use
Mitchell Bruce, Digital Media Specialist