It’s no secret that team messaging apps are all the rage right now.
The rise of remote work and collaborative company culture both highlight the need for teams to communicate beyond their email inboxes.
Couple that with recent workplace trends and the long-term impact of COVID-19. From managing meetings to brainstorming projects and beyond, team messaging tools enable coworkers to stay connected around-the-clock.
At the center of the remote work boom is Slack, the team messaging juggernaut with well over 12 million daily active users.
Perhaps you’re considering Slack for your team or want to know what all the hype is about.
Or maybe you’re interested in learning more about Slack alternatives.
Either way, we’ve got you covered. By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to pick out the best team chat app based on your business’ needs.
What is Slack?
Before we can get into the nitty-gritty, we need to talk about Slack.
Slack is a team messager and collaboration app. More than just an instant messenger, Slack users communicate within designated channels (think: #marketing, #sales) based on their roles within a company. A company Slack can likewise have “general” channels (think: #watercooler, #announcements) where anyone can chat.
Permissions, roles, and channels are all customizable based on your business and team size. Companies create their own Slack “workplace” (think: yourcompany.slack.com) which is private and only accessible by initiation via email. In other words, your company Slack is exclusive to your employees and guests are invite-only.
Beyond the use of #channels, users can also DM each other for one-on-one conversations. Notable features of Slack include file-sharing, tons of emojis, and integrations with major business tools such as Google Drive, Zoom, and much more.
Slack’s self-declared goal is to ultimately replace company email accounts and organize all of your communication in one place. With Slack, companies can conduct quick check-ins, track the progress of a project, or gather feedback instantly rather than sift through an endless email chain.
This video from Slack themselves sums up the tool pretty well:
Why is Slack so popular, anyway?
The short answer? The tool was in the right place at the right time.
The combination of Slack’s intuitive interface and a sense of privacy for teams was a major upgrade from more limited applications like Skype or old-school Google Chat.
Sure, Slack wasn’t the first team messaging app on the market. That said, the tool was fortunate enough to find an audience among startups. Customizable with its integrations and ease-of-use, the tool was friendly to both techies and users who aren’t exactly tech-savvy. This gave the platform universal appeal among smaller businesses and enterprise companies alike.
Colorful branding and the use of emojis also helped Slack stand out as a brand with personality. In short, the tool was something quirky in the often suit-and-tie startup world. Meanwhile, Slack competitors such as Hipchat were absorbed as Slack’s grassroots popularity continued to grow.
If you want to know more about the app specifically, check out our in-depth Slack review.
Slack pros and cons for teams to consider
Okay, let’s start with the good.
As a team messaging app, Slack is pretty easy to use. If you’re strictly concerned with consolidating your company communication and keeping a pulse on what your team members are up to, the tool gets the job done.
But again, why is slack so popular when other tools do the same?
Well, what sets Slack apart from the crowd is its massive library of apps and integrations.
For example, does your company primarily work out of G-Suite? You can access Docs and Sheets directly through Slack. Want to hop on a Zoom call? Reference something in a Trello board? The fact that Slack seamlessly works with pretty much every other major SaaS tool is one of the biggest points in its favor.
There’s also Slack’s emphasis on positive, proactive company culture. As team messaging tools become the norm, there’s undoubtedly a need for workers to create human connections. For example, many companies have dedicated Slack channels for sharing memes and off-the-wall conversations that go beyond what’s happening at work.
Many of Slack’s most popular apps and bots likewise focus on fostering a friendlier company culture. For example, Donut.ai looks at Slack users’ calendars to pair up employees to meet in-person. Such tools are awesome for onboarding and encouraging meaningful workplace friendships.
Slack can be used by teams of all shapes and sizes. The tool also goes beyond its core function of being a team messaging app as highlighted by its own use cases. For example, Slack can be used for:
- Building a self-service IT help desk
- Following up with marketing leads
- Conducting live chats with customers
- Updating your CRM records
- Welcoming and onboarding new employees
Okay, so what are the downsides to Slack?
For starters, Slack might be a bit too “busy” for teams solely interested in a simple chat app.
If you’re primarily concerned with messaging coworkers and sharing files, something like Slack is overkill in terms of features and its price tag.
Meanwhile, Slack’s plethora of plugins and a variety of channel options can be overwhelming to new users. Managing the variety of messages, channels, and notifications takes some getting used to as well.
This creates a challenge when onboarding employees who might be accustomed to apps like Google Chat or good ol’ email. Once companies invest in a tool like Slack, they’re more or less expected to go all-in in terms of adoption. If only half of your team is actively on board, it sort of defeats the purpose of the app.
Here’s a breakdown of some other oft-cited criticisms of Slack that have companies looking into competing team messaging tools:
- Poor quality video-conferencing out-of-the-box (especially when compared to something like Zoom)
- The feeling of employees always needing to be “on” and available, creating an unhealthy “Big Brother” vibe
- Poor search functionality, resulting in messages getting lost in channels and threads
- Needlessly annoying notifications for busy teams
- Slow app speed, relatively bloated when compared to Slack alternatives
Of course, Slack’s price tag is also sizable versus many of its competitors. Slack can be used by anyone but seems to be best suited for corporations and larger companies. Much of Slack’s marketing centers on customer stories of massive brands like IBM and Target (hint: companies with 10,000+ employees).
Sure, some companies claim that they can’t live without the app.
But unless you’re already on board, now is the best time to start exploring Slack alternatives that might make more sense for your team.
How to choose the right team chat app for your company
Whether you’re skeptical or totally sold on Slack, you shouldn’t just jump to the first team messaging app you see. Take the time to brainstorm the following factors which we’ve broken down below.
Consider your company size
This is a big one.
The larger your company, the more time you’re going to spend onboarding your employees.
Smaller teams (think: five to ten employees) can adopt new software relatively quickly. However, you might have a difficult time with certain Slack alternatives if you have team members that aren’t tech-savvy.
As a result, you’re going to want to factor in both usability and the size of your team. Smaller teams shouldn’t pay for needlessly bloated software, which leads to our next point.
Keep your budget in check
You obviously don’t want to blow out your budget, especially in a day and age where companies are looking to stay as lean as possible.
Note that there are free alternatives to Slack out there, so team messaging is within the reach of any company regardless of their budget.
Beyond paying for a team messaging app, also consider the ROI in terms of your time. For example, how long is it going to take to onboard your team? What exactly are you looking to get out of your investment (think: more productivity, less wasted time)? In short, you need to be able to justify your purchase.
Decide on the most important features for your team
This might be a no-brainer, but your team messaging tool should emphasize features that your team will actually use.
For example, let’s say you have apps and tools that are already integral to your business. Ideally, your team messaging platform should integrate with those apps.
Here are some notable features of many of the Slack alternatives we’ve done our homework on:
- Video chat
- Voice chat
- Mobile functionality
- File-sharing, commenting, and collaboration options
- Private messaging and private channels
What are the best Slack alternatives?
Listen: Slack isn’t the only show in town when it comes to team messaging software.
There are tons of Slack alternatives out there depending on your needs, budget, and team size.
In fact, we’ve broken down thirteen (13!) of them for you to choose from. By the end of this list, you’ll understand the key features and functionalities that separate the major team messaging apps out there.
Microsoft Teams is definitely one of the top Slack alternatives available based on its massive user base alone (hint: over 75 million daily active users).
The fact that Teams comes bundled with any PC running Windows is definitely a point in its favor. That said, where does it stack up feature-wise?
When comparing Microsoft Teams to Slack, Teams’ robust video conferencing features definitely stand out. It’s easy-to-manage video calls and screen-sharing are akin to something like Zoom. Voice chat is likewise built into the platform.
In terms of messaging, Microsoft Teams uses a combination of “teams” and “channels.” The former represents groups within an organization (think: sales, marketing) while channels are for company-wide projects and cross-collaboration.
Like Slack, team members must be invited to their respective groups and roles can be assigned to ensure that the appropriate people stay in the appropriate channels.
Microsoft Teams is fairly straightforward, but its interface is a bit boring compared to Slack. Details such as built-in stickers and emojis, however, signal that Microsoft is actively trying to make their team messaging solution feel less formal.
Unlike some Slack alternatives, Microsoft Teams isn’t lacking when it comes to integrations. As of now, Teams boasts 250+ apps and bots including Microsoft’s Office suite. That said, the tool prioritizes its own native software and formats before others (think: spreadsheets are automatically going to be exported in Excel and so on).
Microsoft Teams is ideal for companies who are already familiar with Office 365, though. If you’re already using Excel, SharePoint, or Outlook as part of your business, migrating to teams to streamline your workflow is a cinch.
The widespread popularity and availability of the app is also a huge plus. Heck, you and your team probably have it on your computer right now (granted you’re using a PC).
The takeaway? Microsoft Teams bit might be somewhat clunky versus other Slack alternatives, but it’s definitely poised to have some serious staying power. If there’s one feature that sets Teams apart, it’s video.
Pricing: Free chat, collaboration features, and video calling; paid plans with premium features and upgraded file storage and sharing start $5/mo per user.
Discord is unique among our Slack alternatives because it’s not technically a business tool.
In fact, Discord is marketed as a platform team messaging app for gamers. The app’s playful branding and messaging immediately set it apart from the crowd, but don’t let its fun presentation fool you.
The most notable feature of Discord is its “always-on” voice channels for users. When you join a voice channel, it’s like hopping onto a virtual group call. Through push-to-talk or voice recognition, the platform enables users to seamlessly take turns speaking for as long as the channel is active.
This feature is ideal for teams having long-form work sessions or looking to emulate the feeling of working side-by-side remotely. Discord also recently rolled out native video chat and screen-sharing which are both surprisingly crisp.
The app allows for basic messaging, DMs, channels, and friending. Users can either create an organization-wide Discord server with team-based channels or teams can collaborate within their own servers separately.
What’s Discord lacking, then? The platform’s alert and notification systems can quickly get out of hand for larger teams. File-sharing is limited, as is the ability to effectively search through messages for specific terms.
In terms of a showdown between DIscord and Slack, it’s almost difficult to compare the two.
Discord doesn’t have many shortcomings in terms of what it was designed to do but the app wasn’t necessarily built for business use.
That said, it’s among the best free Slack alternatives for smaller small groups and teams looking to check in with each other. The fact that Discord is free also makes it ideal for companies who just want to test the water of team messaging apps.
Pricing: Free; “Nitro” plan with “enhanced features” such as larger uploads and HD video starts at $10/mo.
At a glance, Mattermost and Slack look similar in terms of their interfaces.
Likewise, their features are comparable to most other Slack alternatives: teams, channels, video and voice chat, file-sharing, and so on. What sets Mattermost apart, then?
The platform prioritizes security and helping companies keep their data safe while staying connected via messaging. Mattermost is also notable as one of the only open-source Slack alternatives on our list, another major selling point for enterprise companies.
According to Mattermost, self-hosted team messaging means that you retain control of your data and don’t have to worry about monitoring from third-party apps (including mobile security). They also stress “unlimited customization” with APS, plug-ins, and the product’s full source code. As such, the platform boasts hundreds of app integrations.
Conclusion? Mattermost is a powerful team messaging app that’s definitely geared toward a higher-tech crowd.
Pricing: $3.25/mo per user; $8.50/mo per user for added data control and compliance capabilities also available.
Not to be mistaken for Google Meet, Hangouts is Google’s straightforward team messaging app that can be used by itself or in conjunction with Gmail.
The platform includes messaging, voice chat, and group video. One notable bonus of Hangouts is that it’s perfect for teams that already rely on G-Suite or spend most of their day in Gmail.
Unlike Slack alternatives that look to replace email, Google Hangouts is more of a supplementary tool for more immediate messaging beyond your inbox. Because Hangouts only requires you to have a Google account to get started, cross-collaboration between outside teams and clients is a breeze.
When comparing Slack and Google Chat, Hangouts may very well have the lowest learning curve of all the team messaging apps on our list.
Even so, its functionalities for larger businesses are limited. A lack of dedicated team channels and permissions is also notable. Although sharing Docs and Drive files is easy within Hangouts, the tool is more geared toward friends rather than colleagues.
Smaller, Google-happy teams could definitely get away with only using Hangouts as a team messaging app, though. It’s also one of the among the cheapest Slack alternatives given that it’s free on its own and is included as part of G-Suite.
Pricing: Free; also included as part of G-Suite which starts at $6/mo per user.
Chanty markets itself as a simple, AI-powered team chat app that emphasizes its ease-of-use.
The platform’s features are fairly standard in terms of messaging, including public and private conversations, teams, @mentions, and so on. Chanty includes voice and video chat as well.
A big differentiator between Slack and Chanty are features focused on workflow and productivity. For example, the platform has a built-in Kanban board (think: Trello or Asana) to keep track of projects and deadlines.
Chanty also provides users with an organized “teambook” to monitor tasks, messages, shared files, and everything in-between in one place.
A hybrid team messaging and productivity tool, Chanty is among the best free Slack alternatives for smaller teams looking to organize their tasks in addition to chatting.
Pricing: Free for up to 10 team members; full feature platform including video and voice calls is $4/mo per user.
Flock centers around collaboration, enabling teams to go back-and-forth on projects. This makes the platform ideal for teams who need to provide each other with mock-ups and feedback beyond simply having chats or calls.
Like other Slack alternatives, Flock allows users to conduct virtual meetings and presentations.
Organization features such as to-do lists and reminders are perfect for keeping teams on-task and committed to deadlines. Meanwhile, built-in virtual assistants and features such as team polls are distinctive to Flock.
Looking at Flock and Slack side-by-side, teams might have to navigate the former before being able to take advantage of the platform’s full suite of features. That said, its channel customizations and productivity tools are noteworthy.
Pricing: Free for smaller teams; $4.50 mo for full features and $8/mo for upgraded storage up to 20GB per team member.
Fleep’s platform is another team messaging tool that features in-app task tracking and management.
For example, the platform uses a built-in pinboard to highlight to-dos and finished tasks.
A common complaint about Slack is how the platform requires you to do some digging in order to uncover old messages. On the flip side, Fleep organizes conversations on your behalf so you can quickly hone in on relevant chats and conversations you’ve had in the past.
According to Fleep themselves, their distinction among Slack and its competitors are two-fold.
Firstly, Fleep enables you to connect to any other Fleep user. This is in contrast to Slack’s “closed” network that’s invite-only to those outside of your organization
Fleep’s second sticking point is read receipts to ensure that teammates have read and acknowledged in-app messages. This creates a sense of accountability among users to actually use the platform to its fullest extent.
Pricing: Free for personal use; $6/mo for businesses, custom pricing available for enterprise companies.
Ryver’s interface is yet another that’s comparable to Slack with team channels and dedicated threads for discussion.
The platform emphasizes team-wide collaboration, including the creation of “topics” and “tasks.” Dedicated reply threads are a nice touch to help teams organize their thoughts and tackle issues together.
Ryvermakes a case for itself versus Slack in that the latter’s slew of integrations are both unreliable and vary from user to user.
As an all-in-one collaboration and team messaging platform, Ryver strives to keep things simple. Additionally, the platform’s flat-rate, packaged pricing makes it a more cost-effective option when compared to Slack.
Pricing: $49/mo for up to 12 users; unlimited user plan is $79/mo and enterprise pricing starts at $149/mo.
If you’re looking for something different in terms of interface, Troop Messenger has you covered.
The platform is laser-focused on features related to instant messaging such as chat groups, read receipts, and message forwarding. Its burnout window (incognito chat) is also a notable feature.
Troop Messenger also includes audio and video calls as part of its platform. Relatively inexpensive, it’s a solid starter tool for teams new to messaging apps.
Pricing: $1/mo per user; the enterprise plan is $5/mo per user.
As noted in our list of Slack pros and cons, native video chat is one of the weaker points of Slack’s platform.
But video is exactly where Glip manages to shine. Seamless screen-sharing and video chat are included as part of the free platform without any additional integrations. Unlimited team messaging and file storage are also two huge selling points.
As a team messaging app, Glip shines are a unified workspace. Ease-of-use and seamless navigation make for easy adoption. The platform includes integrations with major tools like Google Drive and Dropbox make for seamless file-sharing as well.
Pricing: Free for up to 500 minutes of total shared video per month; $5/mo per user for 1,000 minutes.
Microsoft’s Yammer might best be described as a part team-messaging app, part social network. The platform combines messaging with features akin to Facebook such as updates, statuses, and “likes.”
Used alongside Microsoft Teams, Yammer is a place for large companies to share updates, announcements, and success stories beyond their work chats. The tool also seems ideal for larger enterprises where the need for longer threads and back-and-forth are necessary.
Pricing: Yammer is included as part of Office 365.
Flowdock is a team chat app that lives up to its namesake by emphasizing seamless conversations that, well, flow.
Threads, color-coded messages, and one-on-one DMs help users keep their conversations organized. Additionally, built-in bots and updates on tasks are prime for teams focused on productivity.
If you’re a part of a team that wants to have a constant pulse on your projects without too much bloat, Flowdock might be worth looking into.
Pricing: $3/mo per user; enterprise plan ($9/mo per user) and free 30-day trial also available.
Not unlike Slack, Rocket.Chat promises to put an end to email once and for all. Its channel and communication features are akin to other tools on our list but is distinguished by the fact that the platform is open-source.
According to the Rocket.Chat themselves, the platform is all about control including #private channels, robust account security, and bots to improve workflow. Being open-source, the tool is a scalable email and Slack alternative for teams to try out.
Pricing: Free for communities; $3/mo for a business plan and custom pricing for enterprise companies.
And with that, we wrap up our list!
Which Slack alternatives make sense for your team?
If you’re interested in helping your team work better together, your head is in the right place.
As noted by our guide, there are plenty of alternatives to Slack to help you make it happen.
Hopefully, this breakdown provided some much-needed insight and motivation to pick a team messaging tool for your team.