Zula could be the internal messaging app you’ve been waiting for

Posted on January 15, 2014 11:34 am by | Internal | Mobile

Zula logoBeing partly focused, as I am, on employee communications, I keep looking for a mobile messaging app that will accommodate the kind of worker-to-worker communication that goes on inside an enterprise. There are two specific needs that none of the existing crop of apps are missing:

  1. The ability to send a text message to all employees or targeted groups of employees—Setting up SMS text messaging for staff is costly and complicated, particularly if you want to create multiple groups. For example, employees who want to get text-message updates about the manufacturing facility where they work should be able to subscribe without having to also get updates about personnel moves at headquarters, about which they just don’t care.

  2. Team communication—A supervisor can text the employees on his team and team members can text each other. This would also work for project teams and other ad hoc groups within the organization.

Satisfying these internal needs is getting more and more important as email’s usefulness diminishes and mobile becomes the primary means of access, particularly for employees who didn’t sit at computers.

I’m still waiting for a good solution for subscription-based messaging, but I may have found the answer to group messaging. It’s called Zula, introduced at TechCrunch Disrput 2013 by its founders, Jacob Ner-David and Jeff Pulver (founder of the Twitter-focused 140 Characters conference). It was Jeff’s Facebook update that got me to install Zula, which is available for the iOS and Android platforms.

Now I just need a team to try it out with.

The features, though, are made for business. You create the Zula for the topic under discussion, which can be anything from day-to-day team activities to special projects or issues. Up to 18 people can participate—about the maximum number that fits around a conference table. Once you invite the participants from other platforms they participate in (including GMail contacts, Facebook, and LinkedIn), you can begin the conversation that can include event scheduling, file attachments and polls. You can even initiate a conference call with the Zula’s participants with one tap of an icon. Even better, the entire conversation thread is searchable. One-to-one messaging is also available.

 

Zula features

From a security standpoint, Zula promises the content shared is secure and private; “Only team members can see the posts and files shared there,” according to the website. Even Zula’s personnel can’t read them.

Each Zula appears on the homescreen as a tile with an image you select, which means the various work-related conversations you’re having are accessible from one place. There’s no reason you couldn’t include groups from outside work, such as teams working on volunteer projects, or even family members planning a vacation. But the security and feature set are ideal for the workplace.

The app is free for now, and according to the founders’ TechCrunch pitch (in the video below), it’ll remain free for a limited number of Zulas, after which a fee will kick in.

The app is still new, so I expect additional features and functionality will be added as the company gets feedback. There’s even a “Your Feature” icon that makes it easy to suggest an enhancement.

I’ll pitch Zula as a communication vehicle for the next project team I’m part of. Take a look, though, and let me know if you think this could be a team communication solution in your organization.

 

Comments

  • 1.I wish I'd had this two weeks ago on an unexpected, intense (some might say crisis) communication project, so it's definitely going into my recommendations for future considerations when staying in constant contact is critical and email is too slow. I want to watch how this develops. Shel, you should post this on Employee Communication Excellence on G+.

    Sheri | January 2014 | USA

  • 2.Excellent ... I've been looking for a good internal group messaging app as well. You should try it with the producers of the FIR Podcast Network!

    Bryan Person | January 2014 | Austin

  • 3.Shel, regarding your search for a subscription-based messaging app, allow me to introduce Thinbox (http://www.bizzuka.com/relevant-messaging). It uses a topically-based pub/sub methodology that allows users to subscribe to topics of interest to them and receive messages using the channel and device of their preference.

    The application affords complete parity between the needs of the sender and the preferences of a receiver. Thinbox is currently in private beta, but I encourage you to apply.

    Paul Chaney | March 2014 | United States

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