I like Instant Messaging. In my book, it is definitely all it’s cracked up to be. Skeptics say that online chatting in general is just a time waster. True, you can waste plenty of time shooting the breeze with friends, family, and strangers, but you can also spend quality chat time if that is what you set out to do. Several times during the day and late into the night, I get questions from technicians and others via IM (instant messaging) while I sit here working, often not even breaking the stride of my workflow. As I type this and do my research, I am currently having three IM chats with fellow professionals. Part of these chats is gaining quotes and insight from the chatters themselves for this article. Now if they would just stop IM’ing me, I could finish this!

According to research, 60% of major corporations across the globe have already adopted an Instant Messaging system for regular office employees, telecommuters, and clients to communicate with each other. Four hundred million people worldwide are using IM regularly for business. AOL’s AIM chat program now has more than 180 million registered users. None of these statistics should surprise you. Just think about all the basic reasons why chatting is a good thing: no long distance phone bills, instant communication, and an instant response to the question at hand.

Group chat has a long history in the online world. It is the number-two online application after e-mail and in some cases even preferred over e-mail. Almost 20 years ago, I chatted on a local online service called a BBS (Bulletin Board System) regularly. There, I met and conversed almost nightly with other computer nerds and learned much of what I base my knowledge on today.

According to the PEW Internet Project, 84% of Internet users—or about 90 million Americans — say they have used the Internet to contact or get information from a group. Nail technicians and other beauty professionals are definitely among these “cyber groupies.” Technicians have been chatting online since 1994 and that’s pretty much how my life as Nail Goddess of the ‘net began. BeautyTech.com holds a weekly chat (Sundays at 8 p.m. EST) to discuss issues that affect our day-to-day dealings with products, clients, employees, bosses, sanitation, and more.

Mary Ballering is one of the original chatters in the NailTech group chat along with Terry Lansdale. The bond and friendship between them is incredible. Mary explains her feelings about chat: “There is so much information available these days and so many questions that a tech working on her own cannot answer. The chat room was a revelation, and a wealth of information and friendship for me.”

Shelley Lewis, a fairly new technician, loves visiting and meeting new people and took to chat very easily. It allows her to talk with those who post on the boards, as well as the NailTech e-mail list hosted at BeautyTech.com. “Plus they have so much information to share, and I enjoy learning about trends, prices, etc., all over the country — all over the world for that matter,” she says.

Joann Di Prete, sales administrator for Ultronics, chats for multiple reasons: to say hello to friends or to see what the latest professional discussion is about, what the latest products are, and what everyone thinks of them. “As a manufacturer, I also come in to see if I can answer questions on my company’s products,” she says.

Nancy King, nail technician and industry consultant, likes to chat when her travel schedule allows. Several times a month you will find her online chatting in both one-on-one and group IM sessions. The group chat of her choice? “The NailTech chat, of course!” One-on-one chat will find her mostly speaking to fellow techs, and occasionally manufacturers and educators. “I like the fact that we can network and get good information to use in our salons without the expense and hassle of travel in our Sunday night group chats,” she says. She also feels that nail techs and salon owners should make more of an effort to computerize so they can have access to the invaluable information that is available.

You never know who will happen to be in the weekly nail technician chat — from manufacturers’ representatives like Joann, to revered techs such as Tom Bachik and CEOs like Star Nail International’s Tony Cuccio.

How to Do it

It is easy to join in all the excitement and information of chat. Some people find it a bit intimidating at first — all those chatters’ words scrolling up the screen so fast! Over the years, some have commented they thought group chat was a closed elite group. It may appear that way at first, since many of the chatters have been meeting like this for months and in some cases years. We have become good friends, but we always have the doors open to others.

Anyone, no matter what Internet provider you use, can chat with us on Sunday nights. If you already have AIM installed, just IM me using Nailglass and I will show you how easy it is to group chat. If you do not have the AIM program, this is easy enough to solve. Just head over to www.aim.com and follow the NEW USER instructions. If you already have an AOL or CS screen name, you just need to download the program and install it (See the link “Already an AIM or AOL member? Click here.”).

Once the AIM program has been installed and you have signed on (the little yellow man in your task bar will have a blue halo when you are signed on), you are ready to chat.

To start a one-on-one chat, you need to know your friend’s AIM, CS, or AOL screen name. Simply click the single- headed IM guy on the AIM buddy list, type, and send. To group chat, click the triple-headed guy at the bottom of your AIM buddy list. When the window pops up, enter your own AIM screen name into the top section, leave what it says in the middle section, and in the bottom section (Chat room) type in “NailTech” and click the SEND button. That’s all there is to it. Don’t forget, NailTech chat takes place in the AIM Group Chat room called “NailTech” on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. EST. Anyone can instant message me for help using Nailgdsss.

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