Video calling allows you to keep in touch while you're not physically close. It doesn't need to replace meeting people in person, but it can help when that's just not possible. There are many reasons why you might want to video call someone online. They might live far away; they may be ill, or it might even be that someone doesn't want you to miss something while you're not there. For example, a baby's first steps.

Video calling can help with your personal and work life and there are many different video calling tools you can use. Each have unique features and benefits. So, it's important you know your range of options so you can choose the right ones for you. You might use one tool for everything, or you might pick and choose different tools for each use.

In this lesson, we'll help you to understand the benefits of using video calling and help you to choose the right tools for you. We'll also give you some general support on how you'd go about setting up, making and taking call.


  • Know the benefits of video calling.
  • Feel more able to choose the right video tools for you.
  • Be able to make, take and set up video calls.

Read time

15 mins

Chapter 1


Read time

3 mins

What are video calls?

Video calls are just like phone calls, but instead of just voice, you can see the person or people you're talking to. They happen using the internet, so you can make them using mobile data or using Wi-Fi.

Adding the video element to your calls can help you to be able to interact better and to be shown things by the person. This can add a whole range of new abilities to what you can do via call while you're away from your friends and family.

To video call, you will either need a device with a camera built in or you will need to use a webcam.


The two main types of video calling

The two main types are generally used for quite different things. As the name suggests, social media video tools are used for more personal, casual, and social purposes. Web meeting tools, on the other hand, are often used for more formal meetings or meeting as a group. There are no rules for how you use either of these. But, there tends to be some benefits of each that means they lend themselves to different uses. Essentially people use them in the contexts that help them most.

The main uses of social media video tools

We've already said that social media video tends to be more casual and lends itself to one-to-one calls. This is mainly because they are built into social media platforms. So, you can phone with or without video and you can even message while on the phone. This is helpful if you want to send someone you're talking to a link or an image to chat about. These tools are generally used on a mobile or tablet but can be done on a laptop or desktop too.

Social media video tools make it easy to have a video call without having planned it. Much like a normal phone, you just make and take calls as and when you feel like it. Like web meeting tools, you can sometimes meet with a group and schedule a call in advance too.


The main uses of web meeting tools

These are commonly used for the opposite. They lend themselves to more formal and scheduled group calls. People will usually make these kinds of call from a laptop or desktop, but they can make them from mobile or tablet too. They tend to be stand alone services or they come built into software that is used for work. For example, Zoom is a standalone web meeting tool. Whereas Microsoft Teams can come by itself or as part of Microsoft's M365 suite of office tools.

Like social media, tools can be used for web meetings, web meeting tools can be used to make one to one and personal calls. You can use all these tools for a number of reasons, but it helps to use them for the ways they were most designed for. Doing this will tend to mean that you are more likely to get the best results.

Chapter 2


Read time

2 mins

Commonly used examples of free social media video tools:

  • Facebook Messenger - With video calling built in, this works through a Facebook account. It allows you to search for people who have a Facebook account and contact them directly.
  • WhatsApp - This has similar uses and benefits. You do not need a social media account to use WhatsApp you use it by connecting your mobile phone number
  • Instagram - You can access this though the message section of your Instagram account
  • Snapchat - You need to sign up for a snapchat social media account to be able to access the video call ability
  • FaceTime - Is a little different, as it is only usable by people who use Apple devices. So, you will only be able to access it if you have an Apple Mac, iPad or an iPhone


Things to consider about social media video tools

  • They're usually free - You may have noticed from our examples above, but most social media video tools come free as part of a wider social media account. They make their money by showing you advertisements, but it makes the tool free for you
  • You're signing up to a social platform - This means you will need to share some of your details. It also means you need to think about how you'll stay safe and manage who can find your account. If you want more help with this, you can take a look at our module 'Social media safety' later

How to choose

Ultimately, if you're going to opt for social media video tools, it's a matter of personal choice. You need to decide which social media platforms are right for you. We'll cover some of the main social media platforms in more detail in our module 'Using social media'. In that lesson, we will help you to consider some of the other benefits and features of each social media platform so you can make an informed choice on which is right for you. This will also help you in choosing a video calling tool too.

Chapter 3


Read time

3 mins

What web meeting tools are there?

  • Zoom - Zoom has a free option, but it will only allow you a certain number of attendees and some of their features. For full features you will need to pay. You should look at their price plans before you choose. Zoom is widely used for both personal and work uses
  • Skype - Skype is mostly free to use if you're calling Skype account to Skype account. You can also pay extra to call someone's mobile or landline from your Skype account. In terms of video calling though, it should be free to use for most if not all the things you want to do. Just like Zoom, Skype is commonly used for both work and personal reasons
  • Microsoft Teams - As we said earlier, Microsoft teams can come standalone or as part of the M365 suite of software from Microsoft. Microsoft Teams has free versions, but you can upgrade to access more features. So, do take a look at their website and pricing pages. Teams is most often used for work or for managing more formal meetings and conversations
  • Google Chats, Google Duo , Google Meet - Google has a whole suite of products which can be used to hold video calls in different settings. You should take time to explore their products and find the right one for you. As with the other providers, a lot of what Google offers can be free, but depending on the features you are looking for, you might need to consider paying for an upgrade

What are some of the things you should consider?

  • There's no need to join social media - With these options, you can video call without signing up for social media
  • There's flexibility - With these kinds of platforms, you tend to get more options to add features
  • With more flexibility can come extra cost - Though these services may offer more flexibility, you may have to pay more. Depending on what it is you want to do, it may be worth paying for the extras
  • Who is using them? - It's very common for people to have social media accounts, so though this is a universal issue, it applies more in the web meeting services. To make use of a lot of these services, you need the person you are trying to call to have an account with the provider too


How to make your choice?

As with the social media options, you need to take time to look for and read about the options. This means you can make sure you're finding the right option for you before you give away any money or personal details. The examples we've given you in these last few chapters are commonly used tools. But, there's even more out there. You should always check that the providers you choose have a good reputation. The best way to do this is by reading reviews or by asking people you trust.

Chapter 4


Read time

7 mins

Before you start

So, you're ready to make a call? There's no set rules on what you should do on your call, but there are a few things you can consider. Thinking about what people will see when they call you can help to set a good impression. This means thinking about things like lighting, your background and even how you look.

In terms of lighting, you should always aim to make sure the light source is in front of you. This way your face will be lit and nice and visible. This can be natural light - through a window, or it can be artificial light - like a lamp. If you have the light behind you - the person you're speaking to might not be able to see you properly.

Another thing to consider is your background. A white or nicely decorated background is ideal. You probably don't want people seeing you haven't done your dishes yet or a pile of laundry. So, think about what you are and are not happy for people to see. If you're on with someone you know well, this might not matter too much, so again - just like you would in person, flex your video calls to the way you would normally act with people.

A few final things to consider before you start is internet connection and noise. Video calling can use a lot of mobile data, so it's a good idea to consider joining from a Wi-Fi connection. If you can afford to and want to video call regularly, you should consider going for a provider who can give you stronger Wi-Fi connection. But, as with anything, better features means you will likely need to pay more.

Finally, you need to think about creating a space where you won't be interrupted by noise. If you can hear noises, the person on the other side will likely be able to too. If you have someone vacuuming in the background or a window open with lots of outside noise coming in, it may mean people will be unable to hear you. Some providers have noise suppression features to help with this, so it's another thing to consider when you choose a video call option.

Making a call

Once you're all set up and happy, you're ready to make a call. How you do this will always depend on the tool you are using. So, always look for help and support from your provider.

If you need additional help, you can phone our free Academy Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333. The Academy Digital helpline can give one to one support with digital skills to anyone over 18. You can call them if you need in the moment support or more support with getting online. In general, most services will make their call buttons easy to spot. They usually use a phone symbol for voice only calls and a video camera symbol for video calls.

When you phone someone from a mobile, you would find their name in your contacts and click to call. The same applies to video tools. You would search for and find the person you want to call and once you're in your messages with them, you can call. On social media platforms, you will usually need to have added the person on social media first and then they will need to accept. On platforms like WhatsApp, you just need to add the person's phone number to your contacts.

On web meeting platforms, it can work a little differently and you will need to schedule a call. We'll cover this shortly.


Answering a call

Answering a video call works a lot like a call. On most services, if someone video or calls you, it will come up on your device or you will hear some kind of ringtone. How you answer the call will vary, so it's worth checking the instructions or doing a test call with a friend to make sure you know how it works on your device.

Some require you to press a button to pick up. Quite often this says 'Answer' or 'Join'. If you're using a touchscreen device, then some services will require you to swipe left or right to answer or reject a call. A good tip is that a lot of these services use the colour green to mean answer and red to mean reject.


Setting up a call

We already said that web meetings work a little differently. On some of these services you can phone an individual by using their email address to find them. But most often you would set up a call by 'scheduling' it. You can schedule both one to one and group calls.

A scheduled call allows you to pre-plan a meeting or event. They aren't just for work. You can schedule a group call with your family or a quiz night for your friends. How you do this will change between platforms, but usually you will set the time and date of the call and you will be given a link and a code to share with the people you want to invite. They will then click the link and enter the code to be able to enter the virtual 'room'.

Some services also allow you to set up a quick meeting by sending the link and/or code to your virtual 'room'.

On the call

As with all these parts of video calling, your experience will be different based on the service you are using to make the call. There are a few features and pieces of advice that are common across most video calling services.


These are

  • The camera on and off button - This usually looks like a video camera symbol. This won't exit you from the call or end it, it will just turn your camera off until you turn it back on. No one else can turn your camera on or off - just you
  • The mute button - This one of the most important features of most video calling services. It can be the difference between a good and bad call, especially when you're talking to more than one person. The mute button allows you to make sure there's no sound coming through your microphone. This means people can't hear your background noise, the sound of you breathing, or any other sound you might want to block from people when you're not actually the one speaking. You should check how to mute and unmute on your chosen service. The mute button is usually a small standing microphone symbol. A line will appear through this to tell you if you're muted or not
  • Chat - Especially on a group call, the written chat is usually built into the video calling service and can be really helpful. You can get people to type answers, or you can send a written response to what is being said without having to interrupt the flow of the person talking. This is button is usually a speech bubble with lines in it to represent text
  • Screen sharing - Especially when you're on a laptop or desktop, it can be really helpful to be able to share what is on your screen with the people on the call. For example, you might want to show a friend your holiday photos. Most services, especially web meeting services will allow you to share your screen by clicking on a symbol that looks like a box with an up arrow going through it. Check your service's help function if you aren't sure, or you can call our Academy Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333
  • Backgrounds - If you want to keep your actual background hidden or to add a little fun, you can get virtual backgrounds. These allow you to upload your own or choose an image from your provider's list which will appear behind you on your call. So, for example, you could add a plain coloured background or a picture of the beach or a fake office. This is helpful if you don't really want to share your home space on a call


Module complete!

Well done on completing this lesson! You should now feel more able to choose and use video calling services that will suit your needs. If you want to know more about socialising online, you can go on to learn about 'Using instant messaging'. It will help you to use social media to send quick messages to your friends and family.


Up next for you:

Next module: Using instant messaging

Back to: Socialising online

Scottish Widows Be Money Well is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Scottish Widows does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 31st Oct 2022.