How to use slack to build communities and interact with customers

Kyle’s note: This post is co-written by myself and Jon Myers. We pooled our knowledge of how entrepreneurs are using Slack in new and interesting ways, and both came away surprised at how many creative ways people are using Slack.

Slack has exploded onto the scene, solving the pain of email and transforming team communication.

The platform’s ease of use, cross platform from web to mobile and app integrations allow teams to communicate and collaborate while creating workflows, which are tailored to the team’s environment.

In this post, we’ll examine some case studies of how entrepreneurs have innovated with the Slack platform to communicate with their customers and audiences in new ways.

How to use slack to build communities and interact with customers Click To Tweet

The death of the forum?

With the stagnation of forums and community software, other communities have followed suit.

The folks behind the niche product development company, NeedWant, have created their #Launch community on top of Slack. This community is for like-minded entrepreneurs, designers, developers and makers.

#launch

App makers such as Moogento have embraced the power and reach of Slack as well. Their plugin Slack Commerce makes it easy for ecommerce store owners to receive order notifications directly in Slack. This eliminates the need to constantly check Magento for new orders.

Related: 17 Slack integrations to spice up your team communication

7 Day Startup Slack group

The 7 Day Startup has had a Facebook group since before the book even launched. In the year since the launch, the group has grown substantially. Dan Norris recently created a private community to increase the quality of the experience and has a Slack channel as part of the group for people to interact directly and chat.

The purpose of this Slack group is to give entrepreneurs a resource that they can access on the go for quick answers to their problems. Many business owners don’t want to log onto Facebook and are on Slack anyway, so it is easy to hop into the group and start a conversation.

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Currently, the free version of Slack has a 10,000 message limit. So older messages will get deleted as the group grows. Staying with the free version benefits the group in 2 ways. It keeps costs down for members and upgrading to the premium version would only allow people to search through old conversations, which does not add a lot of value.

Dan anticipated the 10,000 message limit in the design of the community. He encourages quick questions and brief conversations in the Slack group. This keeps the conversation fresh in Slack and encourages people to be actively engaged in the community. He has a Facebook group for ongoing conversations and long threads.

“I want members to be able to chat on the go and get problems solved quickly. Entrepreneurs don’t want to go onto Facebook to solve problems and they are often in Slack anyway, so it’s a super efficient way to be able to get quick answers. It’s also great for getting members together in their own groups for things like masterminds.”

The channel is always open, so you can hop on anytime and start a discussion.

The community is still in an early phase and Dan has been collaborating with the group to make it more useful to entrepreneurs. Dan also has 2 community managers for the community and the Slack group to keep things organized, encourage members to update their profiles, and post threads etc.

How @thedannorris built a #Slack community for entrepreneurs on the go. Click To Tweet

How to create a community for your ideal customer with Slack                       

Pieter Levels was an early pioneer in hacking together Slack as a community platform with the launch of #nomads. A vibrant community community catering to digital nomads with over 3,000 active members.

After a successful launch and a large amount of press coverage of the site NomadList, Pieter wanted to create a social platform to connect his users. Pieter built #nomads, a Slack community loosely tied to NomadList and targeting ideal users for NomadList. The channels were based on both skills and locations relevant to the digital nomad demographic.

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He got few high profile names to sign on and test it to make sure the site offered something of value to new users. Pieter was also careful in his messaging and branding to make it as inclusive and open as possible.

“I wanted this community to be about the future people that will become nomads. For me that’s talented creatives like developers, designers, artists and startup founders, of any gender. And it seems like that’s what it is now.” – Pieter Levels, How to successfully build a community around your startup

It was launched with a landing page and quickly grew in popularity. In the first 24 hours of the launch, they were up to 300+ members and 5,000+ messages sent.

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Building communities at scale

One problem with building large communities with Slack is you must invite people to join the channel. When you are building a community with thousands of members, this can be a problem. So far, an integration has not been made to simplify or automate this.

With #nomads, Pieter used a hack that combines Typeform with Slack to collect all the necessary data and automatically invite them to the Slack community.

You can check out the technical details here: How I hacked Slack into a community platform with Typeform

How @levelsio built a thriving #Slack community for his audience and ideal customers. Click To Tweet

Slack communities for customer support

Jesse Pollak at Clef started a Slack community for 2 reasons:

First, many of their customers are integrating with Clef and they want to make sure their engineers have easy access to resources for them. Having a community where someone on the team is always hanging out means that anyone who’s working through an integration can pop in and get help.

clef slack

Second, their community has grown a bunch and they wanted to create a more personal connection with their users. They have found it to be a fun way to keep up with many of their customers..

Their Slack has 3 main channels:

#general

#integrations

#WordPress

Most communication happens in #general and then they handle integration and WordPress specific questions in the other channels.The channel divisions are pretty loose and they’re always happy to help or talk anywhere.

How @getclef uses #Slack to create an inclusive community to support and connect with their customers Click To Tweet

A code of conduct for a Slack community

The code of conduct is pretty important to them. One of the core values is fighting the default of exclusion. They make sure their communities are as inclusive as possible. The code of conduct gives explicit, positive, community guidelines for how people can support each other.

“Our community is dedicated to creating a welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or computing experience (or lack of any of the aforementioned).”

The channel is always on, but they have certain weekly events for their community. Every Friday they have office hours from 10am-12pm where everyone from the team is on Slack and can answer questions. Sometimes they have a topic for discussion and sometimes it’s just open ended.

Slack as a business development platform

Jon Myers uses Slack to guide his customers though his onboarding process.

Jon and his team have a process to qualify customers as soon as possible. This happens in email. They try and get a feel for the scope and then, if it appears that there may be a fit, they move to a Skype/Google Hangout call to get a deeper overview of the project.

At the end of the call, if it appears there is a fit and they move towards a proposal, this is when Jon brings up the Slack option, setting up a team for gathering requirements. This automatically gets a prospect into their system.

If the project moves forward, there is little onboarding time because they already have all the requirements there. Additionally, this sets the tone of communication, which will drive the rest of the project. Eliminating unnecessary, tedious Skype calls or in-person meetings, which are better facilitated by Slack.

So, they set up a Slack team and invite the prospect and key stakeholders to the team.

Oddly, we’ve had little resistance in most cases, and in many cases, if they become a customer and were not a previous Slack user, they take over the team and continue using it.”

In terms of the business development process, they’ve also been using Slack for fielding new project inquiries for prospects that seem serious.                  

Their next steps are:

  1. Inquiry – A qualified prospect comes in. They have a real project, real budget and want to move.
  2. Jon’s team sets up a Slack Team to manage communications and requirements gathering with the prospect. They invite prospects onto the team.
  3. The set up a private room/group called “proposal-requirements” and invite key stakeholders to the room to gather and shape requirements. The company may not want others on their team privy to requirements, cost/pricing discussions, etc..
  4. Hashtags – They use hashtags within the comments in the proposal-requirements room to better organize requirements.
  5. #resources channel – At this stage, it is helpful to create a resources channel, where they can passively create value for the prospect by sharing resources and information, which will be relevant to the project.
  6. #research channel – The place to gather intelligence on market, customer and competition, etc.. again, passive value creation.
  7. #ideas channel – Just like it sounds.

It goes without saying – with all the Slack app integrations, you can find creative ways to collaborate, create clarity and refine requirements.

How @jonmyers uses #Slack to qualify and onboard new customers and get projects done faster. Click To Tweet

Jon has used this approach now quite a few times for the business development/sales process with great success. Especially for larger, more complex projects.

The beauty here is the prospect is already in your world. You have the information, due to the Slack app ecosystem, the customer effort to contribute is low. And mainly, it’s much easier to just pull the trigger on the project, close and go.

Conclusion

There are many ways that you can use Slack to communicate with your customers and build a community around your business. In this post, we have seen examples of using Slack for:

  • Building a community around a product
  • Building a community to attract ideal customers
  • Creating a place to connect with and help your customers
  • Onboard your customers and prepare them to work with you

There’s certainly more on the horizon for the platform and more unique opportunities waiting to be discovered.

Do you use Slack to interact with your customers and create communities? Let us know how in the comments.

About

Kyle is the founder of Conversion Cake . He is the author of "The College Entrepreneur" A book for students who want to break into entrepreneurship. Follow him @kylethegray

13 responses to “How to use slack to build communities and interact with customers”

  1. Excellent post…lots of great ideas to implement. I am sharing this with the Learn Slack community (https://learn-slack.slack.com).

  2. Kyle Gray says:

    Thanks for sharing it Brandon! I didn’t know about that learn Slack community either. I am going to check it out.

  3. Kyle, I started it to help spread the word about great tips like this article–thanks again.

  4. John Meese says:

    Wow. I’ve been searching for a good forum alternative for weeks, and didn’t even THINK of Slack, even though I use it every day. This is gold.

  5. Kyle Gray says:

    Hey John! I feel your pain, there’s not a lot of obvious solutions out there. Let us know if you start using Slack for your audience and what you think of it.

  6. Lori Jade says:

    Hey Kyle, if part of your business model is to have ad listings in your forum area, does this mean you lose this opportunity if you build your community around Slack as there is no ability to advertise? Any suggestions because I love slack but there seems to be limited options to monetise your community…? Cheers, Lori

  7. Kyle Gray says:

    Hey Lori, that’s a great question. It seems like there’s two main ways to monetize a Slack community:
    1 – Pay for membership (like what Dan Norris did)
    2 – Align the community with a product (like with Pieter Levels did)

    I also imagine you could use Zapier to automatically post ads in the Slack feed. I write about how that works in this post: http://wpcurve.com/quick-start-slack/

    If you see in the post how we do our weekly meeting reminder, you could do the same with an ad.

    If you were really clever you could program Slackbot to respond with an ad when someone mentions something specific.

    So if someone in the community says “guitar”

    Slackbot would respond “Looking for a guitar? We recommend this site”

    I have not seen this done before, and I would be very careful as this could backfire but it might be worth experimenting with.

  8. Andy Willis says:

    Hey Kyle
    Fantastic article, thanks for sharing!!
    I attended the DNX Global Conference in Berlin back in August where Pieter Levels presented, love his concept of integrating with whats already out there and working rather than reinventing the wheel.
    Im a fan of using Slack, Ive been using it to help keep conversation on topic and organised for an event Im working on with my business partner who lives in Bali (Im in Australia) for 2016, its been an excellent way to both focus and have a point of reference.
    Incidentally the conference is about Working from Anywhere, we will definitely be including Slack in the presentations and workshops.
    Thanks again for sharing, I’ll be happy to share your post.
    FYI I got here as a result of your post in the “Nomad” slack channel ☺

  9. Andy Willis says:

    Sorry its was actually Jon’s post in the “Nomad” Slack channel 🙂

  10. Ilan Kasan says:

    I am not sure slack really scales for very large groups. Its hard to have more than once conversation at a time and if the group is discussing something which is not of interests to a user, it becomes spam to him. This product, commons, tries to address it. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/commons-chat-for-groups-interest/id1059729485?mt=8

  11. Erich says:

    Hey Lori, another way to monetize a Slack group is by having a free community with a few paid channels. We just launched a service that does just that called SlackPass. You get the benefits of being able to build an open community with the ability to offer premium services, content, discussions inside paid channels. Check it at out http://www.slackpass.io and let me know if you have any questions!

  12. Nathan Ballentine - Man in Ove says:

    How do I get into your community to learn more about slack?

  13. Hi Nathan,

    Go to http://www.learnslack.com – enter your email address and you will be into the community. Thank you.

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