I remember when I first heard the name of the chat tool my team was about to start using back in 2015… Slack.
“I’m encouraged to Slack off at work? This is nuts!”
Of course, Slack has proven to be an incredible tool for connecting our fully remote and distributed team. 😁
We depend on it for all of our interactions — from saying “good morning” when we sign in, to celebrating big company-wide accomplishments, to announcing new bug fixes, to sharing exciting personal updates and pictures of new Buffer babies. It helps us build meaningful relationships with each other, even though we’re spread out around the world.
In essence, the Buffer team is an online community.
How cool! It’s also fantastic practice for me, since my work involves building a global online community.
Before I joined the Buffer team, my only experiences building community were in person. I created a community dance festival of classes and workshops, strengthened community interactions at a coworking space for tech startups, and organized events of all sizes. I had used social media all the while, but at the end of the day, the people in my communities were right in front of me, and events were my tool to bring them together.
Luckily, a lot of community building techniques are exactly the same online as they are in person.
The goal is to connect people together and help them find ways to get value from and contribute to the greater community, and there are many ways to do that on the thing we call the Internet!
The Buffer community spans the globe. We have over 4 million users around the world, and lots of other people who interact with us on social media. Our first idea for bringing the community together online was to start a Twitter chat back in 2014, called #bufferchat. It has become this awesome “watering hole” for folks to gather at each week — a place to meet people, share ideas, and learn a lot! And it was also a wonderful way to use my event planning experience and dive into the world of online community.
We got to thinking… people love #bufferchat. They want to be interacting with each other. What else can we be doing to connect our community together and get them talking with each other?
Since Slack worked so well for uniting the Buffer team and supporting our communication, could it do the same for the Buffer community?
Short answer: yes!
Just like events can be a great tool for building community, Slack has been added to my toolbox. 🔨
Now, 1.5 years after we launched a Slack for the Buffer community, it’s become a space for social media enthusiasts to gather, share advice, ask questions, learn, meet friends, and grow professionally! The conversations are positive, open, growth-minded, inclusive, and energetic. ☀️
I’ve loved being part of this community, trying out lots of experiments for engagement, and watching the community grow. Here’s a little peek into all that’s going on in our Slack. :)
Who is part of the Buffer community on Slack?
We’ve gone through quite a few iterations over the years of how we define our “community”. Here’s how we think about it currently: our community is made up of Buffer users, as well as potential users who are social media marketers/enthusiasts. Our goals are to grow more awareness of Buffer, while strengthening our relationships with current users!
At the moment, we have 3,241 members, with about 300 active members on any given day who are contributing to (or lurking on!) the conversations that are happening.
What’s our purpose for having a community on Slack?
We use Slack as one particular space for our community members to talk to each other and build meaningful relationships with each other. At Buffer, we are big advocates for growth and learning, so we wanted to create a space for our community members to help and learn from each other.
Community members can chat about the latest in social media, ask for advice for the challenges they’re experiencing, seek feedback on projects, share social media tips and resources, discuss work culture… and anything else!
Building these connections help to give people a sense of belonging and identity (a measure of a healthy community), which allows people to feel a deeper connection to Buffer. ❤️
What is actually going on in our Slack community every day?
We have 55 channels in our Slack for various conversations! Here’s a sneak peek at some of our channels:
#-watercooler: You know how people like to gather at the coffee pot or water cooler in an office and chat about their weekends, their new dog, and what they’re eating for lunch that day? This is that, but virtual!
#introductions: When people first join the community Slack, I encourage them to pop over here and introduce themselves. They share why they joined Slack, where they live in the world, what they want to learn, and anything else they’d like to share!
#weekly-goals: A few months back, we started this channel to hold each other accountable for the goals we set for ourselves. Each Monday, anyone who wants can take a few moments to reflect on their week ahead and share ~3 main goals with everyone. Then, we check in on Friday to see how the week went!
#virtual-coffee-dates: We use the Donut bot to pair up community members (who have opted in) to virtually meet up and chat over coffee, tea, a donut, etc! People get to meet other members around the world and learn about each other’s lives and work. It’s so cool!
#buffer-products: This is where folks can help each other with Buffer-related questions, share thoughts and feedback on the product, suggest new features, and generally nerd out about how we all use Buffer.
#community-feedback: Anyone in the community can pop in here to talk about the community itself — activities they’d like to see, new channel ideas, thoughts on ways to improve our Slack experience, etc.
There are 16 channels organized by topics related to social media and work culture, like #topic-socialmedia (a catch-all channel), #topic-facebook, #topic-twitter, #topic-writing, and #topic-remotework.
We also have 18 channels organized by city/location that aren’t used very actively. The goal for these channels is for folks to connect with people in their own city/area, share information about local social media/marketing events, and perhaps even meet up locally! They do this successfully, just not super often. :)
What a #-watercooler discussion may look like:
The ongoing/repeated activities:
- New member welcome every Monday in the #introductions channel
- Open goal setting every Monday in the #weekly-goals channel (with accountability check-ins on Fridays)
- Tuesday Tips for Buffer from our onboarding specialist, Hannah, in the #buffer-new-users channel (to help new users get comfortable in Buffer!)
- Social Media Mastermind every Thursday in the #topic-socialmedia channel
- Donut pairings every 2 weeks in the #virtual-coffee-dates channel
- Friday Fun discussion prompts in the #-watercooler channel
- Product Office Hours with one of our product managers, Tom, every 3rd Friday of the month in the #buffer-products channel (to answer people’s product questions, gain insights from users and tease upcoming product features)
- AMAs (“Ask me anything”) from time to time, as well!
So you can see… there’s a lot going on.
We also have a rockstar team of 6 Community Hosts from all over the world who help drive engagement, brainstorm new ideas for Slack, and are leaders in the community! (Shout out to Daniel Baron, Peter Schroeder, Cáit Power, Sami Grady, Jacqueline Jensen, and Joshua Price 🙌)
It’s been absolutely amazing to experiment with Slack and discover the awesome things that happen when you bring a community together.
I have loved seeing people become friends with others halfway across the world, help others with ideas for new blog posts, problem solve together to work through tricky challenges, get inspired to try out live video for the first time, take a risk in their work with support from others, have lightbulb moments during conversations, celebrate successes, and so so so much more.
That’s the power of community. 👆
It’s a beautiful thing!
If you’re interested in getting involved with our community on Slack, I’d love to invite you to submit an application form at www.buffer.com/slack.
Feel free to get in touch with me anytime to chat about Slack, community, Buffer, anything! I’m on Twitter at @ariellemargot, and I’d love to hear from you. 👍