This is How Slack Wins Its Users

Willie Tran
Jan 23, 2015 · 6 min read

Slack has won the internet. Here’s how they did it.

2014 was a big year for messaging.

From Whatsapp’s $19 billion dollar acquisition by Facebook to Snapchat’s recent $10 billion dollar valuation, messaging apps were the talk of 2014.

In the swath of messaging apps in the press, there was one that stood out from the rest, Slack.

Despite being only 8 months old, Slack is already worth one billion dollars, making it the fastest company to reach that large of a valuation ever.

Slack is a B2B messaging app in a crowded market with incumbents such as Atlassian Hipchat, Yammer, and Basecamp’s Campfire.

Being in such a saturated market full of strong incumbents, what does Slack do that makes it so much better than the rest?

It’s so damn easy to join.

Slack has the best onboarding process I have ever experienced in my life. If you aren’t familiar with it, I recommend you either sign up or go through this awesome onboarding teardown by Samuel Hulick.

Being a B2B-focused company, Slack didn’t go the usual route and maintain high professionalism and seriousness. Instead they spoke the language their users spoke.

They know their users are SMB owners who are looking for a way to keep communication organized with their team without spending the remainder of their runway.

With this, they carefully crafted all of the language on their site and product to make it feel like a real person talking to you every step of the way. This is especially evident when filling out your profile.

Most companies take the approach of giving people a list of information to fill out. Slack was incredibly creative on this and had their AI assistant, Slackbot, ask you questions which immediately populated your information.

It makes you smile

The little things matter. A lot. Slack understands that and seizes every opportunity to make their users smile.

A great example of this is when you first open up the app and are waiting for the screen to load. You’re greeted with either a positive or a funny message. While this may seem pretty mundane, this always puts a smile on my face. There’s inherent value in that as it is.

Slack knows that their users will be checking their conversations first thing in the morning. Seeing a friendly message to greet me and start my day has honestly been an amazing part of my morning.

I know it sounds small, but those messages make me smile.

Slackbot is a fun little companion every group on Slack has that assists with administration tasks. However there are also little fun things you can do that can really lighten the mood in a group. I’ve seen this little piece of AI become the most popular person at a company.

One of my favorite and probably most used feature is getting Slackbot to respond with a pre-set message every time a key word is said.

These aren’t core features of Slack, they’re a few extra things that make Slack’s user base smile and spread their experience using the product to their friends and colleagues.

It integrates with everything. Seriously.

Slack integrates with dozens of commonly used services. At Testlio these integrations have been super helpful internally, allowing us to communicate without any effort.

If you’ve integrated with Github, the channel you designate will receive notifications every time someone submits or merges a pull request. If you’re on Trello, you’ll be notified every time a card is created, deleted, or updated.

These integrations are one of the core features that makes Slack an irreplaceable part of your company. By integrating these services you further imbed your reliance on Slack. It becomes your central station for communication regarding everything.

It’s easy.

Slack is designed to be friendly. Their product is the most welcoming and user friendly service I have ever used.

In my experience of working with other people on Slack, in the rare case someone has a question about how to do something, it usually goes like this, “Hey Willie, do you know how to… Oh wait never mind here it is.”

Their implementation of getting someone else’s attention is the best I’ve seen. By putting an “@“ anywhere in the text you’re immediately prompted a list of people in your company that you could tag. This concept isn’t new. It was already been made popular by Twitter and Instagram, but it’s a great example on why you should build off of existing behaviors.

The most recent build of Slack introduced the group bar. For anyone who works with multiple teams or has a group of friends who likes to chat on Slack (me), Slack has made it super easy to switch between groups.

Even though this isn’t a huge implementation, it turned a three step process into a single step.

A big problem I had with most messaging apps I’ve ever used was their ability to adequately search. I’m sure we’ve all had the problem of typing a word into a search bar just to find out that you have to load more conversations and then redo the search.

Slack doesn’t mess with that. Not only does Slack return a complete history of what I’m searching for, it also returns all the relevant text around it to give it some context.

You can tell the Slack team has deeply thought about how their product works. They didn’t just create something that looked good, they created something that felt good. They built the product with the full focus of their ideal users in mind.

It does what it says.

Slack has stated it is “on a mission to make your working life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive,” and it does exactly that.

When I first joined Testlio, one of my first tasks was to onboard everyone to Slack. When I spoke with Marko about this, he informed me they had tried every other alternative but kept going back to using a single group Skype chat.

After we made our push to get everyone to use Slack, every person in the company was onboarded and actively communicating in Slack in less than 48 hours. We were done with Skype.

Our team recognized Slack had created a product that did in fact make communication simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.

Conclusion

In 8 short months, Slack has dominated the B2B messaging market. If you want your product to stand out among your competitors, be sure the have the following points like Slack:

– Make it easy to start.

– Make it easy to use.

– Make your users smile.

– Make your product integral to your user’s daily habits

– Make sure your product does what it says it does.

Slack has been an awesome product and is easily one of my favorite new apps. I would love to hear what some of your favorite apps are and do another write up like this. If you want to share, post them in the comments below!

Originally published at testlio.com on January 5, 2015.

    Willie Tran

    Written by

    Growth @ Dropbox

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