Slack and the Future of Online Communities

Art by Sam Chivers

There are a thousand different ways to have conversations online through traditional social media and forum posting these days, not to mention “old school” texting along with a wealth of group messaging apps, like Facebook’s Messenger, GroupMe, and WhatsApp. In short, there’s a slew of options for private 1-to-1 chat, group forums, and everything in between.

However, all this connection doesn’t necessarily improve our community-building efforts or our lives. Too often, these platforms are deafeningly loud, busy, and distracting, detracting from their intended purpose of bringing us together and fostering meaningful communication. Slack answers many of the core issues faced by other social platforms.

Asynchronous and real-time

The ubiquity of the “pull to refresh” gesture is just one symptom of our yearning for deeper, real-time interaction on social media. UX designers get that when we’re here — in front of our mobile or desktop screens — we’re here to consume content and discover engaging conversations; we never want to hit the end of our feed. With the look and feel of a messaging platform, Slack satisfies this desire. It helps us seamlessly connect with the other members of our community who are online now.

Of course, not all conversation happens in real-time. Many other messaging apps aren’t optimized for helping members catch up when they’ve been away from the conversation for hours or days. Slack’s use of hashtags and pins help members quickly jump to relevant portions of a conversation. Moderators can highlight FAQs so future members can easily discover them, and Slack intelligently sends notifications for just the messages you care about — such as those that mention you by name.

Valid users yield valid conversations

Try as they might, mainstream social media networks haven’t solved the issue of validating users’ identities. It’s the wild west out there, and the web is full of trolls. Even in a best-case scenario, where community members are individually screened, there’s no real way to ensure that members will participate. Paid Slack communities solve for this issue, charging members to join as a means of filtering out trolls and lurkers.

Many other messaging apps, on the other hand, require that users already know one another offline or share their email or phone number (which can feel deeply private in this digital age) to join. Becoming Facebook friends can often be even more intimate, opening up your personal life and family photos to a network of people you don’t know one-on-one. Slack connects members without requiring that they share their entire personal lives with a community of hundreds or thousands.

Bringing the conversation front and center

Unlike other social media platforms, Slack doesn’t have a soapbox. There is no place in the interface for a user to simply broadcast their thoughts or opinions on their own profile or account. It’s a slight nuance, but the fact that all communications must happen within a specific conversation topic helps guarantee that members will stay on topic and reach the users who’ve opted in to said topics.

Just as superfluous posts are reduced in the Slack platform, so too are unnecessary distractions. The reality is that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram’s incentive is to keep users seeing as many pages as possible, not necessarily the pages they’re looking for — which help explains how we so often end up taking yet another “which Disney princess are you?” Buzzfeed quiz when we were just trying to catch up with our community page’s latest comments. Slack’s financial model, on the other hand, incentivizes them to keep community members engaged in the community. No distracting ads, “articles you may like,” or irrelevant notifications.

We’re passionate that Slack is the answer for so many digital and IRL communities, and we’d love to help you build yours. Check us out at to start creating your paid Slack community.