Slack, to put it simply, is the communication tool that you never knew you needed.
Look, we’re all a bunch of nerds here, so I can speak honestly, right? If there’s one thing the Internet is good for, it’s pumping out new communication tools. Remember MySpace? AOL Messenger? ICQ? Or any of literally 100 other options? It’s not a matter of if a tool exists, but rather which ones are worth your time.
Until recently, my answer would have been something other than Slack. But that’s because I didn’t get it.
Sure, it’s installed because of course it’s installed. But I was using it very basically. I kept to the obvious. When people would talk about how great Slack was I just assumed that they were the same kind of people who have moved on from Facebook to SnapChat. I can’t tell you why people do that either but I know it’s a thing.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely in the same boat. It’s like, something, something, something, Slack, I don’t get it.
You’re in luck. By the end of this article, I hope to have you as fired up about Slack’s possibilities for how you communicate with your group as I am.
Slack’s Main Benefit: It Automates The Annoying Part of Communicating
There’s a large portion of communication that happens around things we’d rather not have to deal with. These kinds of communications typically revolve around something that’s procedural in nature: Stuff like, “Did you get my email?”, “When’s a good time to schedule a meeting?”, “What’s everybody want for lunch?”, “Do you know where the newest logo files are?”, “What’s the homework assignment again?”, “When is that event?”, etc.
Thus far there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to automate handling these kinds of interactions. In all cases, emails/phone calls/texts/messaging on social media go out from one person to other people and then a back-and-forth happens until everybody agrees on the details. It’s messy and comprises most of the communication that happens around emails where 20 people are all cc’d, ensuring those 20 people all get more email than they want that day. I feel like you’ve been there and know what I’m talking about. It’s what makes you hate your inbox.
Slack takes all of that nonsense and deals with it in a way that makes all of that communication as seamless as possible. I mean, it might even border on fun. Here are some examples of what I mean:
- Slack can automate scheduling meetings
- Slack can eliminate email chains
- Slack can keep tabs on your social media feeds and can report when you or your brand are talked about online
- Slack can video chat, free and instantly for groups of up to 8 people
- Slack can poll others about team chemistry
- Slack can conduct stand-up meetings
- Slack can email curated digests of content in Slack
And I’m just really getting started.
The important thing to know is that it doesn’t just do this in a lot of cases but rather it automates it and makes it easier.
Sound interesting yet? Let’s dig into the nitty gritty.
Welcome to Slack
If you’ve made it this far without knowing the first thing about Slack, allow me to correct that oversight. Slack is a private communications tool that’s made up of chat rooms. These chat rooms can leverage bots, integrations, and IFTTT to interact with other parts of the Internet.
“IFTTT” stands for “If this, then that”. It’s a simple programming language that allows Internet connected devices to communicate with each other.
If you’re familiar with WordPress, there’s a simple comparison. An integration can be thought of as a plugin. It’s a piece of software that’s added to Slack that provides new functionality.
Bots are programs you can interface with in the chat rooms to make them do things. The bots are typically the result of adding an integration.
Slack itself can be downloaded at slack.com or in the iOS or Google Play app stores. This is important because one of the huge strengths of Slack is its easy accessibility. You want to use it as much as possible so it’s pretty crucial to put it on all of the devices you use most.
Once you have Slack installed we can get into some of the sweet bots, integrations, and IFTTT recipes that Slack has to offer.
Before An Event Starts, Post a Reminder to Slack
Tired of that one guy always being late for meetings? Need to remind everybody of your evening after-school/after-work event without coming across as overbearing? This IFTTT recipe has you covered. It connects your Google Calendar to Slack and can notify people in a channel of your choosing at a specified time of your choosing (say, 30 minutes before an event).
Keep Your Team Happy
Meet Leo the Slackbot. His goal is to keep your team healthy by measuring team member satisfaction. Leo is a bot that asks simple and engaging questions, collects feedback anonymously and automatically, and measures team member satisfaction in real time, creating better relationships with colleagues.
Automate Conversations and Meetings
There are several bots for Slack that will do some form of this. One we especially like is called Howdy.ai. If you’re one of those people that likes to delegate things to other people, or you’re the assistant who finds yourself having to engage in a lot of repetitive conversations, Howdy.ai is for you.
Howdy is a friendly, trainable bot that super powers teams by automating common tasks.
Let’s say that you want to run a check in meeting. Some people call it a standup meeting. Typically that meeting is three questions long for everybody: What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? What’s blocking your progress? If that works for you, great. If you need to customize the questions, that’s easy too. Howdy.ai can run the meeting at a time of your choosing by asking the questions to everybody. It will collect all of those answers which can then be seen in a report. Congratulations, you’ve just had your meeting.
Imagine what this could do for Innatech and keeping up with their TPS reports?
Or let’s say you want to order lunch. You can have Howdy.ai ask everybody where they want to go. Or you can offer them menu choices and they can pick. You’re asking the questions so you’re the boss.
Programming the bot to ask and collect questions is as easy as talking to it. The possibilities here border on being endless.
Take A Poll
There are many polling bots for Slack in existence and we haven’t used enough of them to tell you definitively which one is the best. That being said, Open Angora, works really well for us. Once installed it’s easy to create, publish, and get feedback on any polls you wish to make. Great for quick feedback. One note, you can only run one poll in a channel at a time. If you have the need for multiple polls at once, you may be better served by a different integration.
Web Stats At Your Fingertips
If there’s one thing I’ve learned with small to medium sized businesses, people get an astonishing long ways down the road without ever looking at the meaningful numbers. Part of the reason, I’m convinced, is because the data is separate from the conversation and adding it into the conversation can be a challenge for those that either (a) aren’t great with technology to begin with, and (b) those who think some web nerd somewhere is probably looking at it.
Statsbot changes the dynamic by allowing you to pull up Google Analytics, MixPanel, and/or Salesforce data right within Slack. Want to know how many pageviews you had yesterday? Ask Statsbot. Want to know about conversions? Ask Statsbot. Are you tired of asking Statsbot and you want it to deliver that information in a report within Slack on a schedule of your choosing? Yeah, it does that too.
Will it replace looking at Google Analytics, MixPanel, or Salesforce data directly? Probably not for true data nerds. But for those people who are just needing data to support their conversation, Statsbot is where it’s at.
Schedule Your Meetings Easily, Like, Really Easily
Meet Meekan. This bot is a lifesaver. Add it to any channel then ask for a meeting. It’ll look at everybody’s calendars (Google Calendar, Office 365 and iCloud are all supported) and recommend three good times. Everybody sees the times and responds accordingly. Need to reschedule? It can do that. Conflict? Sorted out in seconds. Need to see the times in a different time-zone? Easy. Need to use video chat for your meetings? It does that too. It’ll even book a flight. All from Slack.
I’m more than 1,400 words deep in this article now so I hope you’re getting a feel for why Slack isn’t just another piece of chat software. It does so much more. You might be skeptical about running project management from a chat room, but Kyber makes it possible.
Too Grumpy for Pokemon Go? Get Moving, Be Social, and Compete Without Being ‘That Guy’
At the moment, Pokemon Go is the hottest thing since the original Nintendo Entertainment System. It has people going outside and being active, some for the first times in their lives. Why? Because it’s fun. Because it’s social. Because it’s something interesting to do.
Count.it provides all the benefits of Pokemon Go without any of the Pokemon. Instead it allows group members to participate in fitness challenges with rewards (gift card, cash, or otherwise) at the end. Best of all it allows people with different interests to participate against each other. Runners can compete with swimmers. That sort of thing. It’s easy to get started, easy to compete, and it’s done all in Slack.
Never Ask for Branding Assets Again
When multiple people are involved in multiple creative or marketing projects keeping the brand consistent becomes a challenge. Usually the best way to solve this problem is to ignore everything you see in incoming email about these assets and when you need them, bug the designer. This works okay for you but it ruins the designer’s day. They wish you had paid more attention to the previous emails. But they also want the right art going on the right thing so they’ll give you what you want. They’ll just hold it against you.
Say goodbye to that nonsense with Brandfolder. Brandfolder is a way to keep all brand assets – from logos to color schemes inside Slack in a nice, easy to use interface. If there’s a downside, they seem to be rather serious about their software. In order to sign up you have to submit a pricing form and then wait up to two days. Not ideal. But also not that big of a deal. If you want to keep your branding assets and rules in all in one easy-to-use place that’s Slack accessible, this is the integration for you.
Free Video Chat on Command
Sometimes you realize that furiously mashing the keys to keep up in a lively chat isn’t worth it. When that happens, type /appear and you’ll instantly get a link for the room that can support video chat for up to 8 people. We love the ease of use of this integration for private video chat but it might be a little redundant if you’re already using Meekan above or if you used IFTTT to integrate Google Hangouts.
Have a Sentient Robot Do Your Bidding
Are you tired of doing things? Wish a robot could do them for you? Who are you, George Jetson?
Well George, that day is upon us. Large is your new best friend. Large isn’t exactly sentient but it’s still probably more reliable than the new intern you have.
You don’t even have to be specific, which, if you’ve ever dealt with technology before ALWAYS demands a high level of specificity. But with large, the machine learning is intelligent enough to allow you to have a conversation with a bot. What kind of generally vague things can you have Large handle for you? How about…
Let Large fill in the details. You da boss.
Bonus: Rope In That Guy Who Won’t Give Up Email
You know who I’m talking about. There’s always the one guy who always has the reason why he can’t be bothered to learn a new technology. He hates email but won’t learn anything else. Good thing for you there’s Mail Clark.
Now, if you don’t know, Slack has some email integration. It can receive email. But Mail Clark can both send and receive email. Mail Clark can also see when somebody has read your email. If you need to send info in Slack to a member of your team who only uses email, you can do it from within Slack. Each channel you invite Mail Clark to will get its own email address to send email to. Great for forwarding emails or for when you need the additional email functionality.