June 12, 2015

Google-Backed Slack is a Tech Darling Ready to see the World

Logo and tagline.  Image from Slack.com.

By Megan G.

Have you heard of a hot little startup called Slack?  You know, that instant messaging application that Google Ventures backed with about $120 million last year?  If your answer is a charmingly daft, “Huh?,” I don’t blame you.  Slack is a unicorn that has remained relatively hidden in the enchanted forest of the exclusive tech world. 
In business lingo, a unicorn refers to a startup that is highly valued by its investors.  Since Slack’s current valuation is around $2.8 billion, this company definitely qualifies as an entrepreneurial rarity—but it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for this legendary creature. 

Slack as a product has only reached about 1.5% of the population, a number that comes directly from their chief marketing officer, Bill Macaitis.  Ugly, right?  On the bright side, this integrated communications company is steadily growing its user base and revenue with its apparently wonderful chat application.

From the main page.  Image from slack.com. 

To better understand how Slack works, check out the Getting Started page from their main website.

What Voodoo Do You Do, Slack?

If you work in an office, then you have experienced the aggravating clutter, fragmentation, and stagnation of email.  This age-old annoyance may soon be a distant memory with technology like Slack.  Business Insider reports the messenger app eliminates 80-100% of work emails with effective integrated communication.  Your blank stare is understandable.  Let’s talk about what that means.  
Slack’s integrated communication platform is inspired by Internet relay chat (IRC), a “system of chatting that involves a set of rules and conventions and client/server software.”  It functions sort of like a bunch of chat rooms called channels, each labeled with a unique hash tag.  Slack starts off with two channels, #general and #random, and users can create their own channels beyond that.

A list of channels.  Original image from TechCrunch.com.

The feature that makes Slack different from old-fashioned IRC systems is their extensive third-party integration. Slack has access to over 80 third-party programs such as Twitter, Google Drive, and Giphy that can all be opened and used within the app.  That makes Slack a kind of makeshift browser all its own, saving users’ time by avoiding sharing a ton of links via email or text.

Considering these great features for improving communication, Slack still has had a heck of a time distinctively marketing what they do to the masses.  This can be attributed to their indirect marketing strategy that relies on their customers rather than their own full-fledged marketing team.

Making Users Your Marketing Tools

Slack is effective, useful, and charming.  Nothing has improved workflow or productivity better!  The web users who post to the Slack Wall of Love on Twitter say it all:

Praise abounds!  Image from Twitter.com.

So why aren’t we seeing ads about this fantastic application anywhere on TV or the web?  “We’re really focused on making sure that everyone who comes in contact with Slack… recommends it to other people” explains CMO Bill Macaitis

Slack prefers what they call a “customer-centric” approach as opposed to “competitor-centric.”  I suppose that this type of marketing strategy is true to Slack’s form—people chatting up other people as opposed to a slew of impersonal advertisements.  In an interesting statement, Macaitis also implied that Slack has no true competitors (which I’m sure would rightly tick off the people working at HipChat).

Competition or no, Slack still only reaches a minimal amount of people.  It is still primarily used in techie circles of Silicon Valley and, unfortunately, knowledge of the app remain with that specific community.

“We live in a tech bubble,” admits Macaitis.  This is a shame, considering the messenger app could certainly improve the productivity and teamwork for a variety of small businesses—if only SMBs knew about it. 

What Slack Can Be For SMBs

Slack’s features are tailored more toward workers who need to communicate quickly to create and/or fix digital products and assets—a spot-on description of a developer’s daily life.  For companies who code, Slack is the obvious choice for streamlined communication. 

On the other hand, Slack has untapped versatility when it comes to promoting productivity for a variety of companies and even fostering interpersonal communications for people outside of work.  Street Fight Magazine suggests that integrated communication technology is the “future of teamwork” and can also serve as a unique chatting system where people can jump between work and play.

Some different apps integrated in Slack.  Original image from percepciondigital.com.
Slack can solve broken workflows by killing long email threads and granting access to data from a multitude of different programs.  

Its access to various social media sites like Facebook allows small businesses to manage their business pages and engage with customers more easily.  

Instead of wasting time moving to each site individually for different tasks, Slack brings everything to you. 

I realize I fell into an advertisement persona at that moment, so let me give you another reason to keep an eye on this new tech:  

Small business messaging is where the money is.  

Slack earns a hefty sum despite their smaller user base and that kind of revenue is like blood in the water for tech giants Facebook and Google.  As Justin reported last week, Google has already revamped their Google Apps for Work

Sooner or later, the leaders of the tech world will want to join the integrated communication party that Slack has started—and they’ll want to be the best.  This means further improvements to the user experience for SMB owners and customers participating in this professionally intimate chat platform.
Do you think apps like Slack could revolutionize the way companies communicate with each their employees, each other, and clients?  Or is this chat app just another fad due to run its course?  Let the Tek Team know in the comments!


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    1. No problem, Sqiar!

      We're glad you enjoyed this piece on Slack. Have you used any communication tools like this? Has it helped your own business? Let us know! :D


      The Tek Team