Slack, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

So we wanted to write a love letter to one of our favorite tools – Slack. 

Slack, we love you.

For those who have been in a coma, Slack is a cloud-based instant messaging platform used by 10 million individuals daily. It’s been hyped as ‘the email killer’ and if you aren’t using it, you’ve probably heard about it or one of its major competitors (like Microsoft Teams). Or you may have heard IBM just made it their comms app of choice for their 350,000 employees. For our company, Slack is much more than a messenger – it’s a personal assistant, a place to brainstorm, and an integral part of our project management. Why the name? “Slack” is the opposite of tense, and it’s also an acronym for ‘Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.’ (and a huge pat on the back if you knew that already!) At this point, there’s also no way we could function without it. It has also definitely saved us thousands of emails, and that’s something anyone can be thankful for. 

Slack allows us to have dedicated channels for each active project, keeping all communications and documents in one place. Slack allows us to breeze through messages that aren’t super important and quickly jump into conversations that are by using @mentions and pinning or starring messages. It’s a great way for team members to communicate and for leaders to keep a pulse without getting overloaded. When a project is done, we archive the channel, knowing that our information is safe if we ever need it again (another awesome Slack feature). 

Slack has excellent built-in apps and a crazy amount of useful integrations – basically every software system on the planet has a slack integration or is working on it. We use MANY of them daily. We use the Vimeo integration to notify a channel when a client puts in video feedback; we use the Google Calendar app to let team members know about upcoming meetings; We use the HubSpot app to track our own deal progress; We use a Paymo integration to easily load documents directly to our project management system from Slack; we use Zapier to string together all kinds of things; the list goes on! 

Our most popular features are custom emojis and the giphy integration, which allows you to quickly find a GIF to express how you’re feeling. It’s a simple thing, but having the ability to react to a great job with an animating banana dance emoji can really make a big difference in everyones’ day.

And obviously if you need to express a digital eye-roll, GIFs are the only reasonable solution. 

Another favorite feature is the simple built-in reminder tool. If you aren’t using this you are missing out! Any message can be interacted with by adding reaction emojis, starring, sharing, pinning, and many others depending on the integrations you have installed. Here’s where you find the “Remind me about this…” drop down. By default you can set reminders for 20 minutes, 1 hour, 3 hours, tomorrow, or next week, and that covers about 90% of the reminders most people need. Slack also has a custom reminder option you can access directly from the channel, like this:

Whenever I get a message that I need to get back to later, I ask Slack to remind me. The reminder pops up at a more convenient time and I feel like I’ve got a little robot assistant. 

Speaking of robots, you can also teach your Slackbots to live in your channels and chime in when prompted to specific phrases. We taught ours to tell people the wifi password and conference line number, and it also decodes account IDs into english when we get machine-speak coming in from other systems. It’s not quite Skynet level intelligence we’re talking here, but you can definitely get some fun and functionality out of it. And if you want to go deeper with the robot revolution, there are actually a *bunch* of bot tools on the app directory with all kinds of features. 

The App Directory has hundreds of apps and integrations that do all kinds of things. Want to get a notification when stocks hit a certain price? There’s a Slack app for that. Want to conduct flash polls on important topics like picking a place for lunch? There’s a slack app for that.  Everything from email and file storage to an app solely dedicated to finding you the right cat GIF is on there. And most major tech platforms already have some form of Slack integration – either directly or indirectly. If your app of choice doesn’t have a direct Slack integration yet, apps like Zapier or IFTTT are a great way to provide extended functionality without having to break out your coder hat. Using Zapier, you can put together several thousand combinations of other apps that aren’t yet designed to work together off the shelf. We use Zapier to easily string together notifications that move from lots of different systems to Google Sheets and then to Slack where they pop up as notifications. 

If you do have the skills or resources to develop your own tools, Slack does offer the ability to write your own plug-ins or integrations. More and more enterprise organizations have invested in developing Slack integrations with their own proprietary toolsets to help keep their team members plugged in. And you can definitely build some really cool API tools that hook into all kinds of public data and weave them in together. 

So why do we love Slack? Because it brings all our work into a friendly user interface. It makes work easier and more fun. 

Amazingly, we did not get paid a dime by Slack to write this article. 😁