Slack for Community: Pros & Cons

Slack is built for work, not for communities. If you do however choose to use it as such be aware of where it excels and where it falls short... and how you can plug the gaps in your community management strategy.

Slack for Community: Pros & Cons

Welcome to THEE most unbiased set of thoughts you'll find on the world wide web about communities and the software used to facilitate them.. Just kidding, we're here to sell Chord, don't get it twisted. However! In our tireless efforts to build a product that serves the communities that we know best, we have learned a ton about what works and what doesn't. We'll be using this space to share everything we've seen, our thought process, why we think we're different, and our reflections on how communities & software are changing the world for the better.

Without further ado.. let's talk about how people are using Slack for communities these days.

Things Slack is Pretty Great For

Adoption

Slack is so ubiquitous in some circles that its difficult to overstate the ease of getting people on to it. Compare this to some of the other existing community platform tools like Discourse, Circle, and MightyNetworks. Each of these are more difficult to build a community on as they have the friction of creating an account and checking it regularly to engage with the community.

Ease of Setup

After like 3 clicks, a text-box, and zero-ish dollars- a Slack workspace is set up. After you've invited 1 person, you've basically achieved the minimal set up required to use the product. At this point you could call it a day but you could always do more from channel organization, to adding color themes and all the Slack bots you'll need for introductions, membership matching, and whatever else you can find on their app store. However, even after doing all of this it's nowhere near the multi-week timeframe often cited for getting started on some more complex platforms.

Ease of Use

From our experience and observations the learning curve for Slack is not terribly steep. Typically within a few weeks people in the workspace wheeling and dealing, creating new channels, replying to threads, adding emojis, chit-chatting, making jokes, sharing mostly irrelevant memes, etc... Amazing, right?

WRONG! keep reading.. 😈

Things Slack is Unequivocally Bad For

Building Community Knowledge Over Time

If you have a community of 100 active users and a community tools budget > $800/month, then I'm very happy for you and honestly I may not be of much help.

If however, you are even a little bit constrained on budget, then Slack will cap your community at 10,000 messages. Remember all the memes and sharing and chit-chatting we thought was so great about the ease of use? Often times that comes back to bite communities on both cost and the ease of finding useful information. The more people talk, share, and exchange- the harder it becomes to keep track of & the more of it disappears.

Keeping a Skinny Wallet

With Slack you either choose staying within a reasonable budget or building up the community's base of knowledge over time. You unfortunately cannot have both for the dynamics explained above.

Managing Member Information

Since Slack is built for work and not communities their product assumes that it exists in some larger enterprise context. One in which the need for a directory or any type of valuable profiles is probably taken up by some other enterprise tool.  Unfortunately for many communities this is not the case- instead communities on Slack are forced to resort to external systems like Google Sheets, LinkedIn Groups, or some combination of other tools. While these solutions may be easy enough to get set up they lack the tight integration and/or searchability that would make them more valuable and easier to use in conjunction with Slack.

So What Should You Do?

Download Chord Connect

Chord Connect is our answer to all of the issues listed above and doesn't require compromise on any of the things that Slack already gets right.

  • For building community knowledge over time we offer 1-click message archiving.
  • For managing member information our product provides customizable and native profile collection forms.

The truth is, many of the best, most well-run communities these days are using many tools and platforms in conjunction with each other since no one tool adequately meets every need and function of a vibrant community (yet). While forums and reddit-like platforms are great for building up information over time they often take much more work to set up and don't have the design to support quick ephemeral chat. On the other hand chat apps like Slack and Discord are great for quick banter but quickly become overwhelming for anyone looking to surface resources within a community. Add in the need to manage event calendars, email out announcements, and support a robust directory and it becomes abundantly clear why so many community stacks involve multiple tools.

At Chord one of our goals is to make sure that using multiple tools doesn't require you to multiply the number of hours you spend keeping your community running. We are 100% invested in lowering the barriers to creating great communities online and hope that you give our latest release a look!