Using Slack for business is becoming the new norm in 2016. The purpose of this review is to get you familiarized with some features, and how they can fit your business needs.
That isn’t to say Slack is not useful for NGOs, hobby projects, chatting with friends and creating communities. But that is a different kettle of fish. We will probably go into that at a different time.
In any case, let’s get down to business, shall we? Team communication is becoming increasingly difficult for growing companies. It’s just not viable to use multiple communication channels such as email, text messages, and chat programs.
The reason for this is that crucial information unwittingly gets lost. Let’s say you’ve sent a text message to three teammates about an important part of your project. Did everyone else get the memo? How do you know they passed the information on to the others?
Besides being an efficient communication tool, Slack offers something for everyone – code sharing, fun apps, flexibility, the works!
What's so Different about Slack?
After all, you could very well use basic chat programs such as Skype or Pidgin to communicate with team members. The key word here is “basic”. If that were good enough, humanity wouldn’t have advanced up to this point.
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Slack takes all of your communication methods, packs them up, and offers them to you in one place. Yes, that means everything:
- Basic chat program functions built into Slack. Communicate with your team members on various custom-made channels
- Text messages through apps such as Zapier
- This app (Zapier) also lets you connect your Slack account to multiple messaging services (such as Gmail) – among other things
- Trello integration, so you have notifications about your tasks without using a separate app
No more keeping track of email threads. No more endless scrolling through Skype. No fuss over deleted text messages.
The best part is that everything you communicate through the app gets saved on their servers, in the Slack Cloud. Oh come on, don’t laugh!
You might know that most apps store chat data on your computer. So, if you don’t access it from there, tough luck.
Slack is a web-based app, so you don’t need to install anything to run it. But the guys who made the app were kind enough to offer you options. You can install it on your PC or Mac. The Linux version is coming soon.
It’s not hard to see why Slack for business is growing at the rate it is right now. It’s barely been out for three years, and it already has three million daily active users.
Tired of Looking Everywhere for Info?
Use the Slack Search Function.
You might be thinking: How is Slack for business solving my communication problems? And that would be a valid concern. Gathering every message in one place doesn’t eliminate the need to browse the information.
Were you and your co-worker chatting about a good movie? Maybe you don’t remember which one you were talking about. Or perhaps your boss sent you an article about the best ways to increase website traffic. Now you’ve totally forgotten how it was named.
Fortunately, Slack has a built-in search function for this very purpose. It has a few ways for you to narrow down what you’re looking for:
- Search by username. When you remember who you talked to about that movie, but can’t remember whether or not it was in private or on a public channel.
- Search by channel. You remember you had that discussion but don’t know with whom.
- Slack has a “Star” function. You Star an important message you want to remember for later. Then, you use the search function to find “starred” posts!
- Similarly, you can filter messages by whether or not they had links or reactions.
- Last but not least: Use date filters.
Take Slack with You Everywhere
No self-respecting chat program is missing a mobile version. It’s estimated that 86.2% of people in developed countries use mobile broadband to access the Internet.
Who would want to miss out on that? Not Slack, it seems. They’ve already developed versions for iOS and Android. A Windows Phone version is in beta at the moment.
Have a lot of business meetings throughout the day? Slack can help you stay in the loop with what you need to do when you get back to work.
If you’re a company leader, the mobile app lets you communicate your tasks more efficiently. Let’s say you just want parts or the whole company to know what should be done. Slack’s channel function can separate groups as you see fit.
A great thing to mention here is that the iOS app recently received an offline mode. That means you can access your messages at any time without an Internet connection! The Android version is still in the works.
It's Ideal for Programmers Too
How do you share code snippets between members of your team? If you use GitHub or other similar services, you’re in luck!
You’re able to integrate GitHub as part of your Slack team. Besides, it has its own code snippet sharing feature.
Besides, you can keep track of your snippets by using the Star feature. You can also pin the snippet to the conversation. It’s good if you want to discuss the finer details of your code without having to switch between tabs.
The Fun Parts of Slack for Business
Hey, it’s not named Slack for just any reason! If you Google their app, you’ll notice a sort of company motto they have. “Be less busy”. It sounded catchy to us.
And it sure describes their product well – so many integrations to choose from. So many ways to make your job easier. It frees up time for other activities.
But why name your product “Slack” if you don’t offer a way to … you know … slack? We’re just kidding. Don’t slack at work, folks. Or do. This is getting pretty confusing.
In any case, Slack lets you add a multitude of fun apps to make your day go by easier. Mini-games, Twitter integrations, quiz apps, GIF apps – even an app that lets you share interesting facts about cats.
No app is without its faults. I’ve talked extensively about how many features Slack has. But if you don’t look online for which one is which, you could miss out on some of them entirely.
The problem is that all the features are hidden behind icons and drop-down menus. Sure, not having a myriad of buttons littering the screen makes Slack look cleaner. But they could be a bit more descriptive.
For example, before writing this article, I had no idea you could share code snippets with the app. I just happened upon it by accident!
Of course, you could use the built-in Slackbot and ask it about features. But most would probably prefer an interactive tutorial to get the gist of things.
Some might also take issues with the message limit (10,000) per team for the free version. But with so many features they offer, it’s understandable there would be some limits.
They can be overridden by switching to the paid version. That might deter some people, but paying for Slack doesn’t just remove a message limit. It would be senseless.
Instead, they offer businesses a way to communicate sensitive information over secure channels. You can go all top secret!
For example, the Standard payment plan ($6,67/month) offers two-factor authentication. Unauthorized users won’t be allowed to see your company secrets.
Besides, you have 10GB of online storage per team member, saving you tons of space on your business’s hard drives. The Plus package ($12,50/month) lets you increase the storage to 20GB, among other things.
They’re also working on an Enterprise package for really large businesses. Those who need to connect multiple sectors will undoubtedly find it useful when it’s launched. You can check out what else they offer for these prices here.
In the end, I guess we could cut the app some slack. (Yes, I went there.) It offers plenty of features for free and gives you the option to upgrade if you feel the need to.
If you want to start using Slack, you can create an account for your organization by clicking here. It’ll guide you through the whole process.
To get you started, you can ask the SlackBot about features. It’ll give you an answer to the best of its abilities. Plus, it’ll link you to the Slack help page for each feature you ask about!
I’d be interested to know what you think of the app. Did you like what you’ve seen? What problems do you think you would encounter while using the app? Leave your opinions in the comment section below.
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