Run An Active Startup Community on Slack
You can’t beat the real-time conversation of running a community on Slack. There are so many benefits to using Slack, but there are many disadvantages as well. In this post, I’ll share steps to safeguard your community so that you don’t fall into any of the common pitfalls by using Slack as a platform for your group.
For starters let’s talk about the disadvantages of using Slack.
Cost – It’s expensive, so you’ll be paying $7-$10 per person per month if you want to have searchable content for more than 10,000 messages and yes these 10,000 go pretty fast.
Linking to specific conversations or comments can be glitchy especially in the app which is probably where members will use Slack most often.
Too many notifications – members get annoyed quickly and turn off notifications or notification emails go to their spam folder.
Once they log out they are gone – Once members log out of their account they are gone. It’s hard to get them to come back and participate because they have to reinstall the app or at least their account on the app.
No SEO – you won’t benefit from having all of your conversations on a website for Google to send traffic to (any closed community will have this problem).
Standard profiles don’t allow a lot of imagination and are much harder to export to a CRM especially as the community grows.
No user statistics/metrics – not a lot of meaningful data you can use for reaching out to inactive members.
But, I know what you are thinking – you will use it anyway. It’s easy to love.
Successfully Using Slack For Your Startup Community
It isn’t all bad though, using Slack is beneficial for many reasons, the first being that many startup people are already using it, the second being that it’s free (if you don’t want the search history).
And whether it’s the perfect place to start a community or not, people are doing it every day, and you might be strongly considering it for your own community. I completely understand the lure of using Slack or Facebook for your community, so I want to help you do it right.
To start, I recommend building your Slack community around a regularly updated website. The reason is you want people to know where to go to access resources that we will discuss in the following steps. This is a great place to store your newsletter as a blog post each week or to write content that you’ll share in the community.
Resources – Since you probably won’t be paying for Slack, you want a place to save the best content. This should be linked to your website. You can add an addon to your Slack community so that you can easily star a message (as you monitor and moderate content) and the message will be saved to your tool of choice. You’ll want to keep this up so that your members have a place to access the best content from your community. (You’ll also want to remind them to do this, regularly.
Organize your conversation backups– this might sound time-consuming and it is, but it will save you a lot of trouble in the future. Make sure you choose a tool that allows you to tag your saved conversations that way you can find links, great advice, and topics that are consistently discussed.
Here are a couple tools to choose from Backupery, and Evernote.
Guidelines – An additional resource for your website should include guidelines for being successful members. Tell the members what they should post and discuss, what they shouldn’t, how they should treat people, what your policy is for self-promotion.
Encourage new members on Slack – it’s a good idea to consider an onboarding series of emails to your newest members. You want to help them post, join conversations, and share their expertise. If you won’t be using a series, consider connecting with every new member to get to know them a little bit. When members feel welcome they will give the community more time to see if it’s a true fit.
Handle Slack invites – For a new community it might be best to manual approve all members, this will give you an idea of how many members are joining and you can reach out to them after they are invited to say hello. However, as your community grows you may want to automate the process – here’s a tool that will allow you to do that. Community Inviter
Guide New Members Through Notifications – I find it best to explain notifications and have members set up their preferences right from the beginning. I never want a member to get annoyed and turn off all notifications because they are frustrated. So it’s best to take care of this in the beginning and explain how to get the notifications they want.
Keep the Slack URL short & easy to remember – Slack has started getting ‘creative’ with how they name new installations by adding several characters to the end of the name you’ve chosen. That makes it harder for members to remember and login from their phones without any friction (requesting emails and going through the forgotten process). Pay attention when you register your new group and make sure to remove extra characters.
Keeping Slack Members Engaged
It’s no secret that people usually turn off notifications in Slack and email notifications from Slack – no one has the time to get inundated with notifications. So you have to be careful to manage your members’ attention or they’ll cut you out. That means logging out of their account and often never returning. With that in mind, here are some ways you can beef up the engagement of your members and keep them active in the long-term.
Keep @channel notifications to a minimum – as the admin you can make sure others aren’t allowed to @channel an entire group, this is good practice to keep notifications from annoying members.
Send weekly newsletters – Round up the greatest content, discussions, and resources from the week and manually put together an interesting newsletter that will peak member curiosity. This newsletter is going to be very important to engagement, so you’ll want to put in the effort it deserves.
Schedule a Content Calendar – One way to keep people interested in participating in your community is to constantly have new/helpful content and discussions. From the admin side, that means planning out some ideas for topics. You can do this with Trello or a spreadsheet. The most important idea here is consistency in adding content to the community.
Depending on what your startup business is, you most likely have a lot of niche topics you can discuss. Combined with industry news you should be able to find something to encourage discussion at least a few times a week, if not more.
Set up and seed group channels – Every group or channel you start needs as much care and content as the main community. You do not want a bunch of dead channels that scare away new members. Be sure to add content and get members interested in the discussions within each channel before adding more. Based on your startup you might be able to add a job channel, news, self-promotion, etc.
Share good conversation on social media when it’s happening – One thing I did while working for HubSpot’s Inbound.org was use the Twitter and Facebook social media accounts to share developing conversations. This brought people into the discussions immediately (which is good for Slack chats) and gave us another outlet for marketing.
Talk to as many members as possible – One of the most common pieces of advice I give community managers is to talk to as many members as often as possible. Every day you should be getting feedback from members, learning what they like, and helping them achieve their goals. For startup communities, it’s important to understand how they like your product and how the product/services can improve over time.
As with any community, once you start on Slack will need a lot of thought and ongoing work to keep it active and healthy. If I can help at all, please contact me and I’ll offer some help. Also, if you have questions, send them along and I’ll turn them into a blog post.