Posted on August 29, 2016 by: Collin Smith, Digital Project Management Intern
It is a goal of every business to connect with its consumers, be it in person, on social media or some other digital tool. After reading an article from Buffer Social on how and why businesses should create a Slack community, I knew that with the right approach this could be a great strategy to bridge the gap between the customer and the business. I believe that any business, from small businesses to large brands, has the opportunity to take advantage of Slack. Slack gives the organization the opportunity to create a community of its customers and allow another outlet for customer feedback and support.
What Is Slack?
Slack is a messaging tool designed for teams to stay in constant communication on projects or normal workflow. While using Slack, you can create private messages and public channels as well as private channels. The messaging service will even allow you to add your social media feeds for your team to see when someone posts about your company. Furthermore, the app allows for files of all kinds to be uploaded and sent immediately to your teammates. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Slack is that it is free to use!
How Is Slack Different from Social Media?
Creating a Slack community is different from normal social media on a number of levels:
- It’s a direct line to customers through instant messaging
- It’s an invite-only program (you have control over who is part of the conversation)
- Instant feedback from both sides (consumer and business)
- You can create public or private channels with specific people
- You can organize channels by specific topics
- You have the ability to toggle between channels very easily
How to Get Customers to Join the Slack Community
To start a Slack community, simply sign up online for free and build your Slack group representing your company. Then you can begin to create channels based on the different topics on which you would like to focus. Once the channels have been set up, you can begin to invite customers to join your Slack community. Here is where the challenging part comes in. Since every customer needs to be invited to the community, it can be tricky to figure out how that is done. Buffer Blog noted that a good idea to gain users’ information is to create a sign-up form using Type Form or any other service. The organization can then send the form either directly to consumers (email) or post the form to social media.
The customers we are looking for with this marketing strategy are not new customers, but rather we would intentionally invite customers who are active on our social channels or other brand-loyal customers who are interested in the given topic. Once you have invited them, you need to hook them somehow into investing their time and energy into posting and communicating with other consumers and the brand itself. Below are ways our own clients can take advantage of Slack communities and how they can hook consumers into the conversation.
Using Slack as a Customer Service Tool
I think any brand has the opportunity to take advantage of Slack in some capacity. The most realistic way is for customer service and feedback. Businesses can create channels named “Customer Service” or even have a customer representative available for direct messages from customers. The idea of the public channel is to allow one space for all customer complaints and service-related needs; that way, the business can answer all sorts of questions and take care of its customers. This idea came from the evolution of customer service. Think about the reputation that call centers got for keeping people on hold for hours at a time. Eventually, people grew tired of this method, so they decided to post directly to social media, expecting to wait no more than an hour to hear back from the company. I believe the next step in this process is directly instant messaging a customer service representative through Slack.
Using Slack to Build Brand Loyalty
The next biggest opportunity for businesses to use Slack is to bring their customers together to build a community centered around the brand. This may prove to be more challenging depending on how large and recognizable the brand is. Brands can begin building their communities on Slack by allowing their customers to dominate the conversation. The goal is to let the consumers run the channel, and the brands simply to facilitate and chime in when they believe the time is right. However, Slack is not the place to push products in the consumer’s face – they see enough advertising every day – and by doing that, it could turn them off to the possibility of engaging with the brand. Conversely, brands should emphasize conversation between customers and allow them to interact. If a customer has a question about how to do something, allow someone in the channel to respond and then evaluate the feedback on how you as a brand are fulfilling the needs of the customer. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is not to let your Slack channel be about your products. Focus on how you can better serve your customers by sitting back and monitoring the conversation, and watch how you can build a community of brand-loyal customers.
Unfortunately, Slack is still a small tool waiting for its potential to be realized; therefore, drawing customers to specifically interact with brands on a new application will prove to be a challenge for any company embarking on this strategy. However, I believe that if large brands start to incorporate this strategy, we will see customers flocking to Slack to join the conversation.
With the flood of people I expect, this would require a dedicated employee or team of employees to help monitor and respond to the customer complaints or chats. This in turn costs more time and money, but if done effectively, it can be a big part of keeping your customers engaged with the brand and coming back for more!
I believe that Slack has the potential to be the future of customer support and double as an effective tool to engage with customers and make them feel like they are part of the brand. With that, the time is now to start a Slack community: It’s low risk and there is virtually no competition, so what is there to lose?