Productivity Tools We Love: Slack

Tools

Productivity Tools We Love: Slack

Developers. Marketers. R&D. Customer Education. Analysts. Systems Engineers.

We have a lot of people at Raven doing a lot of jobs, using a lot of tools to do them. And although we’re all in one big room, internal communication is a challenge. Yammer was too complicated. IRC was too private. HipChat was… okay.

Along came Slack. Within a day, the R&D team adopted it. Two weeks later, the Customers team joined. Within three months, the entire company was on board. Slack’s outstanding signup and walkthrough process helped everyone immediately use the tool.

It was the first app that married group chat, messaging and file sharing in a way that was simple and made sense for teams. It wasn’t until we discovered all of the integrations with tools we already use, and most of all, support for animated GIFs, that I truly fell in love with it :) — Jon Henshaw, Raven co-founder and Chief Product Officer

To give you an idea of how thoroughly Raven has adopted Slack, here’s a peek at our overall activity since we signed up on February 27:

raven-slack-all-time-stats

And this is the activity in the past 24 hours:

raven-slack-24hours-stats

Notice that every single person at Raven is using it. Is there any software at your company that every single person uses in a 24-hour time period? (Besides Raven, of course!)

Our Favorite Features of Slack

Slack has three basic ways of communicating with others: via direct messages, public channels or private groups. Anyone can enter and leave a public channel at any time. Private groups can stretch across entire teams or include only those working on a certain project. You can upload documents or tie-in Google Apps and Dropbox to keep files in sync. You’ll figure out the benefits of those things on your own when you try Slack.

Instead, we wanted to tell you about the four things we like most:

1. Integrations

It’s easy for non-devs to use, and for them to work with defined integrations. And it allows custom integrations. — Scott Holdren, Raven co-founder and Chief Technology Officer

Much of what needs to be communicated at Raven are status updates — updates about our systems, our daily tasks, our projects, our company milestones.

Slack’s integration of tools that smaller teams already used to communicate these updates meant no one had to change an existing workflow to adopt Slack. (This was key to getting our developers to get active on Slack, by the way.)

We have some channels set up for specific integrations, such as our Zendesk channel, which logs every new customer question. Other channels combine information from multiple integration sources. For example, our General channel — the only one that everyone who uses Slack must join — pulls RSS updates from the Raven blog (via a defined integration) and information from our customer database (via a custom integration).

2. Dedicated Channels

Slack helps us work more closely with the customers team on diagnosing and resolving issues. Plus I can search past conversations for important things I forgot to store for later. — Isaac Van Name, Raven Lead Developer

A common problem at SaaS companies is communication between the customer, product and development teams.not-a-bug-a-feature

Although we have tools to help us track bugs and feature requests, sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to escalate an issue. Also, some things that seem like bugs aren’t, not if you ask a developer or you’re new to the company.

So that’s what we did: we created an “Ask-A-Dev” dedicated channel. It’s monitored by our lead developers, who answer questions from anyone in the company throughout the day. This saves a lot of time for everyone.

Because Slack archives all conversations, it’s simple to search to see if your question has been answered before.

3. Slack apps

Slack’s iOS app makes it quick and easy to check in on things while away from my desk. — Lizzie Keiper, Raven Customer Education Specialist

slack-iosYou can access Slack online from any browser. That’s where you’ll set up integrations and look at your team’s Activity stats. There’s also desktop software available in the Mac App store.

But Slack’s apps for iOS and Android — phone or tablet — mean that you can stay plugged into group communication when you’re on the go. Conversely, you can unplug whatever you need to. You can turn notifications on and off for particular channels, groups or keywords, which helps you see only the most urgent messages if you want.

I love the randomness of our Random channel. That’s where most of our inside jokes are born. But I don’t need to see random YouTube videos in the evening or when I’m on vacation.

4. Custom Emoji and Animated GIFs

It’s like Slack knew we needed 85 emoji to represent ourselves. — Isaac

I can’t underestimate how important custom emoji — that support animated GIFs no less! — are to Raven’s love of Slack. I’d even argue they help us be more efficient. No need to waste time typing out your feelings. Just use the appropriate emoji. Maybe this will help explain how much we love them:

slack-emoji

We have 26 custom emoji. So far.

Slack’s Personality

Slack is full of little touches that make using it more enjoyable. For example, their loading screens always have a quirky message. — Lizzie

Slack Loading Messages

This recap wouldn’t be complete without a nod to Slack’s personality.

Marketers often focus on the importance of tone and voice for establishing a brand. That applies to SaaS companies, too. But that tone often gets lost when it comes to the language used within the software. MailChimp gets it right. So does Slack. It’s fun, friendly and down-to-earth.

Even its iOS App Store update messages are fun and useful — no curt “Bugs Fixed” messages from them.

Slack iOS update page

Sign Up Now, Get a $100 Credit

If we didn’t find Slack so useful — if it didn’t help Raven become more communicative, more productive and more fun — we wouldn’t recommend it to you.

Slack is running a special until July 31, 2014. If you sign up with this link — https://slack.com/r/025g9f6k-025qhcsr — you will get a $100 credit if you become a paying customer. Raven will get $100 too.

Don’t want to go that route? No problem! Go to https://slack.com/ to take the product tour and sign up.

Give it a try.

About This Series

Welcome to our new occasional series about the productivity tools we love.

We started as an Internet marketing agency in 2005. Raven grew out of tools we built in-house to speed up our own work, tools that we quickly realized others might find useful. As online marketing software pioneers — more than that, as SaaS pioneers — Raven knows what it’s like to plant a flag in a niche, create valuable tools and believe that they will come.

That’s why we try new tools. We want to evaluate as much as we can, implement the greatest ideas and cheer on our very favorites. If we benefit, so could the tech-savvy marketers and agencies that use Raven.

Oh, and if you’re looking for more productivity tools, you’ll want to check out Raven’s new reporting engine.

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Arienne Holland is the Director of Marketing and Customer Experience at Raven. She divides her time between outreach, writing, teaching and understanding developers. Before Raven, Arienne spent more than a decade as an editor and graphic designer for Gannett. She was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for team breaking news journalism. She likes bread, books and bourbon.

More about Arienne Holland | @RavenArienne

Tell us what you think

  • RavenArienne

    I have never heard of Bitrix24. Checking it out now. Thanks for the tip!

  • ShaneDaBane

    Slack and Bitrix24 are the best free collab tools in human history. S+B24 tripled my productivity.