The email inbox is like a jar of candies that we just can’t keep our hands out of. Chances are, if you lift up that lid and check it, you’ll have a sweet surprise waiting in the form of a message. We can’t seem to resist the temptation of the inbox tab, especially when the ticking numbers are telling us people are getting in touch. And when that does happen, we waste our precious time.
So what if you could introduce a new tool to your team which would render email almost obsolete? A new form of communication that has already taken off in the tech world, a more snappy, to-the-second path of discussion? It’s here. And it’s called Slack.
What is Slack?
Originally an intracompany tool, Slack is a cloud based communication platform that has already established itself in the tech scene. It is based around channels through which various teams can communicate, sharing ideas, documents and tasks which all become a searchable history. Ok sounds interesting, but what does this actually mean? I’m more of a visual person, so I find it best to check out and start to understand software by photos. Here’s a few examples of what Slack can do:
Alternatively, you can watch the 2ish-minute tour.
The list of apps that Slack integrates with is impressive. Need to integrate a tool to arrange meetings? Meet Meekan. Have daily tasks that are tedious to track? Not with Manifestly. The list goes on: Mailchimp, Trello, Asana, Skype, Dropbox, Google Drive.
It’s not all serious stuff, there is also a whole host of social and fun integrations because let’s face it, what can’t a well placed gif say?
How can it be used in agencies?
The limits lie, quite frankly, in your imagination. This is software that is almost open-ended, with over 150 integrations and the potential to invite external folk into specific conversations, you could be using Slack to bundle your spread-out tasks into one single application.
Within your team, do you find yourself using multiple routes for the same goal? Let’s say you want to chat with Debbie across the room. Do you shout to her? Walk over to her desk? Google chat? What if you want to book a meeting with her, once you’ve decided how to actually reach across the room and ping her – do you then scroll through your calendars looking for a convenient time, or use another tool like Doodle to pinpoint a coordinated time?
Slack simplifies this. It provides a singular route for communication rather than twisting paths of options and apps. Slack knows how you do this: You ping @debbie and set up a /manifestly. Debbie contacted, meeting sorted, and distractions minimised.
Agencies tend to have a few project managers working on campaigns, and this calls for efficient and very well coordinated teamwork. Currently, teams may be choosing how to do this. Perhaps through weekly meetings, with key points scribbled into notebooks or even scraps of paper, or maybe even just by turning around and having a chat with your colleague. But information can get lost, pieces of advice forgotten, and teammates left out.
Again, Slack provides a continuous conversation platform in which each team can set up their own project – let’s say #AwesomeBrandCampaign – invite only those who are part of the project, and record any sort of discussion related to it. Documents and photos can be easily shared between the team, conversations can be recorded and searched at later points. So it doesn’t matter if Ruth was off sick on the Tuesday meeting, she can just have a read and catch up from bed. From her phone, because yup, Slack works seamlessly off mobile too.
And maybe, if you’re a tech-friendly agency who loves to get clients involved, you can get them in on this too. What if your clients could simply drop you a quick message from inside Slack, “Hey guys how are the numbers looking for tomorrow’s staffing gig at the O2?” rather than having to head over to email, mull over what to write instead of the mundane and overused “hope you’re well” and get distracted in the meantime.
Clients love to know they have accessibility, that they’re staying up-to-date, and that they are your most important project. Slack’s instant communication can help them feel that way.
Not to mention, snapping a few photos on-site? Whiz them over to the clients in their channel so they can see your gorgeous and engaging crew doing their thing. It’s instant, it’s reassuring, and it’s a way to be ahead of everyone else.
Can it replace email?
Back in 1995, the Financial Times wrote about email “Electronic mail has become a vital business tool for many companies” and that at that point, “55 per cent of workers at America’s biggest companies had used it”. Now, it would be unthinkable not to have email at your workplace. But that was 1995, and the curve is moving in another direction now. With Slack reducing inbox clutter from 180 emails a day to 30 for the co-founder of Huckeberry Partners, this isn’t just a trend whose bubble will burst and be forgotten. Slack, and the general introduction of real-time team communication flows, are fast becoming the new vital tool and will make sending email feel like picking up a pen and paper.
So, why not give it a try. With customers like NASA, Survey Monkey, Lush and The Times, Slack is clearly on to something great. The basic version, which still includes plenty of features, is free for as long as you like, and your team may appreciate the ease of communication, opportunity to creatively integrate it into your agency, and the giggle-worthy injections of GIFs into their day. Because we really do all love a good GIF.