Should You Move Your Community To Slack?

Wistia moved their community to Slack.

Slack (or any chat-room) is terrific for encouraging participation.

It offers frictionless participation, real-time feedback, less mental energy, stronger familiarity between members etc…You can make some interesting integrations too with Zapier and other tools.

The best Slack channels have a large group of people with the channel open who are happy to dive into discussions at any moment. That’s a powerful real-time feedback group to help you with any problem. Slack prioritizes the level of activity and sense of community above all else.

When a sense of community is king, Slack is your castle.

But it’s less good for building up a useful knowledge base. The same questions might be repeated endlessly. Knowledge is lost once it rolls off the edge of the top of the page. You lose your search traffic (which accounts for 70%+ traffic in many communities). It’s harder to shine attention on your stars or build content on top of it.

People can’t easily learn from what others have done before. It’s terrible for lurkers (who comprise the bulk of membership). And if you’re based in an awkward time-zone, you’re largely excluded from discussions.

This ultimately comes down to a single decision. Is your priority on the smaller group of people that do participate in communities or on the larger group of people that don’t?


  1. Erlend Sogge Heggen says:

    Slack communities is a trend that we’re following very closely over at Discourse, and I’ve spoken about it before. After seeing countless more use cases this past year I’m probably more open to it now than I was initially, but I still think it’s the wrong tool for the job in many cases. The allure of :free: is as strong as ever.

    But it’s less good for building up a useful knowledge base. The same questions might be repeated endlessly. Knowledge is lost once it rolls off the edge of the top of the page. You lose your search traffic (which accounts for 70%+ traffic in many communities). It’s harder to shine attention on your stars or build content on top of it.

    This is huge, and unfortunately it’s not something you’ll feel the effects of until you’re several months or even years into your project. I’m glad Slack is introducing the concept of a community presence to companies that might otherwise not have one at all, but I sincerely encourage every Slack community to have a streamlined process for “Post Slack snapshot to PlatformX”, where PlatformX can be your forum, your docs platform, your blog; anything that’s publicly available on the world wide web.

    Slack is an amazing tool for engagement, but in our excitement we must not forget why we built this WWW thing in the first place:

    The World Wide Web (abbreviated WWW or the Web) is an information space where documents and other web resources are identified by Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), interlinked by hypertext links, and can be accessed via the Internet.

  2. Rob Bosch says:

    I think a combination of both a more permanent plpatform (we use discourse) and slack is more powerfull than the parts. Recently we started using slack for realtime discussiongroups. We started a pilot for an Ambassador group. Just to see if a group of members that have shown a great empathy with other members and are always there to help. That group is now in a Slack group discussing community issues. This way the process of getting specific tasks and who is responsible for those tasks went so much faster than only using a forums like platform.
    Also the bonding with other Ambassadors is great. Immediately after start there was a mutual feeling that we all wanted to get the community to a higher plan.
    Now we have a group of 12 people (including me and @ale_fattorini) who already are doing the most community related stuff.
    We chose to let this pilot last for 3 months, to see if this works. After those 3 months we will decide if we go on with the Ambassador program or stop it. Now, being 1 week active, I hope it keeps its pace and we can go on with the program.

  3. Sarah Hawk says:

    I agree that a hybrid can work well. We use Slack for ‘events’ (live Q&As) but not for daily interactions (although there are community members that continue to use it for that, which is fine, but unmoderated).

    From their perspective, the barrier to entry is low (people already know how to use it) and the response is instantaneous. I get that.

    From my perspective, it’s a great opportunity to source new community members (“Hey [member], you should join us at [community] for ongoing support on this”).

    The downside is that it becomes a spam-fest if it’s not moderated, so it increases workload. We’re about to try writing out own Slack-bot to do some messaging when people sign up, and potentially some auto-moderating.

    I’d love to get the Slack --> Discourse plugin working at some point.

  4. Katie Bapple says:

    Interesting topic right now! I often work with groups starting new communities. In A LOT of the phone calls I do with their potential members, Slack comes up. People like it because they get it. However, most of the preferences, behaviors and inclinations I discover about that person during the call points to Slack not being the right solution. Great article with great points.

  5. Alessio Fattorini says:

    I totally agree with @Rob_Bosch and @erlend_sh I’m a Discourse fan and it works very well for our community!
    I would prefer Slack just to connect small groups,
    Sometimes have a small group is better.

    So we created a place where we can feel safe and freely also go off-topic, strengthening the links between us. Discourse is great but nothing can replace a real interaction in real-time!

  6. Erlend Sogge Heggen says:

    No argument here. There is something about the immediacy of chat that facilitates human connection far better than any asynchronous communication tool. I’ve observed this myself on multiple occasions.

    Interesting. If you ever elaborate on that in a blog post or just a topic here on FeverBee, please @ping me about it!

  7. Luis Villa says:

    @Rob_Bosch , did you summarize your findings from this pilot somewhere? I’m considering the slack/discourse question for a nascent community and would love to hear what your experience was.

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