Let’s talk about how you talk to your team. Do you use email? Do you wish there was an easier way to search for old conversations? I want to clue you in on a communication tool the JH Media Team uses to collaborate and share random things on the internet: Slack.

Slack is like a more advanced Twitter but for small, invite-only groups. It’s essentially the way all the members of our team, from the designers, project managers, and programmers to the marketers and account managers to touch base with one another. It’s also just a fun way to share information.

What Can Slack Do for Me?

Slack bills itself as the communication solution to end all solutions with real-time messaging (i.e., chat), archiving, and modern search techniques like hashtags. From a business perspective, Slack is versatile. Which is why it’s taken the design and development world by storm. We use it for our in-house design team. But if you were a small business, you could use it to collaborate and communicate with freelancers, contractors, employees and interns. 

For a real life application beyond the business world, consider this: I recently planned a family reunion. Instead of an email chain that was fifty replies deep, it would have been nice if I could have used a service like Slack to coordinate booking the rental, arrivals and departures, meal planning, cleaning, and the other miscellaneous details that go into family reunion planning. Event planning is just one aspect that could benefit from some smarter communication platforms. Let’s say you are organizing a conference or meetup, you could create a Slack community for all the presenters and participants to network before, during and after the event.

Sounds Too Good to Be True, What’s the Cost?

Slack does have a free plan that for the most part will be fine for testing Slack within your organization. However on the free plan, the message archive is limited to 10,000. After that point, if you decide you want to store all the messages your team sends, you’ll have to upgrade. The plan pricing is based on the number of users on your team, costing a certain amount per month, per user.

There are three plans: Lite (Free), Standard ($7 per user/month) and Plus ($13 per user/month). The biggest differences between the Lite and the other plans is that Lite has a limited archive, only 5 integrations (which means connecting with Twitter, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) and offers no support. The Standard and Plus plans both have unlimited archives, unlimited integrations, guest access and IT support. The biggest difference between the Standard and Plus is the reporting and analysis feature. You receive simple stats with the Standard, and more advance reporting and analysis with the Plus plan.

As shiny and new as Slack feels, it’s not quite the end-all-be-all solution it wants to be. One big hole It that it has yet to integrate popular email services with its platform, but Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield says email is in the works. For now, the company is marketing itself as an alternative to internal emails. While it’s hard to say whether Slack will eventually “kill email,” it will definitely lighten your inbox and keep conversations with team members organized and searchable.

This is just one tool of many revolutionizing the way we work and communicate. Want to know the reason we decided to try Slack? This fascinating profile of Butterfield, who some say is more visionary than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

How to use Slack:

  1. Sign up for the free plan to take it for a test drive.
  2. Invite users to your Slack team.
  3. Set up channels (i.e. categories or hashtags) that the community can use to discuss certain topics, like: #general #marketing, #sales, #pizzaparty, #random, #dev, etc.
  4. Make updates!
  5. Archive old messages or channels that are no longer relevant to the community.