Slack has taken the world by storm in the past 18 months. It has been growing at 5% per week for 70 consecutive weeks and organizations large and small are adopting this new way to communicate internally. Many of them are also looking for ways to engage and support their customers through Slack.
In this post, I will outline how you can start a public Slack group to engage with your developer community.
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But first, why should I use Slack?
Before Slack, software developers used IRC (Internet Relay Chat) for realtime communication. In fact, Slack’s inspiration came from IRC. Many software developers are already familiar with using chat to ask questions and collaborate. On top of that, many technology companies are early adopters of Slack, so a lot of your target audience are already using Slack at work and have Slack installed on their computers and phones which lowers the friction to joining.
Developers are bombarded by news of the latest APIs, SDKs, and gadgets every day. Today, there are more than 31 million open source projects on Github that a developer can tinker with. It is extremely difficult today to stand out from the crowd. By offering a new medium of communication, it adds another channel to your existing social networks and blogs so you can differentiate yourself from other companies by providing speedy and exceptional developer support.
Slack is free no matter how big your community grows to so you don’t have to worry about outgrowing your account.
Start a Slack community
First you need to create a new team on Slack that is separate from your company one because you do not want to grant public access to your company’s internal communication. Follow this link to sign up and give your community a name.
Once you have your Slack account ready, you need a way to invite new members. New members can sign up only by invitation of the Slack administrator. The best way is to use Typeform, a free and easy way to create beautiful responsive forms, for collecting email addresses. This option requires you to log into Typeform regularly (eg daily) to manually invite people who have signed up. If you would like to automate the process and don’t mind looking at some code, check out this link.
Foster and Grow
After you have created a form, then it’s time to let the world know about your Slack community. There are online Slack chat directories like Slack Chats and Slack List which let you submit your Slack community for others to discover. You can also leverage your social media, news aggregators and email lists to bring conversations into your Slack chat.
To ensure high quality conversations, creating a channel for general announcements or promotions helps to keep the main channels on topic. Just like any other medium, sharing valuable content adds value to the community and gives a reason for people to come back. At the end of the day, the value of a community is in its people so establishing a code of conduct is vital to the success of the community you are trying to create.
If for whatever reason you do not want to use Slack, there are other alternatives that are also free: