Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How Slack Grew From 500K to 1.7M Daily Active Users Within 8 Months

Originally designed as an internal project, the famous team communications tool we now know as Slack was never meant to see the light of day.

Stewart Butterfield, one of the co-founders of Flickr, meant to create a games app called Glitch when he and his team felt the need to streamline their own communication process.

The team loved it so much that when Glitch had to shut down, their prevailing concern was how to work in an environment where a tool like that did not exist. Thus Slack was created, to great success.

Since its official launch in February 2014, Slack has been reaching milestones every few months. From 500,000 daily active users on its first birthday, they more than doubled that within just four months, and just in October they fast forwarded that number to 1.7 million daily active users.

Today, tons of users (including probably every tech startup you know) now share the same nightmare: how can anyone work without Slack?

Here are some of the many reasons why we know Slack is not going anywhere:

1. Slack has an excellent onboarding strategy for new users, delighting them with its warmth and simplicity

slack onboarding process

Being a new tool, you’d imagine it was probably difficult for Slack to convince people to shift their entire team’s communication process to a rather unfamiliar platform.

Instead of letting that become a barrier, Slack managed to solicit a positive experience from this challenge by putting together a step-by-step guide on the on-boarding process that helps make sure new users understand the product’s functionalities and quirks in a fun and highly interactive manner — all within just a few clicks.

As noted by The New Web:

“One particular example of this is when setting up your account, you’re messaged by Slack’s friendly bot to get your details. It talks like a human, instead of just offering you a form to fill out. An overlooked, but valuable detail in making the tool feel friendly.

slack bot

Slack’s support team uses a similar tactic for interacting with customers. Instead of responding to disgruntled users with robotic “sorry about your problem we’ll look into it” messages, the team talks to customers in simple, easy to understand language… with some emoji thrown in. Emoji works to add a human touch, believe it or not.”

2. Every Slack user can potentially start their own communities around their interests, invite more Slack users and perpetuate a viral referral loop

slack avatars

Although its primary use is for workplace collaboration and communication, Slack is also drawing significant usage from communities that seek to promote wider interaction regardless of timezone and location boundaries.

Through Slack’s public channels, executives and enthusiasts from all walks of life get to network with each other.

According to The Next Web:

“You can find a Slack team for talking about design, startups, music, whiskey and basically anything else imaginable.

[But] It’s not just communities using the platform, either. WordPress.org, the community behind WordPress’ open-source software, recently abandoned its IRC channel and shifted to Slack, citing that IRC is complicated and unfriendly.”

These community members are probably the strongest ambassadors Slack can have. With every new member that gets invited to a public Slack community, a new opportunity to discover Slack as a product arises.

Each new member can easily start their own public channel catering promoting another interest focus or perhaps a private group for its company.

3. Slack understands its market’s demographic very well, integrating beautifully with all the other tools that its users typically use

slack integration

Slack uses social media tools such as the “#” and “@” symbols – the same, familiar symbols most of us use heavily on Facebook and Twitter. 

Slack can also be integrated with 100+ tools such as Twitter, MailChimp, Google Drive, Trello and Github, the same tools startups use, contributing to the long list of reasons why startups love Slack.

Startups are also known to have a more casual and friendly vibe in terms of the language, tone and visuals they use; the same characteristics Slack embodies.

In line with the communication-heavy nature of the product, Slack also keeps an updated blog as a primary way of communicating to its community and users.

Whether it’s a product update, a new integration, a logo experiment or some behind-the-scene story about their company, Slack does an excellent job in educating their users and sustaining conversations about their product.

4. Slack successfully brings productivity and conversation tools in one place with API integrations

slack api integration

As proven by tech giants like Youtube and Airbnb, app integrations a.k.a platform hacking can be a significant growth hacking strategy for startups.

“Capitalizing on the success of another platform or business is a great way to grow your own. Try to find a way to work with other relevant platforms, businesses, products, or services. That’s one way that YouTube got so big, so quickly. In 2005, YouTube looked to “platform hack” MySpace and tap into their growing user base and gain more views and users for themselves and guess what; it worked.”

By continuously expanding its network of third-party integrations, Slack boosts its discoverability through app selections AND increases functionality in the eyes of its users.

Now, when startups sign up for company Slack groups and accounts, they can easily spot a dozen of apps that they’re already using or are looking to use.

Slack also hired Google and Twitter alumnus April Underwood to oversee all its API integration. Here are some of the notable insights from Fast Company’s article:

“Slack has worked with about 100 partners to build third-party services directly into Slack’s suite of mobile and desktop apps. Teams using Slack have collectively activated 900,000 of those integrations. With Underwood’s arrival, the company aims to dramatically increase those numbers, making Slack more of a one-stop-shop for work and productivity.

“There’s been a huge proliferation of apps and services for work over the past few years, and while many of these apps help teams do great work, they all operate as islands,” Underwood told Fast Company. “Slack, as a platform, makes work easier for users by bringing these tools and services together all in one place.””

5. Slack gives great value and incentives to welcome new users

slack for apple watch

From countries to platforms to operating systems, Slack’s got it covered. Even with it’s basic plan, Slack is giving away a lot of great features for free such as support for 10K messages, a serach function, up to 10 app integrations, multi-team support and so on, allowing anyone to enjoy the benefits of the service for free. No wonder they converted almost half a million users to paying customers.

Slack also has a fantastic referral program. For example, group owners can receive points upon successfully inviting a new user to Slack. This incentivises groups (like companies!) to use Slack together. By collecting enough points, individuals can upgrade several paid updates for free!

6. Slack uses strong, memorable imagery to communicate its value to the world

slack euphoria ad campaign

Just recently, Slack launched its first big outdoor campaign called Euphoria, which aims to gain a broader audience in cities like Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Charlotte, N.C. The rainbows and unicorns got the people looking, while the statistics got them thinking.

According to AdWeek:

“Slack did research on its user base over the summer to gather the eye-opening data in the ads—that Slack led to a 32 percent increase in team productivity, 48.6 percent fewer emails and a 25.1 percent reduction in meetings.

For the colorful, somewhat hipstery ads, in keeping with the brand persona, that data was then presented in the context of how joyful it presumably makes Slack users.”

Here is a recap of Slack’s WOM and growth hacks:

  1. Set up an excellent on-boarding process
  2. Encourage community development
  3. Understand the market
  4. Communicate with users regularly
  5. Support app integrations
  6. Make app available across countries and platforms
  7. Showcase valuable insights

Slack’s story tells us that being early into the game does not guarantee success –  it is about making sure that the product evolves together with the market.

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Read next: How Referrals Built The $10 Billion Dropbox Empire

Christine Aguilar

With over five years of experience in the tech and social media space, Christine now believes that there is an app for literally everything. Watching geeky shows or reading about that newly-launched app keeps her up at night.

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