Slack is now widely popular across industries for the versatility it lends to internal correspondence, but it is also gaining traction as a way to engage readers. Publishers like The New York Times and Breaking News have used the technology to send story tips directly to readers and live-blog major events, as our sister site Digiday has reported. Traditional fashion publishers, however, have so far held off, but recent integrations of the tool by younger, more modern sites hint at Slack’s untapped potential to drive engagement and build community for media.
It’s the newest publications that could have the most to gain from using the app. According to M. Paul Munford, whose luxury business briefing Lean Luxe is currently in beta, launching a dedicated Slack channel for his readers has been one of his best business decisions yet. After his most loyal newsletter subscribers began asking for a way to connect with each other, he surveyed hundreds of them for ideas before settling on a final tool. Slack was the clear winner. “It’s allowing subscribers to interact, [and] it’s a huge community builder,” he said. “I participate often, but all I’ve really had to do is set it up and sit back.”
Implementation has been easy across the board, Munford said. Rather than having to chase after new members, people have been reaching out to him in the hopes of receiving an invite. That exclusivity ingredient, along with direct access to founders and editors, appears to be a key selling point. “Keeping it high-quality and rejecting people who don’t make the cut, I think, helps people value it more,” he said.
This past October, Emily Weiss — founder of beauty blog Into the Gloss and its adjacent brand Glossier — took the lead when she created an exclusive 150-person test group comprised of her site’s top users and Glossier’s most loyal customers. “We’ve done this cool thing where we leverage another technology instead of starting our own app, and include our most engaged girls,” Weiss told Glossy at the time, noting that the channel would be used to glean consumer insights and facilitate meet-ups across the country. It also functions as a modern day chat room, with members sharing everything from beauty tips to book recommendations.
Man Repeller founder Leandra Medine introduced a dedicated Slack channel for her most active readers the following month. Like Into the Gloss, Man Repeller has long had a robust comments section where readers have been able to communicate not just amongst themselves, but with Medine and her team as well. According to Jasmin Aujla, the company’s integrated marketing strategist, the Slack channel was created as an offshoot of this section, one where the most engaged members would be free to communicate in a more intimate setting. “Think of it like a cozy online hangout, a place for you to throw out ideas, discuss articles, pose questions [and] get honest feedback,” an introductory e-mail teased in November. The group has lived up to that, featuring channels like #dealornodeal for crowd-sourcing shopping advice and #wins, dedicated to “all things to celebrate!”
Community management is in the DNA of startups like Munford’s, but older companies operate from more of a remove: You don’t see the Wintours of the world communicating as openly with their readers as the Medines, for example. But as evidenced by giants like The New York Times and Harvard Business Review, which have used Slack to speak to readers, traditional fashion publications would be smart to do the same. They could offer editor access to readers on a case-by-case basis or unite them in similarly exclusive groups as a way to bolster brand loyalty that’s faltered. For example, it would help Hearst and Conde Nast publications, which have begun sharing (or regurgitating) most content. And while it might seem like we’re at platform overload, Slack seems to offer a nostalgic, more intimate community that’s tough to foster elsewhere.
“All of a sudden, customer service and marketing live in one place, and a brand can support their top users who then feel incredibly empowered and excited,” said Ashwin Deshmukh, partner at Hungry, a full-service digital agency specializing in everything from strategy to digital marketing. “I see it as an empathy play, and I’d be interested to see which brands start hiring from their Slack community and how they balance community with the impulse to sell in the channel.”