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How to build and grow a Slack community using Common Room
Jun 27th, 2023

How to build and grow a Slack community using Common Room

We’ve written a lot about Slack communities—what they are, whether they’re the right fit for your company, how Slack compares to other community platforms (we’ve even written the ultimate guide to Slack community management).

And it’s not just because Common Room has a powerful Slack integration—it’s also because Slack is the foundation of our own community, Uncommon (come say hi!).

In our experience, it’s easiest to learn by example, so we’d like to walk you through our own Slack story.

Keep reading to see how we used Common Room to:

  • Get our Slack community off the ground
  • Engage and deliver more value to our Slack community members
  • Drive business impact and prove the ROI of our Slack community

Should you choose Slack for your community?

Before jumping into the nitty-gritty details, it’s worth talking about why we chose Slack as our primary community platform in the first place.

To make a long story short, we wanted to be able to:

Meet our community members where they wereCultivate conversations with our communityShed light on our community
Survey results showed Slack was one of the top choices for connecting with community members.Slack provided the opportunity for real-time chatting as well as asynchronous threads.Slack made it easier to help our members (and our team) know who they were talking to.

It also didn’t hurt that Slack came with a lot of handy community management features.

But more importantly, it gave us the chance to create a better product for our customers. Slack is one of Common Room’s main integrations. Using it to build our community meant we could continually test, iterate, and optimize how that integration worked.

How to seed your Slack community

When Common Room first emerged from stealth, we encouraged people to sign up for our waitlist and join our community newsletter mailing list. That's how we started—a little newsletter with a lot to share about community building.

Once we decided to make Slack the daily home of Uncommon conversations, we seeded our community by asking our newsletter subscribers to join. Of approximately 2,500 subscribers, a few hundred made the move to Slack.

Pro tip: Focus on depth, not breadth, when you’re first starting your community (on Slack or any other platform). Build your foundations with people who are sincerely interested in what you’re doing. From there it’s a matter of finding out if those people are keen to have daily conversations, what they want those conversations to look like, and what channels they prefer those conversations to happen in.

Early on we had to decide whether our Slack community would be open or application-based. We went with open—part of the ethos of the people we were trying to connect with is that it’s important to have spaces where people can come together, share, and learn.

Of course, having a Slack community anyone can join means being extra vigilant about the activity in your community and providing guidance when necessary. That meant setting expectations (creating a code of conduct is key!), proactively explaining what certain Slack channels were intended for, and being willing to reach out to members privately to address any issues or concerns if needed.

We started with seven original Slack channels:

#say-helloA place for meeting and greeting fellow community members
#communityA place for asking and answering questions related to growing, engaging, and supporting your community
#learningA place for sharing community-related content and resources
#eventsA place for sharing and finding community-focused events, meetups, and happenings
#job-boardA place for sharing and finding community-driven job opportunities
#celebrationsA place for celebrating each other (and ourselves) for wins big and small
#banterA place for non-community-related chatter, ideas, and musings

Common Room’s identity resolution and profile enrichment took the guesswork out of understanding who our Slack community members were and where else they were engaging with us.

Image of profile enrichment
⚙️ Common Room uses AI to automatically create a single, unified profile of each member across all your community sources. This helped us see exactly who was participating in our community and better tie activity in Uncommon to unowned community activity across digital touchpoints, such as LinkedIn and Stack Overflow.

We also used Common Room to automate onboarding messages, like our welcome message, to make sure every new member was greeted and had what they needed to get started no matter what time of day they arrived.

Image of Slack welcome message
⚙️ You can automatically welcome each and every member who joins your community using Common Room’s automated Slack onboarding workflow. This helped us easily onboard all our community members (and schedule check-in messages to make sure people were settling in okay).

These and other automations gave me a ton of my time back, which I could then use to focus on higher-impact work (like building a tutorial to onboard new users). It’s a similar story with Common Room customers: Fintech company Moov saves more than 100 hours each year on member tracking and onboarding.

With our Slack community off and running, we started to drill down into our community members and the best ways to engage them.

How to grow your Slack community

We started promoting our Slack community on our website, in our content (like this!), and across our owned digital channels.

And as our community grew, it evolved.

For instance, we realized we needed to carve out dedicated spaces for specialists in the community world, such as developer relations professionals. So we created a Slack channel called #devrel-deep-dives.

And as more people from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia joined our community, it became clear that time differences could be a big turnoff (it’s no fun talking community when everyone else is asleep). So we created our #uncommon-emea channel specifically for these members.

Pro tip: It's important to listen to your community members’ needs. It’s also important to anticipate them. To make your Slack community a place where people want to spend their time, you need to continually think about how you’re delivering value to your members. It may be as simple as creating dedicated Slack channels—or it may require you to overhaul how you engage and enable your members.

Common Room let us get a pulse on our community (and what got it talking).

Image of topics
⚙️ Common Room uses AI-powered natural language processing to intelligently detect, categorize, and display popular topics in your Slack community. This helped us quickly see which topics drove the most interest among our members, whether it was related to our product, an event, or anything in between.

Beyond learning which topics mattered most to our community members, we could also see how they felt about them.

⚙️ Common Room goes beyond what’s trending to give you the sentiment surrounding different topics (positive, neutral, or negative). This helped us measure community sentiment in real time, which was especially handy for understanding the impact of new feature releases and hosted events.

Of course, we didn’t just rely on artificial intelligence. We surveyed our community members to learn why they joined Uncommon in the first place and what they were hoping to get out of it.

Image of Slack survey workflow
⚙️ You can survey individual community members or entire cohorts of members with Common Room’s automated Slack survey workflow. This helped us understand the needs of our community members—quickly, easily, and at scale—as well as plan out follow-up messages and build member segments based on responses.

Once we got to know our community members more, we went to work creating relevant content and tailoring engagement to their wants and needs.

How to engage your Slack community

In a perfect world, you’re able to jump into any and every Slack conversation in real time. In the real world, you need to find ways to scale.

That meant prioritizing and automating where possible.

Of course, no community is monolithic. Our members live in different regions, face different challenges, and are interested in different things. That’s why we set out to balance scalability with personalization.

Pro tip: Find ways to save time without losing the personal touch. There are certain tasks that naturally lend themselves to bulk messages, such as new member onboarding. But you can also create member segments based on specific criteria, such as which industry members work in or where they’re located, to engage multiple members at once without blasting off a generic, one-size-fits-all broadcast.

Common Room’s filters and segments gave us a way to manage and engage different member cohorts more efficiently.

Say there’s a community-led meetup happening in Toronto next week. I could filter members by location, add them to a segment specifically designed for our Toronto members, and bulk DM them.

Image of filter
⚙️ Common Room’s filters allow you to get granular with your Slack community, grouping members together based on key attributes and behaviors. Then you can add them to segments to reach them at scale. This helped us personalize community outreach to large member cohorts much more quickly.

As your community grows, it gets easier for things to fall through the cracks. We used Common Room to stay on top of all the activity we wanted to know about.

Image of team alert
⚙️ Team alerts in Common Room help you stay up to date on key activities by automatically triggering notifications based on preset criteria, from new members joining your Slack community to spikes in negative sentiment from community influencers. This helped us maintain visibility into events related to specific members, organizations, and activities.

With our real-time team alerts set up, we cut the time it took to respond to our community members. The same goes for our customers: AI-driven software delivery platform Harness saw a 25% improvement in community response rate after adopting Common Room.

We also sped up response time by using Common Room’s automated messaging features.

Image of Slack message
⚙️ You can automatically DM community members who meet a set of predefined criteria using Common Room’s automated Slack message workflows. This helped us re-engage inactive members by automatically sending them check-in messages to invite them back into the conversation (or survey them to understand why they’d gone quiet in the first place).

In the course of engaging our community, we also uncovered which members would make ideal champions (and be our best partners and advocates across other digital channels).

How to find champions on Slack

We’ve already written about how we seeded our champions program using Common Room, but finding and inspiring brand ambassadors is incredibly valuable (if you click the link above, you’ll see that organizations that have them generate three times more average recurring revenue than those that don’t), so it’s worth repeating.

After we aligned on the goals of our champions program, we set the bar for what our champions should look like: top Slack community contributors, active product users, and people who drive tangible impact across our community in whichever channels they participate in.

Pro tip: If you’re going to ask people to volunteer their time (and trust), you should set clear expectations for what that entails and what people will get out of it. Be clear with your champions about your requests and how their perspectives can create value for the entire community. Just as importantly, make sure you’re recognizing and rewarding them for their participation.

We created a special segment for our champions and focused on ways to reward them, inspire them, and engage them. Champions don’t just make your community a more vibrant place, they also act as brand ambassadors in external communities. People trust people over brands, so having champions who can lend your company credibility, extend product knowledge, and provide education is essential.

Common Room’s impact points let us take community impact from an abstract concept to a concrete metric.

⚙️ Impact points in Common Room help you understand which members influence your community most based on their activities, such as number of Slack posts, replies, and reactions. This helped us identify the members driving the most impact across our Slack community.

We also used Common Room to gain more insight into how different members operate in our Slack community.

Image of tags
⚙️ Common Room’s tags make it easy to identify community members with certain attributes. You can create and apply your own or use out-of-the-box tags. This helped us find and track community pioneers (the first members from organizations), contributors (members who regularly engage with others), influencers (members with broad social media reach), and more.

We could see firsthand how our community flywheel was delivering value, from surfacing valuable product feedback to driving word-of-mouth marketing. But seeing and proving are two different things.

We needed to make sure our success on Slack was quantitative, not just qualitative.

How to measure the community impact of Slack

When you’re first starting out, you’re probably going to be most concerned with membership and engagement metrics, such as how many members you have, how responsive they are to each other, and what their overall sentiment is.

But as your community evolves, you’ll want to tie it back to the business wherever possible. You can check out our business impact report to get an idea of the types of business metrics your Slack community can influence, from impact on open sales pipeline to speeding up sales cycles.

Pro tip: Try to align how you measure and report on your Slack community with what moves the needle for other stakeholders, whether it’s go-to-market teams, product teams, or others. You’ll obviously have your own must-have metrics, but by showing other teams how community impacts their work, you make it easier to build excitement for your company’s community, get executive-level buy-in, and receive the resources you need.

One of the key metrics we used was membership growth among our ideal customer profile (ICP). We know that customers who fit our ICP generally get (and give) deep value in the Uncommon community, as well as get the most value out of Common Room. So we filter them, add them to an auto-renewing segment, and keep an eye on them to make sure they’re getting everything they need.

Ultimately, the goal is to help them realize more value from our product so they feel confident about joining a sales conversation.

Common Room’s reporting allowed us to analyze our community performance on demand and in real time, as opposed to doing it the old-fashioned (and manual) way.

Image of reporting
⚙️ Reporting in Common Room gives you a bird’s eye view of all the growth and health metrics related to your Slack community. It also makes it easy to create and share reports with different stakeholders. This helped us quickly track membership growth, engagement rate, sentiment, and much more, as well as refine how we report using prebuilt and custom filters.

No matter what you’re reporting on, the goal is to uncover insights and show impact, not cobble together inconsistent metrics that take time away from building community programs with and for your members. We’ve saved tons of time with Common Room’s reporting, and so have customers such as Asana, which saves more than 100 hours annually on manual data reporting and analysis.

What we’ve learned so far

No two Slack communities are exactly the same, but if you manage one, three things are likely true:

  1. You love the work you do.
  2. You’re trying to find the time to do it.
  3. You’re struggling to connect that work to the business’s bottom line.

That’s why it’s so important to use tools that are purpose-built for community.

Slack is an amazing platform, but it’s not designed with the ins and outs of community building in mind. Don’t be afraid to get started with Slack’s free plan, but remember that if you want to save more time, uncover more insights, and take action at scale, you need tools that are designed for you.

And with that, I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice: Think big, but start anywhere—including small.

The best way to grow your community is by repeating what you did to get it off the ground in the first place: Focus on the people who are genuinely excited about what you’re doing, prioritize their challenges and goals, and build incrementally in collaboration with them.

Thriving Slack communities are powered by people—if you listen to and understand their wants, needs, and motivations, you’ll never lose your North Star.

Connect your Slack community to Common Room

Ready to take your Slack community to the next level?