Slack is no longer the shiny new toy that everyone loves.
In fact, if you’re a remote worker, it may even be making you sweat.
Either because the app is eerily similar to punching a clock…
“Not posting status updates like ‘Going on a lunch run’ or ‘Good morning’ was freeing. It feels a little like punching the clock.” (source)
Or because, on average, you check Slack every six minutes, and therefore, get no time for deep work…
“Overall, this opened my eyes to how often I habitually open Slack without actually getting anything done.” — team member who didn’t use Slack for a week
And according to RescueTime, on an average day, workers only have one hour and 12 minutes of productivity time that’s not interrupted by communication tools.
As a remote worker, I used to LOVE Slack. In fact, I joined a million Slack groups when it first came out, because it felt amazing to feel so connected and less isolated from the world.
But then, quite suddenly, I started to hate it for the very reasons I listed above. I want to love Slack again. I really do. So I’ve been thinking about these big, hairy problems they have.
In Stewart Butterfield’s infamous “We Don’t Sell Saddles Here,” he says:
“Look at it hard, and find the things that do not work. Be harsh, in the interest of being excellent.”
I believe he was referring to the product itself, but I don’t think Slack has a product problem. The product seems to work flawlessly, for the most part.
What Slack has is a content marketing problem. If you go to Slack’s website, and scroll to the footer, you’ll find the obscure blog link, which finally links to something other than its product-focused Medium publication.
The blog looks nice. The imagery is pretty. The content is finally a bit more nonchalant.
But overall, in the interest of making Slack excellent, I have to be harsh and say: Its blog still sucks. The content is fluffy, non-actionable and hidden.
I am not one to complain without offering a solution though, which is the purpose of this blog post. In it, I lay out — what I think — is a phenomenal content marketing strategy for Slack.
Even if you don’t think Slack has a content marketing problem, you’ll still learn how to develop a stellar content marketing strategy, so don’t give up on me yet.
So keep reading… if you want to learn a lot.
Slack is the 800-pound gorilla in the messaging app space.The nice thing about Slack is that A LOT of people/businesses already are aware of, or are currently using, the app. It’s been Inc’s Business of the Year in 2015, and it gets a lot of positive press.
Slack has a great brand personality, an influential founder and forgiving users, who never seem to get mad at the brand when it goes down. Its minimal website is visually appealing and offers a good user experience (UX).
As I’m not actually working with anyone at Slack, I don’t know what its internal business goals are, so I’m going to make some educated guesses.
The thing that troubles me about this is that nearly 50 percent of its organic search traffic is searching for “slack blog.”
That means people want to read stuff Slack writes, but when they get to the blog, they leave after just one minute!
Slack’s goal then should be to increase dwell time by dramatically improving the content it produces.
Slack’s current content lacks depth and substance. Aside from its beautiful new design, the website does not showcase a memorable brand personality or any influential writers with decent followings, like HubSpot does.
This piece of content is a step in the right direction. I would transform it into a meatier, more actionable how-to post that featured screenshots of exactly how to maximize these Slack features though.
I see another opportunity with this interview.
Notice the dry interview style. This is lazy reporting. In fact, you could’ve just recorded it, and got it transcribed with Rev for ~$12. Why not take a play from the First Round Review playbook and weave actionable advice together with a compelling story?
You have a gorgeous blog and a loveable brand (which means syndication would be easy if your content was good). You created a messaging movement, so now, it’s time to be forward-thinking in your content marketing strategy as well.
Now, in my opinion, time for the most important (or exciting) chapter — the chapter on blog content.
Many brands publish as if they’re PR Newswire, which is not a good thing! No one cares about brand-centric content unless it’s about a really sick company, and there really aren’t that many.
Chapter 1: Blog
One of the best things about Slack being Slack is that you can talk directly about your product and not sound spammy or have trouble getting syndicated elsewhere.
Right now, it feels like you’re just creating content to create content. It doesn’t feel like it really has your audience (and their problems) in mind.
Here are the topics and content types you should focus on, based on the problems I’ve personally had and have read others have with your product.
This topic is pretty self-explanatory. Think Zapier-type content that focuses on app integrations and unique best practices.
Use Slack for a while, and you’ll notice A LOT of internal cultures are REALLY messed up. I think Slack should teach companies how to build healthy internal cultures, which leads me to my next topic idea…
Teach readers how to chat with each other professionally.
This also ties into my “People/Culture” category idea. Basically, teach users how to be better managers on Slack.
I see this category being broken down into: Remote work, deep work and work-life balance.
This category would be more directly related to the app itself, such as press releases, helpful product feature updates and announcements.
- Marquee/10x content
- Original data pieces
- User data analysis
- Onsite guides that double as ebooks, like this
- Original data pieces
- Epic blog posts
- Actionable how-tos (often)
- Opinions, commentaries, thought leadership (rare)
- In-depth, well-curated lists
- Useful case studies
- Product-related news
Depending on available resources, if you could get one epic blog post up per week, you’ll be off to a great start.
As you execute, you’ll learn which content your audience enjoys the most and double down on that.
Once more resources become available, I’d kick things up a notch — from publishing 1 epic blog post per week to publishing 3 epic posts per week.
You’ll find specific guidelines for blog posts that will make your content more Internet-friendly as well as information about creating your editorial calendar in Chapter 2.
Then, in Chapter 3, we’ll discuss distribution — the other half to succeeding with content marketing.
Chapter 2: Governance
It looks like your current content is randomly produced by outsourced freelancers.
While I’m an advocate of growing blogs with stellar freelance writers, I’m also an advocate of having someone in place who will ensure there’s a overarching vision for the channel as well as a true purpose for every piece that gets created. Right now, I’m not seeing either.
While I’m not sure what Slack already has in place, this is something I would include in its strategy.
Create style guidelines.
Flesh out your grammar pet peeves and any jargon that should (and should not) be clarified.
If you want an example, check out MailChimp’s guidelines.
Remember, this should be a living document. And it’s okay if the voice is a little different across channels.
As part of the above guidelines, make sure that your content is easy to read.
People look for online text to be easily scannable, so think about ways to break up text with shorter paragraphs, bullets and illustrations.
Your current blog is nice in that the text is very narrow, making it easier to read. It’s bad in that there are not many, if any, visuals to break up large walls of text, which can be intimidating for readers.
To see an example of content that’s perfectly formatted, scan a few blog posts on First Round Review.
Create an editorial calendar.
You’re ready to start prioritizing content tasks and getting into a cadence with publishing blog posts and new social campaigns.
To organize everything, you’ll need an editorial calendar. See example screenshot below.
To start, I’d have an editor with a vision ideate a long list of killer pitches, and then send them out to her network of killer freelance writers to produce outlines (and then posts) for each.
Chapter 3: Distribution
If you don’t properly distribute your content, then producing the content was a waste of time. Of course, use good judgement. This doesn’t mean promote your overly brand-centric content that no one will care about.
Every piece of content should have a custom distribution plan attached to it. Here are a few distribution tactics to consider, depending on the value of the asset.
You obviously want to share your content on social — more than once, especially on noisy outlets, like Twitter, where content has a really short shelf-life. Make sure to use different images and headlines every time you share the same piece of content.
In order to guarantee your content is seen on social, you need to utilize ads, especially on Facebook. Put your biggest investments into the assets you know will succeed. Also, consider tools, like Quuu and AdEspresso.
If you have a list of subscribers, notify them of your new piece of content via email.
If you’re articles are great, then share them with influencers.
If you published a piece with original data or insights, share them with media outlets, whose audiences would enjoy the information.
If you publish a great piece of content that an online publication would likely publish on their site, email the editor and ask them if they’d like to re-publish your content.
Utilize places like Reddit, Web Designer News, Hacker News and Designer News to distribute your content to a wider audience.
Answer questions that your post answers on Quora, and put a link to your site at the end. You’d be surprised how well this drives traffic.
Like how Yesware does!
The way to succeed at distribution is to think of it before you even write your post.
You have to think about how each piece will do on social and whether or not editors would want to syndicate it or whether it’d be popular on Reddit.
If you don’t, then your content may very well not do as well as you initially hoped.
Chapter 4: Measure
Measurement is one of marketers’ top challenges.
While you have the benefits of robust analytics, content is an art, not just a science, so don’t go on data alone. It’s just not that black and white.
Good editors will have a sixth sense about which content will do well and which won’t. Trust them.
That said, you still need to track what’s working and not working, so here’s a few (qualitative and quantitative) metrics I track.
- Unique visits: If you get a lot of visits, but have a high bounce rate, this could mean you didn’t bring in the right audience or you did, and your content wasn’t good enough to keep them on your site.
- Dwell times: How long does a visitor stay on your site? You want at least a three-minute dwell time so consider creating visually appealing, lengthier content. If dwell times are low, it likely means your content is not good.
- Social shares: This is a vanity metric, as a lot of people share content without ever clicking the link. What this metric can tell you is how good your headline is, when the right time of day to post is, whether you posted on the wrong outlet or not and whether the image or social copy was compelling enough.
- Sources: You want to know where your traffic came from so you can double down on those distribution channels in the future.
Consider installing Hotjar, which records visitors’ experience on your site and allows you to create unique “user polls” based on visitor behavior and the page they’re on.
Questions you should consider asking include:
- If you could change just one thing in [name], what would it be?
- What other content would you like to see us offer?
- How would you rate this article on a scale of 1 – 10? (NPS Question)
- If you could change anything on this page, what would you have us do?
This will give you better insight into what is or isn’t working with your content.
Again, don’t blindly make decisions solely on historical data. Let your content team use their intuition and create content that they also intuitively feel will do well.
By now, you know where you’re at in regards to your current content and how you’ll use each channel to reach your goals.
First and foremost, create/revisit your editorial calendar, and make sure every single piece of content has a clear purpose. Prioritize pitches based on what you think will do best (be most easy to promote and gain lots of traction).