This is a guest post by Michael Sengbusch, the CEO and co-founder of Eletype, an intelligent assistant for marketing teams that uses Slack and MS Teams. Michael was recently featured at the CallRail Agency Summit in Chicago and is a frequent speaker at conferences on topics ranging from messaging platforms, digital marketing, social media and enterprise software development. Michael works closely with today’s leading digital platforms and maintains close relationships with Slack, Facebook, Google and HubSpot.

“The medium is the message.” This is an old adage from philosopher Marshall McLuhan, but one that is every bit as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. It’s also a phrase that has taken on many different meanings over the years, which was exactly McLuhan’s intent and demonstrated his point perfectly.

This phrase resonates with me every time we get a new technical innovation, whether it was the move to the browser and the web or the rise of mobile and app ecosystems, or the current shift into messaging platforms that we are seeing today.

You may not have noticed, but messaging platforms are changing how we marketers work and deliver value to our clients. And it’s happened very quickly, representing nothing less than a generational change in how we do business and build applications.

The rise of messaging

When we talk about messaging platforms, we are, of course, talking about Slack. It’s the fastest growing enterprise software ever and, through our own recent polling, we’ve found that over 95% of marketing agencies use Slack.

Not familiar with Slack? Well there is a good chance that your team has. More than just a chat platform, Slack has become the dominant collaboration tool for marketers by combining the best parts of text messaging, group chat, video conferencing, document repositories, and social networks.

So how did this new platform take over so quickly?

First, we all got overwhelmed with email. In fact, 74% of people feel overwhelmed by their inbox. I know I do as I strive for that Inbox Zero mirage that is always just right there on the horizon, but seemingly disappears just as I get close to the oasis.

Second, we’ve been living in a mobile-first world for close to a decade now and this helped contribute to the always-on, always-connected lives we lead. As a result, we’ve stopped thinking about work-life balance and instead have become very good at work-life integration revolving around our smartphones, emails, and social and work networks.

Third, flexible work schedules, teleworking, and remote working have become the norm for most teams. Whether it’s juggling the kids, managing an off-shore team, maternity/paternity leave, or Friday work from home policy, we’ve all seen how this created not only communication challenges, but collaboration and culture challenges needing solutions.

This cocktail of email burnout, mobile-first, and remote and disparate teams necessitated a new medium for communication and collaboration. We were hungry for something that would succeed where email failed us, combine it with the best parts of chat, and throw in the fun parts of social networks. Enter Slack, which rapidly became the best-in-breed enterprise messaging platform that is so pervasive in the modern workplace.

Clearly, the messaging-first movement has revolutionized how we work within our own companies. So how can we apply this knowledge to how we build applications and deliver value to our clients?

Messaging-first design

Each new medium brings new advantages, opportunities, and benefits along with drawbacks and limitations. Messaging is no different in this respect, so let’s consider what a messaging-first strategy looks like.

Collaboration

Isn’t email awful at collaboration and discussion? While email is a great way to digitize a long form memo, it is horrible at discussion. Is there anything worse than a weekend-long email chain with half the office CC’ed? The reply-all with a “See below” should, at the very least, be a misdemeanor and I’m recommending jail time for the passive aggressive employee that decides to copy management on the reply.

I was recently asked, “When should we use Slack?”. I answered, “That is the wrong question.” The right question is “When should we not use email?”, and the answer is “Most of the time you shouldn’t use email.”

Messaging solves these problems because it is ideal for discussion, Q&A, and real-time problem resolution. Messaging helps cut to the chase when answers and solutions are needed, it flattens the hierarchy in email, and rewards resolutions and positivity with emojis, GIFs, and memes. Any messaging-first strategy has to encourage and foster collaboration.

Transparency

One of the things I find great about messaging platforms is that, for the most part, discussions and data are public (or at least public within your organization). This is distinctly different from how traditional software is designed. Messaging lacks the logins, the accounts, the filters, the permissions, and the walls that we expect. Instead, messaging can be used to extract key insights and deliver them to the wider team when action is needed. Messaging is the best way to remove friction between analysis and results.

Is it noisy in here?

There is also one main drawback to messaging that we need to consider in our messaging-first approach. Messaging, when used incorrectly, can become very noisy. This is perhaps the most difficult UX challenge that we need to overcome when thinking about a messaging-centric solution. Noisy Slack channels are the quickest way to ruin this new medium.

The best way to mitigate this risk is to provide highly curated and filtered information. With messaging, less truly is more. A messaging-first strategy requires us to be very judicious and respectful with data and insight.

Let’s sum this up with a few messaging-first design principles:

  1. Leverage collaboration
  2. Embrace transparency
  3. Limit noise

And this is exactly what we see in the new CallRail Slack app.

Here are some of the features I love in this new app:

First, daily summaries update the user with information that may require attention. What’s trending up? And what’s trending down? This insight is highly curated and delivered to the entire team for maximum transparency.

CallRail Slack integration notifications

Second, anomalies in call data are automatically detected and proactively sent to the team. This significantly reduces the time between analysis and action.

Abandon calls notifications on Slack

Third, there is a mute function embedded in every alert that can be used to limit notifications that are either under investigation or are no longer helpful.

Fourth, every notification provides enough information to be informative, but not too much as to become noisy. If you want greater detail, everything is hyperlinked up to drive you back into the main CallRail application for deeper investigation.

Finally, transparency is encouraged through a feedback mechanism that asks the team “Was this useful?”. This shows respect for the Slack channel and generates valuable real-time user feedback.

Building in a messaging platform can be challenging. What works in a web app or a mobile app doesn’t always translate into success as a messaging app. At Eletype, we’ve spent the past year honing our approach to messaging-first application development in our digital marketing monitoring solution which can be found in the Slack app directory or via our website.

Let us know your thoughts and questions about messaging and Slack!

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