Is Slack the Next Big Social Network?

Slack, the fast-growing, highly-valuated messaging tool, might have a lot to say about the future of social media.

Designed to usurp the likes of Google Chat and Skype, Slack is focused on team-centric messaging with private messaging and group chat channels while catering to the specific needs of specialized companies and organizations. Slack’s API allows for integrations with hundreds of other services and programs, making it both flexible and streamlined at the same time.

However, while Slack is free, users can’t chat across ponds, so to speak. Slack’s user base is divided into teams, meaning users can only message another Slack user if they’re also a member of that same team. Of course, there’s nothing to stop someone from creating a new team and inviting their friends, which is exactly what the organizers at Portland’s XOXO Fest did this year.

Upon signup, XOXO attendees were invited to a festival-wide Slack channel (which was a sponsor of the event). By the time the event got underway, attendees, speakers, organizers, sponsors, and exhibitors had created over 150 discussion channels with topics ranging from general news about the festival to channels specific to sexual orientation to users interested in Portland’s legal cannabis scene.

With users organizing into channels related to their interests, groups of people began forming meet ups and transitioned their online discussions into real-life interactions. The closed nature of the group means anyone on the outside can’t see what was being discussed between XOXO-goers, but that might be the exact point. With online harassment and general negativity that’s been scourging established networks like Twitter over the past couple of years, it’s no wonder that established users have taken their conversations out of the public eye and into more closed-door networks. Much like the IRC rooms of the internet’s infantilism, Slack may be the saving grace for individuals who’d rather discuss more sensitive or potentially “objectionable” topics with trusted friends online – more like a sort of digital pen pal relationship rather than a public bulletin board.

XOXO has decided to keep the group going year-round until next year’s festival, so it’ll be interesting to see how much momentum the conversation builds leading up to XOXO Festival 2016. While Slack probably would get noisy for larger conventions, small-to-medium sized events should experiment with this closed-network social platform to see how their users interact.

(If you work with a team and you haven’t tried Slack yet, we’d highly recommend it – Marketeering Group uses and loves it for its simplicity and powerful custom features. The best part? It’s free!)

Image credit: SlackHQ

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