As an Entrepreneur, Should You Jump in the SlackBot Fun Train?

slackbot entrepreneurs featured image

Slackbots are in right now.

The “Slackbots and integrations” collection on Product Hunt counts 64 products. Many of them got 200 upvotes, which almost guarantees they reached the front page on launch day. Last December, Slack launched its own app directory, making it even easier to find new bots and integrations to add.

slackbots and integrations producthunt collection
Click to see the Product Hunt collection

The Bots landscape is taking a direction that end-users will easily find exciting. Most of the existing bots want to solve basic frustrations and annoyances, like scheduling meetings, or simplifying office management. Accessing all sorts of information, from your CMS to looking up emails via Google, is also a big market already. Although already impressive in itself, it’s only a matter of time before we get to see more advanced interactions. Services such as Chatlio and Talkus provide live chatting with your app’s users directly from Slack. We very well might turn Slack into our own “control tower” thanks to these new integrations.

It would be interesting to explore what’s in it for you as a Slack user and digital worker. But what I’m interested to discuss here is:

What’s the appeal for you, the entrepreneur; or you, the developer? Should you just build a bot because everybody’s doing it or are there real benefits?

As of now, building and selling a Slackbot can be rewarding for many reasons. Yet, there might be myths and misconceptions surrounding them that I’d like to address.

On the marketer’s side…

Slack: a huge market that’s going up

This chart says it all:

DAU Dec2015

Slack’s growth is huge. Last number shared was 2.3 million daily active users in early February, in its 2 years anniverary. I’ve seen some people estimate they’ll reach 10m DAU by the end of 2016 and you know what? It doesn’t seem too crazy.

Slack isn’t a small pond anymore, and it certainly won’t slow down your adoption rate.

Built-in acquisition lever: 1 person gives access to 1 team

When a user installs a Slackbot, she invites it to her team, making it instantly visible to anyone else in this team.

So getting one person to trust your product will get it in front of * X more others, with the social proof that comes with it. “Oh, Amy uses ThisBot? Sounds good, I’ll give it a shot too.”

All of this happening with no additional action on your side.

First mover advantage? Not relevant for everyone anymore…

There was quite a wave of first huge successes in Slack integrations (see Birdly which joined YC, Github’s Hubot, and of course, the almighty /Giphy which we need so bad that it’s installed by default for every team on Slack.).

Looking at the Slack app store itself, it’s not so easy to get noticed today among the 280 apps already there. Not all categories are equal there, and very few apps get full visibility. See for yourself:

slack app directory landing page
The Slack apps directory landing page above the fold. There’s 3 apps you really can’t miss, and 6 more from the “New & Noteworthy” list. The 6 “Brilliant bots” showcased are visible on scroll.

I’ve broken down the listings in the Slack app store [see the full spreadsheet], I’ve found out that:

  • The most popular category is ‘Productivity’ with 108 apps listed (~40% of the total number of apps listed). Good luck getting noticed in this list!
  • The least popular category is ‘Health & Medical’ with 3 apps listed. Maybe THAT’S an opportunity to get noticed.

…But you can still earn the visibility

In addition to the listings, Slack showcases some apps via its “Featured” categories: “Top apps” (3 listed), “New and Noteworthy” (18 listed), “Brilliant Bots” (8 listed among which many, if not all, have been there from launch day of the Slack app directory).

This preferential placement and the small number of apps that get featured surely help cut through the noise…

…But how to get there? For now, there’s no clear communication from Slack on this, aside from the guidelines given to everyone wanting to list an app in the directory. My best guess: you have to be extra-good and different. I’m currently working to get a hold on Slack’s team and cook an article about this soon.

On the product side…

Built-in feedback loop

Having access to a full team is also a big deal because this means you can message everyone. You use this to get more users to sign in to your product by messaging ‘non-users in the Slack team’, but you can also use this to get feedback from existing users and strengthen their relationship with your bot. Emoji reactions built-in Slack makes getting feedback very easy. This help you conduct quick quantitative research on your userbase, or build an NPS-rating system.

Tip on NPS: watch Mention’s outstanding presentation on how they used NPS to increase user happiness and reduce churn.

Bots also give you the freedom to automate this feedback loop depending on what your users did. ie: If they used this or that command from your bot, you’ll ask them this or that question.

When building a product, you have to make sure you’re building something people want. Instant feedback go a long way for product research and marketing.

MVP-ing : fast iterations

What’s feedback good for if you don’t do anything with it? One big advantage with Slackbots: you skip most of the design needs of traditional apps. Our CTO did about 90% of our current Bot for Slack over one weekend. The remaining 10% were mostly cosmetics. Indeed we pretty much had to give it a proper name, fix some wording and design a few help pages to facilitate new user’s onboarding.

Granted in our case, we plugged the slackbot on our existing app (Solid), so the backend was already there.

But some companies approach Slackbots as their main product. Looking at Birdly, they first released a bot to help manage your expenses. Then they tried different other things useful for B to Bs. Far from just expenses, their baseline is now “a 360°View on your customers, in one command line”. Pretty neat. This new iteration happened over the course of a few months at most. I specifically remember the original @Bill-bot-expenses giving me a list of actions I’d like him to do next.

BUT, there are some caveats to take into account

When thinking about coding for Slack -or any platform that you don’t own-, you’re essentially putting your assets in the hands of that company. While Slack is currently super open to new integrations, there’s no way to be sure they’ll never change their policies.
They could get acquired, which could then force a change in their policies. A tad more likely: they could change direction on their own accord. And even more likely still: even without a big strategic shift on their part, Slack could just decide to teach their own official “Slackbot” the exact same things your bot already does well…

That said, for now, all systems are go and lights to the green when it comes to what’s possible and what’s not. We can take comfort in this guy, Bertrand Fan, who coded fun bots among which one lets you play Wolfenstein 3D… and another scraps the full history of Seinfeld episodes to retrieve the video of any Seinfeld quote you can think of.

vandelay bertrand fan gif seinfeld slackbot
gif courtesy of Bertrand Vandelay (linked above)

These ARE the kind of endless possibilities Slackbots offer. So what’s your innovation going to be?


Huge thanks to Marwann for his ideas and feedback in the making of this article.