What is Slack and How Do I Use It for My Team?

What is Slack

Since the advent of the World Wide Web, the opportunity for collaboration has been one of its most touted features. Enter Slack!

Here at Small Business Trends, we’ve seen online collaboration apps come and go, but few have caught fire like Slack. The innovative “team communication” solution offers groundbreaking functionality that is just too useful to pass up.

So, if you’re asking yourself, “What is Slack and how do I use it for my team?” read on and we’ll give you the 411.

What is Slack?

At its heart, Slack is an instant messaging and collaboration system on steroids:


There’s a lot under the cover here however, so let’s start with a look at Slack’s base functionality.


Slack’s channels help you focus by enabling you to separate messages, discussions and notifications by purpose, department or topic:


Private Channels

If you need privacy, Slack provides that as well with invite-only channels:

Private Channels

Direct Messages

When you need to send a message to one person instead of a group, Slack provides traditional instant messaging functionality for you to do so:

Direct Messages

Share Your Files

Sharing documents is one of the basics of collaboration. Slack enables you to share all types of files, even those stored outside of the solution itself:

Share Your Files


Slacks robust search functionality enables you to find key information quickly, even if it’s inside of a document you’ve shared:



Notifications can be a tricky feature: too many and you start ignoring them; too few and something might slip through the cracks. Slack enables you to fine-tune your notifications (by channel, keywords and more) so you can focus on your highest priorities.



Slack provides robust preference features at both the company and individual level. This enables your employees to make Slack their own while you control the overall use of the solution.



No matter where you go, Slack can come with you with their mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone (beta).

At your desk, Slack offers apps for Mac, Windows and Linux (beta).



You may be surprised to learn that Slack offers a “free to use forever” pricing tier. For small businesses, that may be all you need.

However, to truly make the most of the solution, they offer reasonable per-user pricing at both monthly and annual rates.


Integration is what takes Slack from a normal online instant messaging and collaboration system to a solution that enables you to centralize all your notifications, from sales to tech support, social media and more, into one searchable place where your team can discuss and take action on each.

Slack offers three types of integration:

  • Pre-Built Integrations: At the time we’re writing this post, Slack offers built-in integrations with over 60 partner, many of which small businesses know and use every day. Here’s a small sample:

Integration Partners

  • If This Then That (IFTTT) and Zapier: You can use both IFTTT recipes and Zapier zaps to integrate Slack with many more systems and solutions. Currently, there are over 500 ways to extend your Slack integrations. We’ll discuss these further in a bit.
  • Build your own: Slack also enables you to build your own integrations. Here’s a list of their recommended ways to do so:

Integration - Build Your Own

While writing this post, we decided to give the pre-built integration with MailChimp a try. Configuring the integration and connecting Slack with MailChimp was a breeze:

MailChimp-Slack Integration Configuration

As you can see, we can receive notifications in Slack when:

  • Someone subscribes or unsubscribes from one or more lists of our choosing; and
  • When a campaign’s sending status changes.

Once the integration was setup, we subscribed and unsubscribed using our MailChimp form. Each time, we received a notification on our desktop:

MailChimp Alert

When we looked in Slack, our notifications were there waiting for us:

MailChimp Messages

Pretty slick, eh? And that barely scratches the surface of how you can use Slack for your team.

How Do I Use Slack for My Team?

As a simple instant messaging system, Slack has all the collaboration features you need in place. It’s when you throw in integration that things really get exciting. Imagine your:

  • Marketing team getting an alert in Slack when your company is mentioned on social media;
  • Support group receiving notifications when a Zendesk ticket is created;
  • Sales manager seeing every point-of-sale transaction made using Stripe; and
  • Staff kicking off a Zoom webmeeting directly from Slack when an impromptu face-to-face meeting is necessary.

And these don’t even take into account the amazing things you can do with IFTTT (449 “recipes”) and Zapier (64 “zaps”) such as:

  • A slack notification when your employees arrive at work;
  • Post news articles to slack based on keywords;
  • Notifications of updated DropBox files;
  • Letting everyone know when your daily web traffic exceeds a certain number of visitors; and
  • Automatic happy birthday messages.


At first glance, Slack appears to be yet another online instant messaging and collaboration solution. However, a closer look will reveal revolutionary innovation under the hood.

Integration is what catapults Slack into a category all its own. The solution enables you to centralize all your notifications, from sales to tech support, social media and more, into one searchable place where your team can discuss and take action on each.

Now that’s collaboration for the 21st Century!

Images: Slack

Matt Mansfield Matt Mansfield is the SEO manager at Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 11 years. He carries over 24 years of experience in driving targeted online traffic using content and search engine optimization (SEO). He specializes in data research and content creation designed to attract visitors.