Slack meet Loom: The story of how work communication is going beyond plain text
“It’s an integration. Easy stuff. Knock it out and on to the next!”
Thanks to amazing products like Slack, Zapier, and Segment the general market has evolved to not only requests integrations, but demand those integrations as a critical component to successful products. Early stage companies are not given a pass here.
Here at Loom, we dipped our toes into the integrations pool when we launched the Loom GMail Integration in Jan of 2017. With the success of that integration, we went waist deep with Workflow by Loom approximately one year ago.
With some technical wizardry from our Engineering team, we leveraged the flexibility of the Chrome extension to make your Loom video library one click away and expanded Loom links to play inline in your favorite platforms like Trello, Intercom, GitHub, and Invision.
However, one team communication platform could not be swayed by our Chrome extension magic. Ironically, it was also the most requested integration of all the platforms. The title of this post probably gave it away. Sorry for the dramatic build up.
The Loom <> Slack Integration opportunity
To build an integration just because the entity is an investor is never a good product building practice. For Loom, building a Slack Integration has always been on the roadmap. It was there because our users consistently demanded it.
There are tens of thousands of users recording and viewing Looms every single day. A large and growing chunk of those users are spending a majority of their workday on Slack.
However, there was a bit of a sticking point in our product discussions that wasn’t easily being resolved by internal conversations. And that’s where the real story of the Loom Slack Integration begins.
Big sticking point why Loom had not built a Slack integration yet
The Loom Slack Integration team comprised of Harsh, Shahed, Susana, and myself were a bit confused by the swell of demand for a Slack Integration.
If we are completely honest with ourselves, our biggest challenge was in identifying why users were requesting the Slack Integration as much as they were. Sharing Looms on Slack is as easy as hopping from your web browser to the Slack app and pasting the link into the channel that you’re looking for.
So, we did what all good products team do. We went digging for the root issues of team communication workflow users were asking us to solve. The solution that manifested in our users heads was a Slack Integration. But what were they really trying to solve for?
Real work communication problems that needed to be solved
After talking to dozens of individuals we could see were recording Looms and sharing within Slack (THANK YOU TO ALL WHO GAVE THEIR TIME AND FEEDBACK), we started to identify themes of why Loom was chosen for certain communication reasons. And the problems that recording and sharing a Loom subsequently created.
Loom allows you to easily capture your screen, voice, and face to create instantly shareable videos for work. Which is a different type of work communication than Slack offers. Loom helps provide clarity with a human touch. The unique differentiation is why individuals opt to record a Loom for real time complex situations instead of typing up a Slack message. Also, there were “evergreen” Looms that would be used for new employee onboarding so the new folk could revisit the video as they ramped onto the team and workflows.
That is where solving for one problem starts another. When team communication starts to occur in multiple places it causes fragmentation. Also, with the blazingly fast pace at which communication happens these days, even clicking on a link to watch a contextually relevant video in another web experience can seem inefficient for the receiver of the Loom.
The problem with solving Loom <> Slack user problems
After uncovering that teams on Slack felt like some of their conversations were fragmented and inefficient by leaving the Slack app to watch Looms on our website, it was relatively obvious what had to happen.
The Loom team kicked off our own inefficiency busting product cycles. We wanted to enable 1-Click #channel and @directmessage sharing. Easy. We also wanted to layer timestamp @mentions in comments to allow recorders and viewers to call attention to specific points in Loom videos utilizing Slack usernames. Cake. Things were moving right along on our end.
However, the fragmentation we quickly realized was out of our hands. In startup land the saying goes “all problems can be solved with enough time, but there’s never enough of it.”
We probably could have found a way to solve for fragmentation within Loom’s experience. However, Slack could do so much easier if they agreed to lend a helping hand…
We had The Ask of allowing Loom videos to play inline whenever a Loom link was shared in Slack.
Luckily the Slack team makes use of their own platform and makes people in the Slack organization available to the Slack Fund portfolio companies. We casually floated a Slack message with The Ask their way acting like it was no big deal. They initially had some security concerns. A little help from Vinay and we went back to them with a more secure offering. Here’s what we heard:
“We don’t have a process for this nailed down quite yet, but let us see what we can do.”
Woohoo! Way better than “Lol. No.”
The anticipation builds
To be honest, we held our breaths for a bit. Loom would be third on the list of videos that play inline within Slack. The other two: YouTube and Vimeo. Again, this was a big ask.
We distracted ourselves with beta testing our MVP version of the Slack Integration. I’d give the overall excitement a B-. While the beta testers were thrilled to have their Slack channels 1 click away, it still felt like something was missing.
Virtual and real life high-fives
We were sifting through the feedback. Then checking our Slack Fund messages. And iterating. Then checking our Slack Fund messages again. The entire team was cautiously optimistic.
And then the day arrived. We received this note from Slack Fund:
Our product security team conducted a review of the Loom player and has signed off. On our side there is still some additional eng work required to get you whitelisted and I’m figuring that out with the team. Stay tuned!
The Loom team virtual and real life high-fived. More than a few times… 🙏🎉🍾
What you can expect going forward for Slack and Loom
We’re thrilled to bring this Slack Integration to the new and incoming Loom users! The integration just makes sense and we’re thanking our lucky stars we got to work with an amazing Slack crew. Special shoutout to Jason Spinell, Dillon Ferdinandi, and Scott Landau for helping us push across the board here.
A bit more on the long term vision. In our day-to-day personal lives we’re constantly communicating with video (FaceTime, Instagram, SnapChat, etc) but at work we’re still stuck typing words. We believe there is a huge opportunity for Loom to continue to enhance work communication within the Slack experience by bringing the richness of video communication to Slack.
We want to make your work communication more personal with the nuances of tone and facial expression. A true human touch matched with the efficiency of day-to-day work communication in Slack. We have some very interesting ideas on how to continue evolving this experience.
But first thoughts, comments, feedback?
What do you think? How can we improve the Slack <> Loom experience? Please drop us a note in our Intercom chat bubble! We’d love to hear them.
Thank you & happy recording 🤗
Get expert workplace communication tips delivered straight to your inbox.
Written by Joe Thomas
Joe is a Founder and the CEO of Loom. Follow him on Twitter.