The Story Behind Slack’s Interface-Focused Walkthrough Video
March 3, 2016
It’s rare that a product overview video for a software company holds your attention and makes you smile. Especially one that’s over two minutes long.
So, what’s so special about Slack’s walkthrough video? With hundreds of thousands of plays so far and a solid engagement rate, something’s clearly working. I’d argue that a number of small details contribute to the video’s success, but we wanted to hear more about the planning and production straight from the source.
Yann Lhomme is the CEO of Thinkmojo, a video agency that’s created over 500 videos for business of all sizes, including Slack, Twitter, and eBay. He manages the entire video-making process, and is said to “make the Mojo happen.”
Mari Ju is a data-driven product marketer at Slack. She and her team worked closely with Thinkmojo to arrive at a successful final cut.
Solving a problem with video
“The Slack video was different from the videos we typically create,” said Yann. “We’ve pretty much mastered explainer videos, but Slack’s project wasn’t quite that. In their case, we were trying to solve a problem.”
“Our goal was to explain what Slack is, and how to use it with your team to get things done, together,” explained Mari. “Creating a video allowed us to show what it looks like when your whole team is in Slack working together (and having fun, too).”
“Potential customers didn’t know exactly what to expect from the product,” added Yann. “They found that many people were interested in their product, and had heard great things, but they weren’t clear on all its features.”
“Potential customers didn’t know exactly what to expect from the product.”
“We needed to answer a basic question: How is Slack going to help me? We tried to tackle all these problems, and make the product’s value very clear,” he said. "The launch video, created by Sandwich Video, was excellent for driving awareness, but the next step was creating something more concrete to answer common questions and showcase the product."
Slack’s launch video by Sandwich Video
Collaborating with an agency
Slack’s product marketing team worked closely with Thinkmojo throughout the entire process. “We even added some of their team as Single Channel Guests in our own Slack instance, so we could quickly collaborate and make decisions to keep each video moving forward,” said Mari.
The general workflow between Slack and Thinkmojo goes something like this:
- Slack’s product marketing team comes up with an overall goal for the video and an initial draft of the script.
- Thinkmojo edits the script and produces the video, gathering feedback and iterating along the way until all parties are happy with the end result.
Playing to their strengths, the product marketing team comes up with ideas for specific use cases to show on screen, and Thinkmojo crafts the overall tone and viewing experience. “Thinkmojo helped us to make the script sound more natural,” explained Mari, “as if a friend was actually giving you tips for how they use Slack.”
In a screencast video that doesn’t feature any human faces, the voiceover is central to establishing the right tone and personality. “You’re deciding the voice of the brand for those two minutes,” he said. “That’s a big factor. You want the voice to be well aligned with the brand identity of the company.”
“You’re deciding the voice of the brand for those two minutes.”
After deciding on a tone together, Slack and Thinkmojo’s teams hosted auditions and ultimately chose which voice was the best fit. Yann explained, “If their tone matches the vibe in the video and it flows well, it can really make a script come alive.”
Challenges of an interface-focused video
Producing a video centered on a user interface has its unique challenges. Making an engaging screencast can be difficult when there aren’t human characters or changes in scene. Showcasing all of the small-but-important details can also be tricky.
“Creating a captivating screencast requires attention to detail and technical skill.” explained Yann. “We went through multiple revisions to get it right.”
Balancing information and entertainment
Mari noted that creating the right tone was difficult. “We wanted to make sure we were respecting viewers’ time by making the most out of every second of the video without making it too long,” she said. “It took some time to find the right balance of providing valuable tips while also keeping the tone lighthearted and playful.”
Evolving with the product
As Slack’s interface changes over time, the language and the visuals in the video will need to evolve accordingly. “We view this video as an ongoing collaborative project,” said Yann.
“We ended up re-creating the Slack conversations and the interface in an animation software, so that we could truly control everything and easily make tweaks in the future,” Yann explained.
Metrics and tweaks
As the video tallies up more and more views, tracking its engagement, play rate, and other metrics will guide future edits and projects. “Based on the video’s metrics, we can tweak the messaging in order to give the users the right content,” said Yann.
“With an iterative process like this, it feels good to make informed decisions based on actual data. It helps us let Slack know what’s working and what we need to change.”
“With an iterative process like this, it feels good to make informed decisions based on actual data.”
Mari reported that her team is using both quantitative and qualitative feedback to measure the video’s success. “We’ve received really positive feedback from users on Twitter, as well as from our Accounts team that works directly with customers,” she said.
"It’s been exciting to see the view count grow while audience retention remains high throughout the video. We’re also testing the effectiveness of featuring the walkthrough video on our homepage as part of an upcoming A/B test."
Yann also added that based on early qualitative feedback, they decided to steer away from factual instruction-based content and focus more on strategic narratives, e.g. how to get the most out of a given feature.
Focused feature videos
As we like to say, “Why make one product video when you can make six?”
Since creating the product walkthrough video, Slack’s team and Thinkmojo have worked on six additional onboarding videos that explain specific features of Slack. “We’ve also been busy with a set of video ads that we’re really excited about,” said Mari. “Stay tuned for more videos!”