What is Slack?
Slack is a channel-based messaging platform for teams. Using Slack, your teammates can communicate with each other via instant messaging, connect tools that your team already uses and collaborate with each other more effectively.
A lot of you might be curious why a business tool is called “Slack”. But the name is actually the acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation & Knowledge”
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Setting up Slack
1. Installing Slack
Simply sign up for an account on https://slack.com/. Then, it’s highly recommended to install their desktop app (Slack for Mac / Slack for Windows) and mobile app (Slack for iOS / Slack for Android) for the best user experience.
2. Inviting your teammates
Other than inviting teammates one by one, you can also approve certain email domains so that your teammates can easily join your Slack team as long as they sign up with the approved email address.
3. Set up your Slack channels
Your Slack team conversations will be grouped by channels that you created. You can create channels for different topics, functional teams and projects. This way, you can organize your team conversations in ways that best fits your team.
Be strategic about what channels to create
Although you can create as many channels as you like on Slack, but we do recommend that you think it through before creating a new channel so that your Slack team can stay organized and everyone knows which Slack channel to use when sharing information.
For more tips on what channels to create and what naming conventions you can use, check out our blog post 10 Tips on How to Organize Slack Channels. In the blog post, you can read tips on what channels to create, how to name your channels, and what rules you can set to help your team stay organized, productive and focused.
Use naming conventions to keep your Slack channels organized
To keep your Slack channel stay organized, it is also recommend that you set up rules on naming conventions when creating Slack channels.
- Use #company as a prefix for channels that all teammates should pay attention to (#company-announcements, #company-competitors)
- Use #team as a prefix for channels crated for each internal functional team (#team-engineering, #team-product, #team-marketing)
- Use the team prefix to group channels related to the same functional team (#cs-tickets, #cs-churnalerts)
- Use #proj as a prefix to group projects for a cross-team squad (#proj-affiliate-program, #proj-website-redesign)
- Use #fun as a prefix to group channels for social purposes (#fun-sports, #fun-foodie, #fun-music)
To help your teammates follow your naming conventions when creating channels, you can create channel prefix guidelines in your workspace settings that will appear as a dropdown when anyone creates a new channel on your Slack team.
To set up your channel prefix guidelines:
- Go to Settings & administration > Workspace Settings
- Click on Menu > Customize > Channel Prefixes
Default to public channels for transparency
At Kipwise, we encourage teammates to use public channels by default instead of direct messages. This helps to keep relevant teammates updated on the progress on different tasks and make sure everyone is on the same page.
By using public channels by default, we can also avoid situations where some tasks are actually interdependent but certain important background information got buried in private conversation.
Worry if this practice will lead to too many messages? This is why you need to be strategic about what Slack channels to create. With the right channel setup, teammates can simply join the channels that matters to them or mute channels that they only need to check occasionally.
4. Connect Slack with your existing tools
Add apps to your Slack workspace to connect tools or services that your team is already using. By connecting your existing tools with Slack, you can do your work without ever leaving your Slack workspace, helping you to be more productive. To see what apps are available for slack, check out their Slack App Directory.
Core features of Slack that you need to know
1. Slack commands
Slack has a lot of built-in slash commands that act as shortcuts for specific actions in Slack. You simply need to type the slash key (/) then followed by some keywords in any Slack channel or direct message to trigger specific actions in Slack (e.g. type /away to mark your status to “away” quickly).
This way, you can navigate Slack and perform wanted actions without needing to take your fingers off your keyboard to use the mouse or touchpad.
When you type / in any Slack channel or direct message, a selection menu will automatically pop up to show the list of Slack commands that you can use. But of course, it will save you even more time if you can simply memorize the trigger keywords.
For the list of commands that you should know, check out 25+ Slash Commands to Help You be More Productive on Slack.
2. Mention your teammates
Mentions are a direct way to draw someone’s attention to a particular message even when you send that message in a channel that involves a lot of teammates.
If you mention someone in a channel, that person will receive a notification (if that person is in that channel, otherwise Slack will ask if you want to invite that person to the channel) and they will be able to see the message easily by visiting the “Mentions & reactions” tab on the sidebar.
Other than mentioning a teammate one by one, Slack also provides ways for you to notify a larger audience:
- @everyone notifies every person in the #general channel. For example, it’s useful to notify your organization about a new policy.
- @channel notifies all members of a channel. For example, it’s useful to update everyone in the project group about certain updates.
- @here notifies only the active members who are currently online in that channel. For example, it’s useful when you have a question and would like a quick answer from teammates who are currently online.
As mentioned earlier, the name Slack is actually the acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation & Knowledge”, search is an important part of Slack. Using Slack, you can quickly search your team’s conversation history by simply Type ⌘+ G (Mac) or Ctrl + G (Windows/Linux) to start a new search, or use ⌘+ F (Mac) or Ctrl + F (Windows/Linux) from a channel or direct message to search in a specific conversation.
Advanced search modifiers
If there are too many results for your search terms, you can refine your search using advanced search modifiers including:
- from: @name to search for info shared by someone
- in: #channel to search for info shared in a specific channel
- in: @name to search for info shared in your DM with a specific person
- to: @yourname to search only DMs sent to you
- has:link to search only messages that include a link
- has:emoji-code to search only messages that have received a specific emoji reaction
- before:date; after:date; on:date; or during:month or year to look for messages from a specific time frame
4. Slack call
Other than text messages, you can also make a voice or video call with your teammates via Slack when you have more complex issues to discuss.
To start a call, simply click the phone icon at the top right of a direct message or click the details icon then the phone icon in a channel. Alternatively, you can also use the slash command /call to quickly start a call from a conversation.
5. Slack App Directory
Slack has a Slack App Directory with more than 2,000 apps that connect your Slack workspace with the tools that your team uses every day.
Wondering what might be some other useful Slack apps that you can add to your Slack team? Check out our blog post 14 Best Slack Apps for Productivity and 17 Best Slack Apps for Remote Teams Collaboration.
Set up guidelines and team rules in using Slack
1. Set default channels that all new members will automatically be added to
You can set default channels that all new members will automatically be added to when they join the workspace. This way, you can welcome and direct new team members to the right channels and help new teammates access important information that they should know right away.
2. Use threads to nest messages to keep conversations easy to follow
Teach and remind teammates to use reply threads instead of always starting a new message to group relevant conversation in the same thread. If you don’t nest discussions into threads, oftentimes there will be other topics jumping in, making it hard to allow which replies are for which discussion. So build up a habit of using threads whenever you can.
3. Use @channel wisely to reduce distraction
Confused about when to use @channel and @here on Slack? The difference is that - when you use @channel, Slack will notify every teammate in that channel while when using @here, Slack will only notify the teammates that are currently online at that moment.
To reduce noise for your teammates, unless you are sharing an important announcement or urgent matter that requires everyone’s attention, try to avoid using @channel to minimize distraction for your teammates.
4. Use status and profile to communicate availability
For bigger teams or remote teams, sometimes it’s hard to remember who is on vacation and the working hours for teammates that are based in different time zones.
As a best practice, when you are on vacation, set your status to let your teammates know that you might not be available to respond to their messages. Your Slack profile is also a good place to communicate information like timezone and normal working hours.
5. Don’t be reluctant to jump on calls - The 5-min rule
While instant chat is good for quick updates, a phone or video call is often better for discussing complex issues. And don’t forget Slack has a built-in call function so you can call your teammates easily other than relying entirely on text messages.
As a golden rule at Kipwise – jump on a call instead if you find yourself typing on Slack for more than 5 minutes on the same issue! In a video call, you can use functions like screen sharing, making it much more efficient to solve complex issues.
However, as video calls do not have searchable history like Slack messages, as a good practice, type a quick summary after the call to keep everyone on the page. With this summary , it would be much easier for you to trace back the issues via search in the future.
Productivity tips for using Slack
1. Group channels by section on your sidebar
If you are on the free plan, you might not know you can actually create sections to group channels on your sidebar because this feature is only available for paid users.
To create a custom section,
- hover over one of the default sections, such as “Starred” > click on the three dots option icon
- Select Create sidebar section
2. Pin important Slack channels in your own personal sidebar
You can star important channels so they will appear in the Starred section at the top of the channel list.
3. Create custom notifications for channels
To reduce noise and distraction, you can mute channels that you only need to check occasionally or mute channels that have lots of updates from bots.
If you have muted a channel, it won’t appear bolded when there’s unread activity and you won’t receive notifications for any activity in the channel, including @mentions. And muted channels will appear in grey at the bottom of your channel list.
Adding some fun to your Slack team
1. Custom Emojis
To add more fun to your Slack team, you can create custom emojis out of pretty much any images that you can find.
To do so, on your desktop
1. Click on the smiley face icon in the message box and click Add Emoji
2. Go to Custom Emoji, upload the image and give it a name so that your teammates can easily use the emoji by simply typing :emoji name:
2. Create Slack channels for social or fun purposes
Other than simply creating work-related channels, it’s also a good idea to create some informal or social channels to help your teammates build a stronger bonding. For examples:
Create some channels based on hobbies so teammates can plan some off-work activities together (#fun-foodie, #fun-sports, #fun-music)
More resources related to using Slack
- Slack Best Practices - 10 Slack Tips & Tricks for Productivity in 2020
- 25+ Slash Commands to Help You be More Productive on Slack
- 15+ Slack Hidden Features You Need to Know in 2020
- 10 Tips on How to Organize Slack Channels
- 14 Best Slack Apps for Productivity to Help Your Team Work More Effectively
- 17 Best Slack Apps for Remote Teams Collaboration