Below is a guide collated by OPEN from a number of groups who use Slack as their primary form of communicating internally.
What is Slack?
Slack is basically a fancy chat app designed for team communication. Slack is just better than email for most internal communication. It’s designed as a collaborative working tool for nimble teams.
There is a great, quick intro video here: https://slack.com/is
- You create a new channel for each project / campaign / etc. that is working together. All messages that are on that topic go into the same channel. This means that there is just one stream of information about a given campaign rather than lots of different emails between different people.
- You can come and go from channels at will – and see everything that was said previously. So if someone joins or leaves a campaign, or takes over directing it, they can instantly see all of the discussion, decisions etc. as well as GoogleDocs that have been involved up until that point.
- You can set it up so it switches off notifications outside of work hours – so your phone isn’t buzzing if someone sends a message at 10pm.
- There is a #team-announcements channel that replaces full staff email announcements – no more getting 10 emails a day sent to all staff – you can read through them at your leisure.
- It has a great mobile and desktop app – a whole lot easier to use than Gmail and Gchat.
Take 15 minutes and read this: https://get.slack.help/hc/en-us/articles/218080037-Getting-started-for-new-users
It will give you an excellent summary of how to use slack.
Make sure you download both the Desktop app and the mobile app – they’re brilliant.
As you’re getting started on Slack, there are some common terms that are handy for you to know. Here’s an overview of Slack basics:
Channel: Channels are where you’ll hold most of your conversations in Slack. There are two kinds of channels: public channels and private channels.
Direct Message (DM): Direct messages are a private, one-to-one conversation between you and another team member. These conversations are visible and searchable only to you and the person you DM.
Group Message (Group DM): Group DMs are a private conversation between you and up to 8 other team members. These conversations are visible and searchable only to you and the people you DM.
Mention: When someone mentions your @username, real name, or any highlight words you’ve selected in their message, Slack will send you a notification.
Message box: The message box is the input field where you send type and send messages to channels and DMs.
Multi-Channel Guest: Multi-Channel Guests do not have full access to all the channels in a Slack team, and must instead be invited to channels. They also cannot view or see channels they haven’t been invited to.
Notification: Notifications are a way for Slack to tell you about items that need your attention, even when you’re busy or on the go. You can choose to receive notifications on your desktop, phone, or via email. You can even customize them by channel, and set up highlight notifications for important words or phrases.
Post: Posts are a way to share long-form, formatted content — like project plans, or documentation — directly in Slack.
Private channel: Private channels are a way for a group of people to talk privately within Slack. Only team members who are invited to a private channel can read or search its contents.
Public channel: Public channels are open to your entire team. Messages posted to channels are archived and searchable for all team members, except Multi-Channel and Single-Channel Guests.
Single-Channel Guest: Guests are a type of account that can only access one channel in a Slack team. (Eg. freelancers)
Snippet: Snippets are a quick, easy way to share bits of code or plain text with your Slack team.
Star: Stars are a way to mark an item in Slack as important. You can star channels and DMs to move them to the top of your left sidebar. You can also star messages in Slack so you can easily come back to them later.
Team Administrator: Team Admins have some administrative powers, such as managing team members, moderating channels, and other maintenance tasks.
Team Owner: Team Owners control the highest-level security and administrative settings: payments, team authentication method, security policies, and so on. Only the Primary Owner has the ability to delete the team.
These are suggestions to start setting up your slack account. Once you’re a slack ninja, you can always change these preferences. This article is also a really great help if you’re a newbie.
1. Setting up your desktop notifications:
Do not disturb setting is the first key: you can set up Slack so the default is the entire team has the do-not-disturb setting on from 10pm-8am the following day. This means you won’t get any notifications during this time. If you want to change it click on the bell icon on the top left of your name and set it to what you want. Click here for more info.
When you’re changing the do-not-disturb function, you can also modify your regular notification settings.
Toggle between statuses using the /away command – Don’t leave your coworkers hanging. If you have to step away from your computer or head to a meeting, make it clear by adjusting your status. To quickly toggle between “away” and “active,” use the /away command.
2. Set up your mobile notifications
Pick and choose here.
3. Customize your own slack.
Take a tour around and play with it! Add your info and a profile picture.
4. Join channels:
Many organisations have two basic all-staff channels called #team-announcements and #random. You can set Slack so team members are automatically added to these.
Team announcements: This is for things that the whole team needs to know. If it’s urgent then use @channel to give everyone a notification straight away (use sparingly!)
Random: Does what it says on the tin – for things you want to share with the whole team that aren’t important that everyone reads or even work-related (e.g. a nice video you found you YouTube)
To join a channel, click on the + sign next to Channels in the menu. You’ll see the list of existing ones there. You may feel the need to join all channels right away but resist the urge. Play around with it first. If you have joined lots of channels though, there’s a handy tweak that lets you hide all channels unless you’ve got a message. Hit the arrow next to your username in Slack, then preferences and advanced options and change the channel visibility.
Each campaign / project should have a channel. The beauty of Slack is that you can dip in and out of channels as they’re needed – but the messages and history persist so if new people join they can see it all.
You can also create channels such as #opportunities or #global-news for specific purposes and streams of messages that people may want to opt-in or out of. Generally you shouldn’t create separate channels for announcements that everyone needs to hear – put those in #team-announcements
Channels don’t need to last forever. Feel free to create them just for a specific project / discussion that is only going to last a few days. When you’re done with it you can archive the channel.
The search function in slack is pretty incredible especially if you use their advanced search: https://get.slack.help/hc/en-us/articles/202528808-Guide-to-search-in-Slack-
You can use Slackbot as a reminder by typing in: /remind me to do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around in 20 minutes. Type in /remind list to see your full list. Or, you can use Slackbot as a personal notepad.
You can also use your slackbot above for reminders
This app should already be installed: You can add /todo in each channel or private conversation. It creates its own to-do list that any of the participants can read, add or remove items. https://slack.com/apps/A0HBTUUPK–todo
Alternative option 1 – the app Wunderlust https://get.slack.help/hc/en-us/articles/206259587-Using-Wunderlist-with-Slack
Alternative option 2 – Turn Favorites Into A To-Do List Want to add a task to your to-do list? Type in the task as a message in your Slackbot, hit the Enter key, and then star that message. All starred items appear in a separate list at http://your-team-url.slack.com/stars. The Starred Items section can double up as your to-do list. Once you have finished a particular task, un-star the message corresponding to it and it disappears from your makeshift task manager.
For a more technically-minded version: https://slack.com/apps/A0EP69E58-kyber-to-do-calendar-on-slack
8. Keyboard shortcuts
There are so many extra awesome keyboard shortcuts in Slack. To view them, press Cmd + ? on Mac or Ctrl + ? for Windows.
Etiquette and protocol
What goes on Slack – all internal communication such as:
- All staff emails
- Campaign-specific threads
- 1-1 chats or group chats from Gchat
- Task discussion
- Social media
What doesn’t go on Slack:
- External email
- Processing invoices and sending credit card receipts
Availability and use of slack – this is generally for in-office time only. For out of hours, use other means of contact – phone, sms, whatsapp etc. For other private groups/chats, decide yourselves if you’re happy to keep using slack outside of office hours.
- DMing – there is no guarantee that someone will be able to reply to your chat right away.
- You can use @channel to notify everyone in your channel, but don’t overuse or it will lose its effect
- Mentions: Default to using @name to call out different people instead of DMing them – this keeps the conversation public so that other people know what’s going on without the whole channel getting notified. This will also help the person you’re trying to reach by @name’ing them.
- Use @here to send a notification to everyone who is currently online
To keep an eye out when you’re mentioned (remember you’ll also likely get a notification), click the Mentions & Reactions icon (@) in the top-right corner. You’ll see a list of every time your name has been mentioned in a conversation. Click on one of the mentions to go directly to that conversation. You’ll get a notification if you get mentioned. If you don’t want to get an alert, turn your notifications off. If you are calling out different people in the mention, just take a moment and ask yourself: What time is it? Is the message vital? Is it office policy to be on call, or is there a better way to send the message? What expectations are there for responding to mentions?
- You are expected to be checking #team-announcements regularly as you would with your inbox. Things to keep an eye out for include weekly reports on a Monday etc.
- Please don’t use gifs in the middle of work-related channels, unless it’s a really good one.
- Do pin posts that are important to the channel you’re in
- Do share your task wins – let’s celebrate what everyone does all the time!
- Make a channel for new campaigns / projects instead of talking about them in other channels.
- Share google docs via links in slack, rather than ‘share’ buttons which generate gmail traffic for others – to do this simply copy and paste your google doc link into the message section of the channel. If you want to easily ‘save’ it in the channel, just hover over the doc in slack, click on the 3 dots and ‘pin’ it. To view the pinned items for a channel, click the show channel details icon.
- Use the Slack Google Calender integration: https://slackhq.com/google-calendar-reminders-come-to-slack-8b8c515bfe87#.2gxei5j3e
- Have fun adding text formatting to your messages:
- Emphasis: To create bold text, surround your word or phrase with *asterisks.* To italicize text, place _underscores_ around a section.
- Strikethrough: To strike out certain words, use ~tilde~ to surround the text.
- Lists: To create lists, select “Shift” + “Enter” to add a new line. To add bullet points, select Opt+8 (Mac) or Alt+0149 (PC).
- Blockquotes: To add angle brackets at the start of your message for indents and quotes, type “>” to indent a single lines or “>>>” to indent multiple paragraphs.
- /giphy TEXT inserts a random gif (USE SPARINGLY)
- You can star messages for looking at later, just hover over the person’s name:
- You can star channels so they appear at the top of your menu. To star them go into the channel you want and hover over the title on the top bar, a star will then appear
- Check out Slack’s own tips which come out daily: https://slackhq.com/tagged/tips
- Slack tricks and hacks: http://blog.hubstaff.com/slack-tricks/
Apps – these are endless and new ones constantly appear
Highly recommend – Zoom: in any channel you can automatically create a zoom meeting by using the command: /zoom. It will appear in the channel and anyone can join in.
Calling a colleague: click on the top phone icon and you can ring your colleague!
For those wanting to integrate slack even more:
- Send all email into a channel: https://slackhq.com/email-meet-slack-slack-email-1d5b36a68e79#.kebifybxm
- Fun stuff: https://www.producthunt.com/e/have-fun-in-slack
- Online communities via slack: http://www.slacklist.info/
- Use slack for home! http://labs.earthpeople.se/2016/02/my-family-uses-slack/
- If you’re colour blind: https://slackhq.com/better-sidebars-for-all-the-color-blindness-edition-8c7105e68028#.kk85b7rqi