Slack has changed the modern workplace.
No longer do we have to deal with the clunkiness of email for internal communications.
But it doesn’t stop there. You can use Slack for external communications too. In fact, you can use Slack for a whole load of different things from automation to analytics.
If you’re using Slack (if you’re not, you should be) then it’s worth making the most of it. That’s why we’re going to run through 22 key tips to help you see how to use Slack to maximum potential!
In this Process Street article, we’ll look at 3 key sections in tackling Slack and becoming a pro:
- The basics of Slack and how to start with best practices
- How Slack can boost and smooth your daily workflows
- How to turn Slack into a stats and monitoring dashboard
Learn the basics: build your Slack on solid foundations
Make real use of the channels
Think of it like designing your information architecture. If you have different channels for specialized topics, teams, or updates with larger general channels for company wide shoutouts, you can reduce the amount of clutter each person is exposed to.
Have the right people in relevant channels and you’ll have better quality interactions and you’ll create less distractions for the rest of your team. Super simple stuff.
Download the apps for the best experience
Slack’s mobile app is one of my favorites. The advantages of a mobile app are apparent; notifications and connectivity on the go. It’s obvious why you should download the mobile app.
The desktop app, on the other hand, is often overlooked. The desktop app makes for a good user experience in general, but is particularly useful if you’re a member of multiple different Slack accounts. You can easily participate in more than one at once and, by keeping Slack out of your browser, you can reduce the number of distractions you have to put up with. Plus 1 for productivity.
Manage your notifications to avoid being always-on
Within Slack you can change your settings to determine when you are contactable and when you’re not. If someone really needs you, they can force a notification through to you but otherwise would be told that you’re not available at this moment in time. For those who work across timezones or just want to keep work in the office not in the home, managing your notifications is a real benefit.
More than that, you can set your status in Slack to let other people know what you’re up to – whether you’re swamped in work, on a plane and unreachable, or simply out to lunch. By combining effective use of statuses with managed notifications you can give yourself some respite every now and then.
Send yourself little notes or draft messages
In your list of contacts, you’ll see yourself as an option to shoot messages to. In this space, you can take notes or jot down ideas as they come to you. But that’s not all you can do.
If you want to draft a long Slack message with fancy formatting, you can send it to yourself first and edit it until it looks professional and clear. Then you can copy the plain text over into the channel you want to send to, and boom – professional expert-level Slack message is there for all to see.
Use keyboard shortcuts to manage high volume Slacks
Sometimes you’ll find there are a lot of things going on in Slack. Lots of colleagues all bouncing things back and forth to one another. Well, if you’re a shortcut person then you’ll like that Slack lets you fly through sorting out your account via its handy shortcuts.
If you press ‘CMD’ and ‘/’ on Mac or ‘Ctrl’ and ‘/’ on Windows then this should bring up a little visual display of commonly used shortcuts for you to incorporate into your workflow.
Notifying someone when they’re needed is easier than ever – don’t @ me
If you’re having a group conversation in one of the channels and suddenly think, “Sarah would be able to add some clarity here. I wonder what she thinks”, then you can simply ping Sarah to join the conversation by using the @ symbol followed by her username.
This should send Sarah a notification and she can hop into the channel to very quickly get caught up on the discussion before diving in and providing her input. You can also use similar calls like @everyone or @channel which notifies everyone in that channel, telling them that you have something important to say.
Alternatively, you can use the @here shout to only notify members of the channel who are currently online. These kinds of variations help foster positive Slackiquette .
Emojis let you react quickly and simply
Emojis have pretty much taken over the world at this point and are now appropriate not just in Instagram comments but in more formal settings too. Emojis in business are a growing trend as they provide a rapid and non-committal way to communicate tone, express approval, and bring a little lightheartedness to the working day.
You can hit those emojis in the channels or even react directly with one to someone else’s message. And it gets better – you can upload your own image and give it a title and a shortcut command. That’s right, you can make your own emojis for your Slack! If Patrick Stewart played an emoji poo in a film then no one is above emojis. True facts.
Big shout out to the Cult of The Party Parrot.
Forward slash your way through the day
You can add extra little bits of functionality through Slack by hitting the forward slash and selecting a command. This could be a command which connects to an external service, or it could be part of Slack’s feature set. Every morning when we log on in my team we enter
…which uses the gif search engine Giphy to pull up a random gif which matches with the search term “morn”. That’s our morning ritual. It’s fun and it keeps things light.
But it’s not all just fun and games. One other command there is /remind which allows you to program reminders into Slack to help keep you organized. There is a whole host of different commands to choose from and I recommend hitting that forward slash in a channel and browsing through them.
Star your most important channels
Think of starring channels as like bookmarking them. If you only have 5 channels then there is little need to employ stars to make some channels more visible than others.
However, if you’re part of a big team then starring the channels most important to you can really simplify your workspace. Your important channels will now always be at the top of the channels list. This can help you focus on what you need to focus on and assist you in blocking out the Slackground noise (- see what I did there?).
Start expanding your Slack workspace with its native integrations
Slack probably already makes your day to day life easier. But there are so many more ways Slack can fit within your regular workflows.
In this section, we’ll run through a number of integrations and features which you can use to boost your own, and your team’s, personal workflows.
Integrate Google Calendar to never miss a meeting
If Google calendar keeps track of your life and helps you manage your appointments and meetings, then it makes sense to bring those benefits into your Slack workspace.
Google calendar integrates natively with Slack and can post reminders in a channel of your choosing to keep either just you or your whole team up to date with what’s going on. When centralizing your workspace within Slack, these handy notifications will mean you’re not missing a meeting again.
Check out Slack’s guide to integrating Google Calendar.
Use a Pomodoro timer to keep your productivity high
I don’t know how you organize your time. Lots of people go about it in lots of different ways. As a writer, I tend to block out large chunks of time and bury my head in my laptop. It’s not the most structured way to work, but once I get going I’ll find and harness supreme productivity.
Not every job is like that. When I worked in sales, I had lots of smaller tasks in different places doing different things with meetings here and there throughout my day. The pomodoro technique of working in short bursts with tiny breaks added in worked great for me.
But the thing with the pomodoro technique is you need to stick to it. You need to be regimented. This is why I would hook up a pomodoro timer with my Slack account; a handy notification would pop up and force me to take a break. You can also put these messages in a shared channel so that other people on your team know when you’re working and when you’re on break.
For a really good tool which auto changes your status as well as posting customized messages, check out PomoDoneApp.
To-do lists in Slack can help you stay on track
To-do lists help you get things done. I love them. I typically start my day by writing them out on a piece of paper and then I’ll shift them to a digital to-do list in a prioritized order – Trello has often been my tool of choice.
But you can create to-do lists directly in Slack. You can share these to-do lists with the rest of your team and have them be collaborative.
There are a host of different tools you can use, but consider checking out the simple yet effective To-do Bot.
Call people within your Slack channel for easy meetings
I did a previous post about the best video conferencing tools. I loved Zoom and Appear.in.
Since the publication of that article, Slack have released their own internal call functions to allow you to start a call in a public channel. This creates a super easy workflow for arranging spontaneous meetings and the quality is good enough to work as the regular conferencing tool.
It lacks some of the features of complex conferencing tools, but it’s still a good option. Alternatively, you can check out Appear.in’s own Slack integration which lets you use their video calling system inside a Slack channel by using the slash command:
Build a Slack bot to have a robot assistant
There are a host of different tools which can allow you to do this. The most straightforward is probably Slackbot which you’ll see you already have in your Slack account.
You can enter information into the Slackbot so that if someone else asks the Slackbot a question, a prepared answer is given to them. Slack describe Slackbot as having three main purposes:
- To find answers to your questions about Slack.
- To add customized automatic responses.
- To access personal reminders and tasks.
You can check out more information on Slackbot in this introduction from Slack.
Alternatively, you can get more technical and build specialized Slackbots via their API. You could build a smart chatbot using IBM’s Watson and Botkit. Check out the Slack API Tutorials page for more cool examples!
Use Astrobot to bring your emails into Slack intelligently
Astro is a simple and effective app for getting your email, but it has complexity deep within it. One of its features you can choose to make use of is Astrobot. This little bot helps sort through your mail and alert you to important things. It’s a clever and intuitive solution to maintaining inbox zero.
The feature of Astrobot most pertinent here is its ability to connect with a Slack channel and alert you to emails as they come in. You can then act upon those emails from within Slack, meaning you don’t have to worry about switching workspaces throughout your day.
Donut Time can help you get to know your colleagues better
At Process Street we have staff all over the world. I’m English based in Spain and my editor’s English based in Latvia. We’re spread out across lots of countries and it’s rare we get the chance to meet up in person.
To keep everyone close together and to build company culture, we make an effort to meet up digitally and get to know different people from different teams. Building culture while working remotely.
The handy little tools which helps us is called Donut. This helper-bot randomly assigns two people together to have a 20/30 minute meeting at a time of their choosing. Each week it hands you a new partner. It’s a simple app, but one which has a clear benefit.
Shared channels let you collaborate with another business’ Slack
This is the kind of feature I would have loved when I worked in software development.
With Slack’s new feature it is now possible to have shared channels in your Slack workspace which are shared with another company’s Slack account. This brings the need to email back and forth on ongoing projects down to zero.
Instead, you can unite the two teams to communicate fluidly between each other without having to leave your favorite communication hub.
If you want to read more on how you can set this up, it’s worth checking out this in-depth article from Zapier about shared channels.
Turn Slack into an analytics dashboard by connecting it with the wider world
Slack isn’t just a communication tool to message back and forth with. Even though it does have plenty of amazing features out of the box, there’s a lot you can do with integrations.
Slack can facilitate other forms of communications like what your team are up to, who is talking about you on Twitter, and how your key metrics are performing.
Check out these handy tips to stay on top of your business all from within the comforting environment of Slack.
Track employee activity in Process Street
When you run a Process Street checklist, users will complete tasks as they walk through the linear process.
There are certain tasks we have at Process Street which we have created dedicated Slack channels for. Whenever someone in the organization completes one of these tasks, it shows up in the Slack channel with that user’s name next to it.
This helps us keep track of who is doing what at any particular time. It also helps different teams in the company communicate – knowing when another person has completed a certain task may prompt me to do a follow up task. This stops us running into bottlenecks as we work through our processes.
Check out this screenshot below to see how minutes from meetings run via a Process Street checklist are automatically posted and archived in their relevant Slack channel:
Automatically post Twitter mentions in a Slack channel for immediate feedback
We have a Slack channel solely dedicated to posting Tweets which mention our Twitter handle or company name.
As a writer, this is quite rewarding because it’s always nice to dip into the channel and see someone sharing your article with praise. It’s also useful if you’ve made a mistake! Twitter catches those very quickly!
Our channel is set up by having Zapier look through Twitter for the key phrases or names we want to find. Then Zapier pushes those Tweets through to Slack and they are collected in the channel.
It’s a surprisingly simple process and you can use it in your business here: Share Twitter mentions in Slack.
Statsbot and AppFollow help you keep on top of key metrics
Within the Slack marketplace, you will find a whole host of different stats tools which can give you real time updates on your business’ performance.
The two I’ve used and enjoyed are Statsbot and AppFollow which both worked great and providing me with bitesize updates on key areas of analytics I want to follow.
Statsbot can give you real time updates on your business performance, or give you daily or weekly summaries. It integrates with Slack to post a simple message in the channel of your choosing – be it private or shared.
I use AppFollow to populate a channel in my Slack account with real time reviews of my app in the AppStore and Playstore. This lets me know customer or client feedback as and when it occurs while also giving me the opportunity to reply to customers to better understand their praise, criticism, or problems.
Collect status updates on commonly used products
We have a Slack channel in Process Street which is dedicated to tracking the status of the different software we employ across the company.
When a SaaS product puts out a message that their service may be down momentarily for an update, this message will show up in this channel.
This helps us keep up to date with what problems may occur or may be occurring within our software stack. It also tends to reduce the clutter in Slack from people posting “Is anyone else having problems with X?” messages, and lets us focus on our work.
Connect with Intercom to see your customer support interactions in real time
As part of our customer service set up, we have a Slack channel which documents all customer facing interactions. All messages which come into Intercom show up in this channel, along with all outgoing messages too.
This serves a number of useful functions. For the support team, it lets them know when a new message has arrived even if they’re not in the Intercom panel. For the product team, it lets them know how users are experiencing the product plus what they like or dislike. For the content team, it lets us know what use cases people are using the product for and helps us better tailor informational content to those ends.
Centralize your communications and make the most of Slack
Hopefully, you’ll have seen a number of use cases here which you’ll want to make use of in your business.
But it doesn’t stop there!
Check out the Slack marketplace and see what you can build with Zapier to make your own integrations and automations too.
If you want more information about fitting automation into your business, check out our ebook: Ultimate Guide to Business Process Automation
What extra tips or tricks would you add? How has Slack helped in your business? Let me know in the comments below!