How does Slack use Slack internally?
We asked Tom Pae, former Sales Enablement Manager for Slack, this question, and he shared a series of expert-level tips with us.
In what follows, you’ll learn how to use Slack like the pros. Here are 11 Slack best practices to implement in your business.
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Tip #1: Use Better Channel Names
Tom had this to say about channel conventions:
“Naming conventions can make or break Slack utilization for an organization. They are how people find the conversations they’re looking for.”
To create channel names that work for your team, here are some suggestions from Tom:
Add “external” to the name of any channel which includes guests
Participants in the channel will then know not to share any proprietary information there.
Use “plz” for request channels
This allows cross-functional teams to have a designated channel where other teams can hop in and ask a question. “it_plz” would allow non-IT members to ask IT a question, Start with the department name when naming,” Tom clarified.
Use a different channel for each project
In sales, for example, create a new channel for each account. If someone elsewhere in the company gets lead info to share for a specific client or prospect, they can quickly and easily get info to the people with eyes on the account.
Tip #2: Use Emojis as Code Words
“At Slack, we use emojis to keep the noise down and help understand message priorities,” Tom told us.
Say you have an IT help channel, Tom said:
“In the old world, we needed a ticket or an email to alert IT to an issue, and then we received multiple types of alerts every time there was an update. Now, we just use an emoji system, which takes 2 seconds to see, and there is no response required.”
When a new request comes in, IT marks it with the “eyes” emoji, letting the requestor know they’ve seen the request.
A question mark means IT has additional questions. When the request has been completed, it gets marked with a check mark.
The requester can easily check the status just by looking back at the message, and they get notifications any time the emoji is updated.
There are many other applications for using emojis.
If someone in sales needs eyes on a contract, they could upload it to the proper channel for attention. If the message gets pushed up the feed and no one has added an eyes emoji to signal the contract is being looked at, the requester knows it hasn’t been seen and can ask again.
Emojis also come in handy for polls, which Slack uses internally to vote on everything from customer event locations to what officemates want for lunch. (We recommend the sushi emoji.)
Tip #3: Use Command+K or Ctrl+K
Using Command+K or Ctrl+K is a great way to quickly navigate without using your mouse. “Like the Google search bar, it predicts search results as soon as you type a few letters,” Tom explained.
If you’re not a fan of hotkeys, just navigate to the Home menu, click in the Jump to… search bar, and begin typing.
Selecting a search result will take you straight to the desired channel.
Tip #4: Polite Raccoon Emoji = Wrong Channel
Did someone start talking about their lunch plans in a project channel?
Slack has a solution for that.
Instead of aggressively reminding the person to keep the conversation relevant (and having anyone else in the channel able to watch you do it), Slack users invoke the polite raccoon.
A raccoon emoji gently asks the poster (and anyone else) to continue the conversation elsewhere.
Tom also told us that it’s kind of a big deal when you first “raccoon” someone. “Raccooning someone for the first time means you’re a becoming pro user.”
(Bonus Tip: You can also automatically copy a message with a specific emoji to a specific channel to make this system even more efficient. That way, if someone mentions last night’s soccer game, using the soccer ball emoji on their message will automatically copy that message to a channel about soccer where the convo can be seamlessly continued.)
Tip #5: Abandon Channels That Aren’t Useful (or When Your Work Is Complete)
Slack has hundreds of channels, many of the public, a recipe for noise for inexperienced users.
Tom’s tip? “Only join channels that are useful to you, and leave them whenever needed.”
Remember: You can pop in and out as needed or leave channels you were added to if they are no longer relevant. Curate your channel involvement, and you’ll curate your entire Slack experience.
Tip #6: Pin Important Items
“Pin the most important items in a channel, especially if they're evergreen,” Tom suggested. When an item is pinned, it appears in Channel details, even if the original message disappears further up the feed.
This is helpful if someone asks for information or a file you know is already pinned as you can just refer them to that channel’s pinned items. It’s especially helpful if you get asked for the info often, and adept users may learn to check pinned items in a relevant channel before asking.
To pin an item on mobile, press and hold on a message, and select Pin to conversation. To pin an item on desktop, hover over the message, click the three dots for More actions, and choose Pin to this conversation.
Pinned files can be found in the desktop version of Slack by going to the channel and clicking the pin icon below the channel name. They will appear in the pop-up inset on the right side of the window.
To find pinned items on mobile, go the channel, tap the channel name, and scroll down.
Tip #7: Use the Activity Feed to See What’s Happening Now
If you’re using a lot of channels and want to see all your notifications in one place, the Activity feed is what you’re looking for.
This tool can be found in the top right of the desktop version under the “@” symbol, or on mobile from the top right menu button under the “@ Activity” option.
From Activity, you can click Jump on an item to go directly to that channel.
“We reminded everyone to check it three times a day because it shows everyone who has reacted to you or sent you something,” Tom told us.
Tip #8: Have a Company Announcements (Only) Channel
Beyond knowing how to make an announcement within one channel, you may also want to implement a channel or two exclusively for announcements.
This is a great strategy to replace the company-wide “all staff” emails that are so often ignored or buried in people’s inboxes.
In a true announcements-only channel, posters don’t respond to comments or reactions, so let employees know to ask follow-up questions elsewhere.
Tip #9: Use Public Channels Whenever Possible (Instead of Private Ones)
At Slack, they try to keep as many of the channels public as they can, giving everyone an opportunity to see what’s happening in the organization if they want to.
If needed, though, you can private channels when you need to limit the number of voices or eyes involved in a channel.
Just toggle the switch to change the channel from Public to Private.
Tip #10: Don’t Overuse @channel
There are a few ways to make an announcement within a channel, but Tom recommends doing so with discretion.
At Slack, users generally only use @channel for major issues or there’s a Slack outage. Because it alerts everyone on the channel whether they’re active or away, it can annoy users who don’t need to know something right now.
“Don't use it too liberally, or it becomes really noisy,” Tom warned us. “You won't get publicly shunned, but someone will DM you.”
Tom clarified that using @here, which only alerts everyone in the channel who is currently active, is a much safer option that only reaches people currently available.
Tip #11: Make Everyone Use Slack, Even Executives
At Slack, all C-level leaders are also active Slack users.
Tom explained. “Adopting Slack isn’t just adopting a tool. It’s changing the way people work. If leaders are calling or emailing more than they’re using Slack, it will fail.”
Making Slack Successful for Your Organization
Finally, remember that Slack is just a tool.
The better your team uses it, the better your results will be (and the less people will revert back to email).
As Tom told us toward the end of our interview, “New tools always take some effort. If email didn’t exist yesterday and suddenly existed today, we’d have no idea how to effectively use it.”
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