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How to Use Slack As a Community for Your Audience

Slack is my virtual home away from home. It’s where we host our online Community and it’s where I collaborate daily with my boss for Pocket Business projects.

Slack was built to be a collaboration hub for teams. It’s a faster solution to getting answers and updates on projects than email.

But at Odd Noodle it’s a great tool for managing our online community.  It’s more than just quick answers and updates. It’s conversation and camaraderie. That’s an important benefit for people who are building an online business.

And learning how to use slack is not difficult at all. Your audience will pick it up quickly.

How to Start a Slack Workspace

When you’re learning how to use Slack, the first thing you’ll need to is start a workspace. Starting a Slack group is simple. There are aren’t more than a few clicks.

  1. You’ll start at https://slack.com/create. Enter your email address, grab your confirmation code, enter and then name your Workspace.
  2. Next you’re going to name your first channel. You can start with the name of a project your working or whatever else is relevant to your online community. An example of a Channel in our Odd Noodle Slack is #Focus because we have a group of people that are working on a focus challenge.
  3. Next you’ll be able to invite people to join your Slack workspace. You can always do this later, too.
  4. Now you can click “See your channel in Slack” and you are officially in your brand new Slack workspace!
  5. When you start a Slack workspace, you are the administrator. You’ll want to look at Settings & Administration and choose your preferences.

How to Set Up Your Profile

You can access your profile settings by clicking on your avatar in the upper right hand corner on desktop and choosing “Edit Profile”.

  1. Choose your Slack name. A quick note about your Slack name. You can choose how you want your name displayed in Slack, but Slack also allows the same name to be used more than once. So if you have a common name, consider adding a middle or last initial to your name to differentiate yourself from the other 5 Brianna’s.
  2. Add a profile picture. This isn’t required, but there is definitely something to be said for being able to put a face to a name.
  3. Complete the “What I Do” section. For our community, I recommend adding your website to this section. For your community, there may be another bit of information that makes sense there.

Review Your Preferences

You can find preferences under your workshpace name. There’s a lot to look at under Preferences. Here are some highlights.

How to Use Slack: Preferences
  1. Notifications: As a Community Manager, I choose to have notifications set for everything. It helps me keep on top of the flow of conversation. Take a look through the settings for notifications and see what works best for you. You may have to experiment with this.
  2. Sidebar: You can choose what to have displayed in your sidebar. This is important as you continue to add new channels to your Workspace. Things can get cluttered and you’ll want to set up your sidebar in a way that makes sense for you.
  3. Themes: Want to change the colors of the app? Here is where you do it.
  4. Messages & Media: Customize how your messages and emojis show up.
  5. Language & Region: Keeping your time zone up to date is important if you are working with people across the globe like we do at Odd Noodle.

Understanding Slack Notifications

Slack visually notifies you of new messages in a channel, messages you are tagged in and direct messages to you.

When a channel has a new message, you will see the name of the channel highlighted like this:

How to use Slack: Notifications

These highlighted “pinterest” and “random” channels tell me that there are unread messages posted there that I have not read yet.

If you are mentioned (someone uses your @username) in a channel, you will see a red notification next to the name of the channel you have been mentioned in

You will get a similar notification if someone has direct messaged you.

How to Use Slack

How to Send Messages

  • To post something in a channel to be answered by anyone and everyone, click that channel and type your question in the text box.  If there’s someone specific you would like to notify of your question/comment, you can use their tag @whatevertheirusernameis and they will get a notification that you have done so. 
How to use slack: Create a message
  • To message one (or more) people directly and privately, you can send a direct message.  To do this you can click on Direct Message in the left sidebar and search for the person you are looking for. 

Interacting with Messages

If you hover over a message in Slack, you will see several options for interacting with that message.

  • Add a reaction – Allows you to add an emoji in reaction to the senders message
  • Start a thread – Will create a thread with follow up responses in the thread. 
  • Share a Message – Allows you to send a message to another channel with a note. 

If you click the three dots at the end, you will get additional options:

  • Follow message:  You will see responses to that message in a “All Threads” in the left sidebar
  • Copy link:  Allows you to copy a link to a message.  This is useful if you want to direct someone else to a particular message, or you can direct message the link to yourself if you want to be able to access it later.
  • Mark unread:  Marks the message as unread.  In case that wasn’t clear.
  • Remind me about this:  Slackbot will remind you about a message at a later time of your choosing.  This is an excellent feature.
  • Pin to #general(or whatever channel you are in): It will pin that particular message in the channel so that everyone sees it.
  • Edit message:  This is not shown, but if you are hovering on your message you will have the option to edit it.
  • Delete message

Additional Slack Tips & Tricks

  • Check out some of the functions that Slackbot has when you have a spare moment.  My favorite is the reminder feature.  You can set up a reminder on a particular message if it’s something you want to take action on later.
  • You can star messages so that you can easily refer back to them if needed.
  • Emojis!  We love emojis on Slack.  You can use an Emoji to react to a message and you can add an emoji to your profile by going to your name in the upper left corner, set a status and then search the emojis for one that suits you.  
  • You can also create a private channel in Slack if there is a smaller group of people that need a place to interact privately.

Pros and Cons of Slack as an Online Community Platform

Slack is made for communicating. Which makes it an excellent tool for hosting a community.

It’s easy to keep track of messages, either publicly or privately and things like the “remind” feature make it simple to make sure messages are never left unanswered.

The only downfall to Slack from my perspective is that it is a fast moving river of conversation at times. That can be overwhelming to some people, so keep that in mind if you feel it could be off-putting to your audience.

Happy Slacking!

Whether you’re learning how to use Slack as a collaboration tool for a team or setting up a community hub for your audience, I think you will find it is an excellent tool.

It makes engagement easy and if you are a Community Manager, keeping up with that engagement will be a breeze.

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