Slack is a popular messaging system and communication platform for businesses and companies, which allows employees to communicate professionally. Founded in 2013, the platform stores all conversation knowledge in one place and replaces the need for multiple emails or the use of less professional sites in order to communicate. In 2015, the site had just 750,000 users, however, 7 years later it now has over 10 million daily users globally.
Its quick success gained Slack the title of ‘Best Startup of the Year’ in 2017, However, it has often been criticized by its users for a number of reasons. It’s important to make sure that employees are aware of proper slack etiquette and best practices in order to get the most out of the system.
Common Criticisms of Slack
- All users’ data, such as messages and personal details, are stored within the cloud under slack control, which has made some users uneasy about the usage and privacy of their details.
- When users’ data is used or viewed, users are not usually notified, leading to further unease and confusion about the usage of their data.
- For users without a premium paid subscription, access to previous messages becomes unavailable after a certain number of messages have been sent and received, which could impede users’ ability to go back and look at the important information
- Connectivity issues and glitches within the app.
- Slack makes personal information and contact details available to anyone within a company’s slack channel, which some users feel gives them a lack of privacy.
- Has been labeled as addictive and impeding the ability to work productively as it can act as employees are tempted to message others on it during work hours in an unprofessional manner.
Most of these criticisms can be corrected with proper usage of Slack and following good Slack etiquette. Employees should always be clear about what they should and shouldn’t do within the forum.
With our Slack Etiquette Guide below, you should be able to ensure that Slack is being used properly and employees are getting the most out of their use of the platform.
Slack Etiquette #1: Name Channels Effectively
Slack comes pre-installed with two public channels:
- @general, for any messages directed at all employees
- @random, intended for general chit-chat and non-work related messaging
When you create a new, specific channel, you’ll have to give it a name so that employees can recognize what it’s about. The best Slack etiquette to follow when naming a channel is to assign a few words which concisely sum up what the conversation within the channel will involve.
For example, the channel pictured above is named ‘#plan-budget’, so it’s easy to recognize that this particular channel will involve planning the company’s budget. Slack itself suggests starting with words such as ‘project’ or ‘team’ such as #marketing-team or #project-2020-meeting.
Slack Etiquette #2: Add Descriptions to Channels
It’s also a good idea to add a description in order to let employees know what the channel is about in more depth. Within Slack, the description is called the ‘channel purpose’ and appears underneath the channel name when selected.
For some channels, creating a channel purpose won’t be necessary as they may have been set up specifically for a small number of employees who are already aware that the channel is being created. However, when a new channel is set up and it contains a large number of employees, it’s good Slack etiquette to set up a channel purpose in order to send the information to all members of the channel at once, without them having to ask in the chat what is expected of them.
These descriptions can be revisited or changed periodically so that they are up to date with any project that has moved forward or in which the goals have altered slightly. It also enables any new members of staff or additions to certain projects to quickly and easily get up to speed on the aims of the channel.
Slack Etiquette #3: Use ‘@’ to Tag Members of a Channel
The ‘@’, like most messaging services, enables the sender to ‘tag’ certain people in messages and alerts these users that they have been tagged in a message within Slack. This is a useful function in order to single out certain members of a channel who are responsible for one area of a project, for example, and they will always be notified that they have been mentioned.
However, in Slack, you are not only able to tag individual users but can use the function to send a notification to all members of a team, whether they are active or inactive on the site at the time.
This can be done through the use of ‘@here’ or ‘@channel’. @here sends a notification to all members of a channel which are currently online on Slack and should be used for messages which are non-urgent but which require feedback from a number of users.
It does not send a notification to those in the channel who are not currently active on the site. @channel, however, should be used for more urgent messages which all users need to see or respond to, as it will send a notification to all members of the channel, even if they are offline at the time. It’s good Slack etiquette to use channel-wide notifications carefully. Not every message needs to be on priority and employees should be clear about which ones need to be replied to.
Slack Etiquette #4: Review Channels Regularly
As well as reviewing channel descriptions regularly, it’s important to review the channels themselves to make sure that they are all up to date. This includes ensuring that all members of staff who need to be in a channel have been added, and those who are no longer working on a project are no longer in the channel as they will not need to receive regular updates.
It’s also good Slack etiquette to make sure that all active channels are actually needed, and those that are no longer used can be deleted or archived to avoid confusion or a backlog of non-essential information.
Slack Etiquette #5: Avoid Using Other Sites/Messaging Platforms for Internal Communications
It’s important to keep all important information in one place, and if Slack is the main platform your business uses to communicate, it’s best not to use other platforms for internal communications.
This ensures that information is easily accessible and there is no confusion about what was sent and when, as it will be easy to find within the site. Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp should especially be avoided as they are generally used for non-professional communications and day-to-day messages.
Studies suggest that when we use the same platforms for both work-related and social communications, we can run the risk of being unprofessional in our manner of speaking to colleagues and forgetting to keep a formal and polite tone with managers.
For this reason, Slack is a great alternative to other messaging services as not only is all of the information from multiple teams and projects in one place, but it remains a solely professional forum.
Slack Etiquette #6: Limit Social Chat within Slack
One of the main criticisms of Slack is that it can act like a social media messaging service, which distracts colleagues from their work during the day. If employees have separate chats for non-work-related communication or social conversation, then this can certainly be a distraction from engaging in important conversations on slack. Therefore, we suggest that it’s a good idea to limit the amount of socializing employees can do via Slack and to keep it as a solely professional platform.
This way, employees will need to use other sites such as Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, or SMS in order to chat with other members of the workplace, and this should be done outside of office hours.
Staying professional within Slack also means that users can worry less about the privacy of their messages. One common criticism of Slack is that messages remain constantly available to Slack administrators within their cloud servers, however, if there are no unprofessional messages or sharing of private details, this should not be a worry.
While we have suggested that all messaging and communications happen within Slack, one exception is the sharing of sensitive or confidential details and information. This can be done via email or in person, however, it is a good idea to make a record of the interaction on a private Slack channel or direct message so that it can be returned to at a later date if needed.
Slack Etiquette #7: Keep Messages Professional
With any professional communications, it’s important to remember that there is a certain etiquette to follow when creating messages. This is especially important when writing to clients or partners of the business, and somewhat less so when communicating internally, but it’s important to remember to be aware of Slack etiquette when drafting messages within channels or directly to other colleagues, especially when they’re managers.
While the tone of messages within Slack doesn’t need to be as formal as emails, it’s important to remember that you’re still conversing within a professional environment, and your tone of messaging should reflect that. Make sure not to use language that is too colloquial or abbreviations like ‘lol’ or ‘gtg’.
Spelling, grammar, and coherency are also important when writing within Slack, and even more so within channels than in direct messages. Make sure to check your message before sending it to make sure it contains the correct grammar and punctuation, and also that it is easily understandable and not confusing.
It’s better to send one, long message containing all the necessary information, even laid out in bullet points if needed, than to send multiple messages one after another with additional information.
Slack Etiquette #8: Pin Important Messages Within Channels
Often, channels within Slack can become full of messages very quickly, and if someone is offline for a couple of hours or so, they may have many notifications to come back to. Tagging people in messages specific and important to them is one way to ensure that they see the message, however Slack also enables you to pin important messages within a chant so that they are at the forefront of that channel when it is opened.
This allows users to easily see important notices or deadline announcements so that they don’t miss essential information and end up suffering because of it. The method for pinning a message differs depending on whether you are using a cell phone or laptop, but it’s easy to do on both.
For a computer, if you hover your cursor over the message you want to pin, you will see three dots in the top right-hand corner above the message. Click these and it will give you the option to ‘pin’ the message – with a little symbol of a drawing pin.
On a phone, tap and hold the message in question until it comes up with a list of options, one of which is to pin the content. Pinned messages can be found in the channel menu, by selecting the channel name at the top of the screen.
Slack Etiquette #9: Use Threads
When replying to a previous message, it’s a good idea to reply within a thread instead of directly into the chat, as there may be others discussing different topics and lines can cross. This gets confusing as members of the channel might be unsure what is being discussed and by who.
Keeping subjects within threads is a good idea when it comes to Slack etiquette in order to see the entire conversation history, as well as anything else related to that topic, especially if it needs to be revisited at a later date.
Slack Etiquette #10: Pay for Premium, if Needed
Slack is free to use, however, this free version only enables you to send and receive a total of 10,000 messages before they will start being deleted. For many people, this may be enough as they might not use Slack regularly enough to surpass this number, however, many companies will enforce the use of Slack for the majority of communications, and for those employees who are enlisted in several projects or teams, this number is easily surpassed.
In this case, employers should consider purchasing Slack premium for their members of staff, so that employees can continue to access previously sent messages containing important information. Employees may be unwilling to pay for Slack themselves, as it is a requirement of their job to use it, so it’s a good way to keep employees happy while maintaining good organization within the team.
Slack Etiquette #11: Using Emojis on Slack
Emjois are actually an important part of Slack etiquette, as they can set the tone of the message you want to send. Messaging services can often be hard to navigate, as you are unable to hear the tone of voice or even read body language to assess the way a message comes across. This means that direct messages can often end up sounding harsh or blunt.
However, emojis can be used in certain situations to keep the tone light and add an element of fun to messages, when used properly. Emojis are available on Slack as individual messages or as reactions to others’ messages and can be used for both in the right context.
These Slack etiquette tips should make sure that you’re using emojis within Slack to optimize your messages while ensuring that they are not overused or used in the wrong places.
- Using a thumbs up [👍 ] or a checkmark emoji [✅ ] as a reaction to a message shows that you have acknowledged and read the message without the need to send an endless thread of ‘thank yous’ or ‘will dos’ in the channel or direct message
- A checkmark emoji [✅ ] can also be sent with a message to signal that a task or project has been completed while adding a relaxed element to the message to make it seem less blunt. For example; ‘I’ve filled out that google form [✅ ]’
- Use a clapping hands emoji [👏 ] to signal that you agree with a message somebody has sent, or as a sign that you are congratulating them if the message is outlining that they have achieved a goal such as completing a project
- Smiley face [ 😃 ] reactions or messages can be used to show approval for ideas or excitement at upcoming events or projects within channels
- Any emojis can be used within context as reactions or alongside a message, but try not to overdo it – they can become annoying and are not needed all the time
- Remember that using emojis should not make the platform any less professional, and they should be used to add to your message. Make sure not to use emojis that are irrelevant or inappropriate to the situation, and try and remain professional and stick to good slack etiquette when using emojis
Slack Etiquette #12: Keep a Slack Etiquette Guide for the Company to Follow
Finally, we’d suggest creating a Slack etiquette guide with all the Slack etiquettes, made easily available to employees.
Each company will have different rules and agreements about what they believe is good Slack etiquette, and it’s important to make these clear to employees so that they know where they stand at all times on the platform.
Creating a short Google Doc or PDF that is sent out to employees via email or even on Slack itself for employees to read means that all employees are on the same page and will have no excuses to then misuse the platform.
We hope that this Slack etiquette guide was useful for creating one for your own company. We’ve been Slack power users for the past 5 years and would love to help out anyone who needs it.
Our, CMO is particularly incredible with it and gives frequent sessions on it. Do reach out to him on LinkedIn if you need any pro-tips for Slack.