How to use Slack:  3 Tips to Streamline Communication

Many companies are  managing remote teams, collaborating across various time zones, or coordinating full-time employees along with contractors and vendors. How do you keep all these communication channels organized without sacrificing work-life balance?

Email isn’t cutting it, so you use Slack — a messaging app for businesses to connect to the people and information they work with the most. But if Slack wasn't implemented properly, it could cause more harm than good.

Organizations that use Slack without training their teams typically suffer from these pain points:

  • You waste time passing along private messages, like a game of telephone
  • Your team is confused about which channel to post their message
  • >90% of your company's messages are private messages
  • You have trouble finding posts in a lengthy list of obscurely named channels
  • You read a message, forget to respond, then things slip through the cracks
  • You receive Slack notifications to your phone after the work day is over
  • You use nicknames and aliases to name Slack channels
  • You don't have any apps integrated with Slack

Do any of those sound familiar? Keep reading. Below are best practices on how to use slack to streamline your communication:

1. Align your #channel names with your organizational structure

Whether your organizational structure is hierarchical, flat, divisional, matrixed, or networked, all of these structures have a way of defining a team — a set of people with a shared purpose. 

Use a channel naming convention that reinforces your organizational structure. This is seemingly obvious when starting out with Slack because the tool pretty much recommends these channels for you. But as your teams start to form sub-teams, you'll find this advanced naming structure valuable:

e.g. Channel Name: #[Department]-[Function]-[Sub-Function]

For instance, let’s take a small company-sized 5–10 people. To start, you’ll have the following channels:

  • #marketing
  • #sales
  • #finance
  • #product
  • ...

But what happens when you grow to 25–50 employees? Chances are your departments will begin to develop functions within them. Marketing will have sub-teams like Social Media, Blog, Event Management, SEO, and Public Relations. Sales will branch off into Outbound, Inbound, and Partnership. Let these functions guide your channels:

  • #marketing-events
  • #marketing-social-media
  • #marketing-blog
  • ...
  • #sales-outbound
  • #sales-inbound
  • #sales-partnership

Even if your organization doesn’t have dedicated teams for these functions yet, there is no harm in building a size 10 business operation when your organizational footprint is still only size 4.

Getting ahead of the curve will save you time from sharing historical conversations muddled in a general #marketing channel you used for far too long for far too many workflows.

2. Use the Sections feature to organize channels in your sidebar

Slack automatically organizes channels in alphabetical order. So, if you use the naming convention from tip #1, all your marketing, sales, and customer success (CX) channels will be stacked neatly together. 

But your channels go beyond just department conversations. It’s also a place for cultural conversations, shared channels with external vendors and customers, check-ins, and more. Before you know it, there will be 50+ channels to monitor, and you’ll be wasting brain power looking for the channels that matter the most. 

Use Sections to group your channels that are alike. There are endless ways to do this. I recommend these Sections:

  • Company - used to group channels that are not specific to a function. This may include #ideas, #random, #general #announcements #learning, etc.

  • Functional - used to group channels that are specific to a function. This includes all marketing-, sales-, product-, and finance- channels. 
  • Vendors - used to group shared channels with vendors. This enables you to see all the vendors you collaborate with within one area.
  • Accounts - used to group shared channels with customers. This enables you to see all your customer channels in one area [only applies to some business models, mostly B2B]
  • Muted - used to group channels you’ve muted. These channels tend to clutter your view but still make them available to check with all that extra time you’ve saved following these tips.

The Sections you use may differ depending on your business model or industry. The best way to get your team to use Sections is to film a Loom video walking through how to set it up.

3. Utilize Threads to organize your replies

Your teams have dozens of conversations going on at the same time. Many of these conversations will likely use the same public channel. If your team members respond to each other without using threads, it’s nearly impossible to follow the conversation. 

People often decide to take it “offline,” which in today’s world means taking it to a private chat. But what if an onlooker has valuable contributions to the conversation? Moving to private chat decreases visibility for those who could help out. 

Utilize threads to nest your replies within public channels so simultaneous conversations can continue in the same public channel — enabling people to follow conversations and maintain visibility for the entire team. 

More tips coming soon...

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