Slack has become a go-to community-building platform, in part because the communication platform is so widely used. Nearly 80% of Fortune 100 companies use the tool for fast and flexible messaging between their in-office and remote employees, contributing to its massive user base of 18 million+ active users.
With that kind of saturation and user familiarity, it’s no wonder B2B businesses are also using it to build their communities. Below we’ve gathered useful tips on how to get started and best practices for using Slack for community management.
At its core, Slack is a user-friendly messaging platform that allows users to direct message (DM) each other or participate in group conversations through channels. It’s more popular for business use than social media options, like Facebook Groups, because it’s easier to navigate, has fewer distractions, and provides greater moderation functionality.
However, Slack’s value goes far beyond a simple messaging platform. It integrates with over 2,400 apps in the App Directory, providing easy access to commonly-used community tools like Google Drive, GitHub, inSided, Common Room, and more. With these integrations, Slack can serve as a centralized workspace from which community leaders, moderators, and members can communicate, access information, and collaborate.
You have a few options for your community platform, so when considering Slack, ask yourself these questions:
If you decide Slack is the right fit for you and your community, here’s how you can get started.
It isn’t difficult to get started on Slack, but you want to set up your community with intentionality. Revisit the questions from above and keep those answers top of mind as you make choices that will impact the ongoing functionality and feel of your community.
This will be the foundation of your community’s new home. Follow Slack’s step-by-step instructions to set up your workspace.
All workspaces begin with a #general channel—which members are automatically added to—and you’ll want to create more to guide and foster relevant conversations within your community.
Dedicate each channel to a specific topic or purpose. This gathers related conversations in one place and makes it easier for members to find the topics that interest them.
Consider channels for #introductions, #announcements, #onboarding for new customers, #accountability for those working toward similar goals, and/or people who work in similar roles (e.g., having a channel for #marketingandsales and another for #developers). We also love our #banter channel as a place where community members can sound off about anything on their minds!
Slack offers three ways to add members to your community, including email invites, sharing an invite link, or by allowing sign-ups based on approved domains. This step is where you’ll decide if your community will be open (anyone can join) or closed (invite only).
Be sure to select default channels that new members will be automatically added to. This grounds newcomers and encourages them to take specific steps, like posting in the #introductions channel or reading the pinned community guidelines.
As a text-based app, there isn’t an abundance of options to visually customize your Slack workspace, but there are ways to make it your own.
Now that you know the technical elements of setting up Slack, consider the below best practices to start and build a thriving community on the platform.
Conversation is the cornerstone of a healthy community. That’s as true for the planning stages of building your community as it is for future community growth.
As you’re gearing up to build a community (on Slack or elsewhere), check in with people in your network, current customers, prospects, and thought leaders to understand what types of needs your community could fulfill or what value it could provide. By laying this groundwork, you can feel confident that you’re building the right thing for the right reasons.
Be sure to mine those conversations for insights that will help as you build your community, like what channel topics would be most useful for your members, what type of content you should produce, and how best to engage.
People often answer the ‘why’ question with their ‘what.’ Sure, you may want to create a place where individuals can discuss industry-related topics, but why does it matter? Why you? Why now?
Define your purpose and use it to inform the decisions you’re making internally, but make sure to also share it with your community and potential members. Your ‘why’ will be the most compelling way to communicate the value of your community.
Ecosystems is a great example of knowing your ‘why.’ The company was inspired to create a community because value management was a niche industry, and professionals often struggled to network, learn about best practices, or find growth opportunities. Ecosystems created the Customer Value Community on Slack to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and networking, with the intention of furthering the value management industry as a whole.
In the early stages of your new Slack community, you’ll want to plant the seeds to turn early members into future champions, contributors, and moderators.
The customer service team will have invaluable, first-hand knowledge about your current customers and ideal members. Layer their expertise over the insights you’ve gathered from your network to inform your community growth strategy. Down the road, you can also establish processes for notifying reps of member questions or flagging a potentially dissatisfied customer.
Another group you should connect with is your internal subject matter experts (SMEs). They will be called upon to create content, like blogs and “how to” guides, host educational events, and even participate in ongoing community conversations, but it can be difficult to get their buy-in, when they have so many competing priorities. Look for candidates who are knowledgeable and also personable, and discuss these needs early.
As mentioned above, an essential step in your Slack community-building process will be establishing a code of conduct. This code helps your future members feel grounded and empowered, ensuring they can engage with confidence.
At a minimum, it should include:
Plan to share that code of conduct with members from the outset, so they know what to expect and what’s expected of them. These guidelines serve as guardrails for how members will engage and define actionable steps that should be taken if a member ever needs help or comes across inappropriate content.
Make them easily accessible so future members can revisit them as needed, whether that’s on a page on your website or a pinned post within a central Slack channel.
True community can’t exist without trust, and members rely on community leaders and moderators to maintain a safe, positive, and productive environment. At the same time, you want to ensure that there’s room for people from different backgrounds, differing points of view, and healthy debate.
Because you’ve already published that handy code of conduct, members will know when and how to respond to inappropriate content, and you can hopefully avoid major issues as your community grows. Make sure your reporting process is easy to navigate, whether it’s a Google form, a specific email account, a well-known and accessible moderator, or something else.
If a more serious incident does occur, follow-up will include an investigation, an appropriate response as defined in your guidelines (i.e., deleting a post or suspending a member), and transparent communication. Depending on the severity and potentially public nature of the event, you may even want to consider making a public statement to ensure all parties know that you’ve stuck by your commitment to the community.
Reliable, consistent, and swift moderation will ensure your members feel comfortable enough to engage on a more meaningful level.
In addition to sharing community guidelines with new members, community leaders should send each newcomer a welcome message.
We recommend a DM that introduces you, important resources within your Slack workspace, and recommended next steps. Don’t leave them guessing about where and how to begin.
Also plan to send timely check-in messages and member surveys at key touchpoints to ensure your members continue to feel seen and supported. As your community grows, look into options for automating these workflows to ensure no one slips through the cracks and to give you more time to focus on engaging with members.
Knowledge sharing is a key component of a thriving Slack community, and that shouldn’t be a one-way street from internal subject matter experts to members. The job of a community leader is to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing questions, ideas, and expertise.
One idea is to identify members who have specialized knowledge in certain areas or are using your product in new and interesting ways. Make note of these people as soon as they come across your radar. Then later, if you notice a conversation taking place that they may have unique insight into, tag their username or DM them with a link to a conversation. Not only will you give a nod to their expertise, but you’ll also encourage them to engage, share knowledge, and support other members.
Always give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge members who consistently answer questions and participate in thoughtful discussions, ensuring they know that their contributions are valuable and appreciated. This will always be important, but especially so in the early stages of your community, as you work to build connections with your initial members.
Additional ways to recognize contributing members include: sharing links to their content or social media, publishing a “member spotlight” within the community or in your newsletter, inviting them to speak at an event, or participating in collaborative content creation.
Effective community building isn’t a “do as I say, not as I do” activity. Community leaders should model the behaviors they hope to see! Facilitate connections and conversations between members, but don’t forget to share your own knowledge too. Elevate the contributions of others and congratulate members on their wins.
If you establish a friendly, encouraging, and helpful tone from the beginning, others will follow suit. And it probably goes without saying, but moderators should always follow the standards outlined in the community’s code of conduct.
To set yourself up for success in managing your new Slack community, consider integrating an intelligent community growth platform into your tech stack. As your membership grows, this tool will help you stay on top of day-to-day community management activities and ensure no member gets left behind. It will also help you quickly understand what’s most important to your members, identify movers and shakers, and highlight opportunities for engagement and growth.
Additionally, members will likely be engaging with you across other community channels. Word of mouth will spread outside of your Slack, across social media (e.g., Twitter and LinkedIn) and other forums, like Reddit, GitHub, and Stack Overflow. Eventually, the volume of conversations and content will become difficult to manage manually, and you’ll risk missing valuable insights.
An intelligent community growth platform like Common Room brings together all of these sources, enabling you to know what’s happening across your entire community and take action. These insights will help you make more informed and strategic decisions to further both your community and your overarching business goals.
Laying the groundwork for your Slack community involves many big decisions, and it’s important to make them intentionally. The best practices we’ve listed above will set you up for a successful start, ensuring two things:
The rest, you can figure out along the way. That’s part of the fun!
For more insight into how Slack measures up to other platforms, how to get the most value out of Slack, the platform’s community management features, and more, check out The ultimate guide to Slack community management.
If you’re interested in connecting and sharing knowledge with 1000+ community leaders on a similar journey, join the Uncommon Community on Slack.