All posts

11 min read

An overview of Slack's community management features

An overview of Slack's community management features

Slack’s community management features allow companies to dig deep into specific topics and maintain open channels of communication between users. Here’s what you need to know about how they work and how to apply best practices to get the most out of these features.

Building a community on Slack yields many benefits—it gives community members direct access to each other and companies direct access to their members, enables product users to discuss and explore common product features and questions, and opens up a self-contained channel for community connection and amplification, education, marketing, brand-building, and user engagement.

Better yet, launching a community on Slack creates a virtuous feedback loop between your community members, customers, and product users and your product team, marketing and community teams, success team, and more.

This post covers how and why Slack’s community management features meet the basic requirements of community engagement initiatives.

Why use Slack for community management?

There are many reasons to use Slack as a community management tool:

  • Many people already know how to use Slack. It’s likely already a part of your could-be community members’ tech stacks. While other platforms may have a larger library of in-depth community management features, the learning curve associated with adopting another software solution may inhibit some users from joining. You won’t have that problem with Slack. Most users either already use it or have used it in the past, and they can simply add your Slack community workspace to their existing tab of workspaces.
  • People are already on Slack…all the time. In addition to knowing how to use the platform, Slack is a staple tool within many professional environments. Your fans are likely on Slack all day at work anyway. And it’s not considered taboo to have a Slack channel open during a meeting or a period of focused work. Logging onto Facebook or scrolling Instagram can derail productivity or feel like a waste of time, while checking a Slack channel for professional advice or insight into using a product more efficiently is more valuable and less intrusive.
  • There is a free plan for community builders. And there’s also no cap on participants — even if your community experiences an insane surge of popularity, it won’t affect your plan or your bottom line. However, the free-tier plan does come with some limitations: there’s limited message history, meaning users can’t look back at old messages or threads from past months or quarter previous, and the free plan only supports up to ten integrations. Additionally, voice huddles can only have a maximum of two participants, which restricts functionality for live chats.

What’s different about Slack communities?

There are many other ways Slack differs from social channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, Discord, and Discourse. Engaging with a conversation in Slack is significantly more intimate and personal than sending a message out into the void via a Facebook post. For that, and many other reasons, the communities you find on Slack are different from those on other platforms.

  • Slack tends to be more B2B oriented. Slack was originally created as a messaging platform to facilitate conversations between teams and coworkers. The communities you find on Slack tend to be more focused on business topics and professional development.
  • Slack is, first and foremost, a chat tool. People come to Slack to chat so the communities on Slack are naturally very active and engaged. Many of the distractions you find on a typical social media platform are much less intrusive within the Slack interface. Status updates are limited to your profile, not blasted into a feed, and there is no process of “friending” other users — just an opportunity to engage them in a chat conversation.
  • There’s a low barrier to entry. Users only need one login to access any number of Slack workspaces. This significantly lowers the barrier to entry, reduces the level of behavior change associated with joining the community, and increases the likelihood that users will initiate and maintain participation in the community.

    Plus, channel memberships aren’t displayed via a Slack profile (as they are on Linkedin, for example), giving people freedom to join groups of interest without judgment of how their curated list of group associations makes them appear to other members.

Helpful features for Slack community managers

Channels

Community managers can launch channels - separate rooms or tabs - within their Slack workspace to facilitate discussions about different topics.

These channels serve to keep the conversation focused on specific themes and simplify the moderation process for community managers. Each channel has a thematic topic, and community managers can pin guidelines to the top of each channel outlining what kinds of discussions are appropriate and which posts will be deleted for being off-topic or spammy.

Image of Slack sidebar with channel list



The above screenshot is an example of some of the channels from Product School’s Slack community. Their community managers moderate each channel according to its topic: memes that belong in the #funny channel would be removed from the #mock-interviews channel, for example.

Slack community managers can name channels according to their own brand voice and the purposes of each channel, write descriptions for each channel, and decide whether each channel should be public or private.

Additionally, moderators can set certain channels, like #intros in the above example, as default first channels, or welcome channels. These are channels that everyone joins automatically upon signing into the workspace. Other channels, like #mock-interviews, can be set as optional.

Having the ability to separate discussions granularly based on a topic keeps the community cohesive and reduces the likelihood that community members will be overwhelmed or annoyed by irrelevant information.

Similarly, threads, which are essentially replies to specific posts within a channel, enable even deeper conversation on specific topics. Only those involved in a thread discussion are notified of new replies.

This keeps community members from getting inundated with notifications, while also informing those involved of new posts in the conversation.

Slack profile customization

While Slack’s community management features don’t let you brand your workspace, they do give community moderators and participants the option to customize their Slack profiles.

Community members and moderators can include their full names, preferred display names, roles, employer, pronouns, and profile photos to their clickable usernames and avatars. This opens the door for a bit of transparency between community members and facilitates genuine relationship building.

Community managers can also add optional fields to these profiles, including a favorite emoji, favorite quote, or inner animal. Giving community members the option to add these more personal details to their profile helps to foster a sense of fun and a culture of light-heartedness.

Direct messages

Community members can send direct messages (DMs) to anyone in the workspace, including moderators, to ask questions, offer advice, continue an inside joke, or discuss shared interests more deeply.

They can similarly use this messaging feature to answer questions from community members privately, or remind community members of specific community guidelines they may have broken. Direct messages often have a higher response rate than an announcement as they offer a personal touch. As such, they are great for delivering invites, insights, or just checking in to see how members are doing in the community.

Moderators can also send welcome messages to new users and re-engage with community members or send them quick surveys, all while imbuing and formatting messages with their personal voice and tone.

The Slack workspace sidebar

The always-visible sidebar, which features a list of all the people and channels users have recently messaged directly, lends itself naturally to ongoing, informal conversation. It’s easily customizable so community managers can create tags and organize chat messages into categories like “customers” and “coworkers,” for example.

Community managers can also sort chats by priority, recent activity, or choose to view only messages that are currently unread. These features help community managers keep track of timely conversations or flag messages with important superusers.

Guidelines and moderation

Maintaining order in large communities is extremely important and can quickly become difficult. However, Slack’s community management features make it reasonably easy to post and enforce community guidelines.

Slack community managers can write up community codes of conduct, or a list of rules, and pin these rules to the top of each channel to clarify appropriate behavior. Slack communities can be set as open or invite-only—in the case of the latter, community managers can request members agree to specific guidelines via email in order to gain access to the Slack workspace.

Community admins have the authorization to add and, more importantly, remove members from specific channels or workspaces, which can be helpful with guideline offenders. They can also edit posting permissions and message retention, which determines how many old messages will be available to view in a certain channel.

Slackbots

Moderators can also set up auto-response bots to streamline community management. Slackbots can be configured to send community members reminders about certain events or guidelines. For example, moderators can program their Slackbot to send a warning message to community members who post a specific word or phrase, DM potentially inappropriate language, or otherwise break a guideline.

Image of the 'Customize your workspace' Slackbot tab in Slack settings



Moderators can set Slackbot responses based on trigger words and add as many custom Slackbot responses as they’d like.

Bots can also be used for a variety of other community management tasks. They can be programmed to send direct messages to users, upload files, or post messages within a channel to promote or guide conversations. Bots can be customized with a face, a name, and a personality. This helps community managers integrate automation in a way that remains true to a company’s brand voice and vibe.

While bots can be useful, community managers have been achieving higher rates of engagement with their community members on Slack through thoughtful direct message sequences, or automated workflows, that are available through intelligent community growth platforms like Common Room.

These automated workflows can be set up to welcome new members, check in with members, survey members, and message a cohort of users on a specific topic. In short, they do much of what bots can do, but are directly connected to a person—the community manager.

Tips for getting started with a Slack community

Setting up a community on Slack is a great way to build relationships between your users, your organization, and your brand. The sleek UI, channel divisions, and intuitive DM features invite community members to participate and engage in conversations about a vast array of diverse — but relevant — topics.

For any Slack community to work, it’s important to implement a few basic best practices from the outset:

  • Create a code of conduct. Posting a community code of conduct to set expectations for acceptable behavior is key for streamlining the moderation process. Ensuring everyone knows the rules up front reduces the chances of issues. A code of conduct should include a list of community guidelines and clearly articulate how those guidelines will be enforced.
  • Focus on first impressions. Sending a welcome message to new users and creating an #intros channel helps get members involved immediately. Ultimately, community members should feel seen, heard, and connected. Reaching out with a simple welcome message, or inviting members to introduce themselves to the community, helps them take the first step toward building authentic relationships.

    Welcome messages can be a simple hello and a quick list of questions for new users (Tell us your name and a fun fact about you!) or include a list of pinned resources and helpful links for new users to review upon joining a community.
  • Use Slackbots to promote a safe space. Configuring your Slackbot to flag inappropriate words or phrases is extremely useful for ensuring your community is a safe and welcome space for all.

Slack is a great place to start developing invaluable, two-way relationships between community members, customers, and your company. While there are plenty of community platform options out there, Slack’s straightforward community management features make it exceptionally easy to start conversations, facilitate and build relationships between community members, and moderate discussions.



Looking for more about Slack community management? Check out some best practices for building community on Slack and connect with 1,000+ community leaders to share expertise and ask questions in the Uncommon community Slack. To intelligently engage and grow your Slack community, try Common Room for free today.

Learn, share, and connect with community leaders.