How to use Slack: a guide for social savvy businesses

26 Jul

Trying to figure out how to use Slack?

Good. It’s totally worth it.

Just like it pays to learn the ropes of the latest social channels, marketers should likewise look into the most popular apps for businesses.

Although not a traditional social media platform per se, Slack’s more than 10 million daily active users speak for themselves. Slack represents one of the most popular SaaS solutions for modern businesses looking to keep their teams connected and productive.

And while Slack might seem like little more than a chat app on the surface, the platform boasts some specific benefits and features relevant to social savvy businesses.

In this guide, we’ll break down the basics of how to use Slack. Specifically, we’ll discuss the platform’s practical uses and benefits in regard to social media. If you’re already pretty familiar, jump down to the Slack for marketing section for additional ways in which to use the platform.

What is Slack, anyway?

Let’s start with the basics.

Slack is a team collaboration and project management tool. The platform can be used in-browser or as its own native app on desktop and mobile.

Users communicate in channels denoted by specific hashtags. For example, a marketing team might have separate channels for #content-writers, #SEO and #design.

Within each channel, users can tag each other based on their @handles. Then the fun begins.

In terms of how to use Slack to communicate, your options are pretty much limitless. For example, Slack can be used as an alternative to emails or project tickets. Having such issues forward-facing creates a sense of accountability and transparency as teams can track their communication from Point A to Point B until an issue is resolved.

Colleagues can ask each other questions on Slack in a matter of seconds

Colleagues can ask each other questions on Slack in a matter of seconds

Slack can also be used for informal communication. Celebrating a new contract? Looking to find folks to go to lunch with? Go for it.

Many companies use Slack to share milestone and provide crucial updates

Slack has a slew of third-party integrations ranging from social media (Twitter) to project management (Asana, Trello) and beyond. Perhaps the most notable distinction of Slack is its plethora of bots, many of which are focused on productivity and improving company culture.

For example, the popular Donut bot is designed to optimize new employee onboarding and help employees build relationships with each other.

Many companies have figured out how to use Slack to bring their workers closer together

Many companies have figured out how to use Slack to bring their workers closer together

No two teams use Slack the same, but the end-goal is the same: it gives teams a place to stay connected without having to leave their desks or waste time in their inboxes.

Is Slack social media?

The answer to that question largely depends on how you’re using Slack.

For those using it at work, Slack isn’t somewhere to discover customers, market yourself or sell stuff. At its core, it’s a place where businesses can streamline and document the internal communications of their teams.

Meanwhile, the emergence of Slack communities has extended the uses and benefits of the platform beyond the workplace. In fact, in many cases, you can even typically find free or paid Slack communities for specific niches such as SEO and digital marketing.

So, it’s certainly fair to say Slack more closely resembles a social media platform than not.

After all, the platform thrives on social interactions. Users can share memes, company updates, and tag each other akin to Twitter or Facebook: the difference is that such communication isn’t forward-facing. In many cases, Slack has replaced employees going back-and-forth in social comments for the sake of productivity.

Slack is still a prime place for teams to discuss content and social campaigns, though. For example, users can discuss new articles, posts and campaigns relevant to social media. This rings true for company content and competing content as well.

Slack can be used to discuss company content

Slack can be used to discuss company content

The platform presents many opportunities for marketing teams to brainstorm ideas and keep a pulse on the social space without spending all day on Twitter. In this sense, marketers should consider how to use Slack as a way to supplement their social strategies.

What to share in Slack

Now that we know what Slack is (and isn’t), let’s talk about what to share in Slack to get your colleagues talking.

And although you can truly share just about anything, the following pieces of content are relevant to social-focused teams.

Company updates and relevant industry content

Sharing company content to Slack is a no-brainer, especially for the sake of employee advocacy.

For example, let’s say your company has a new blog post. Notifications via Slack can serve as a much-needed reminder for your team to give your post a much-needed boost. In fact, social content shared by employees receives exponentially more shares than content confined to a company account.

Many marketing teams have channels dedicated to fresh content. Likewise, Slack represents a place to share industry news and content from competitors that’s worth discussing.

There are tools out there that can help you streamline the process of sharing content within Slack, by the way. For starters, Feedly’s Slack integration makes it a cinch to source and tag Slack users within recently published posts.

Feedly integrates with Slack to allow for tagging coworkers and colleagues in articles

Feedly integrates with Slack to allow for tagging coworkers and colleagues in articles

Additionally, content curation with Slack can be done through IFTTT which highlights new comments and relevant shares based on content that you follow.

Slack integrations make it easy to curate content from your organization or a competitor

Slack integrations make it easy to curate content from your organization or a competitor

Catchy headlines and listicles

Bear in mind that any team working within Slack is still, well, working.

In other words, your teammates’ time is valuable. Chances are they don’t have time to read everything that comes their way.

Much like a typical social user, catchy headlines are key to grabbing the attention of your teammates to ensure that your shared content grabs the attention of your coworkers.

We’re not saying to share clickbait headlines, but rather pieces that are easy to digest based on their titles. This includes listicles, how-to’s and breaking news that gives you the feel of what an article is about based on its title and meta description alone.

This is where tools such as SummarizeBot can be a game-changer. In short, the bot can actually condense and summarize pieces of content using AI so your coworkers don’t have to sift through a wall of text. Honing in on key points, this tool ensures that teams can get to the “meat” of a piece of content without wasting any time.

Summarizebot can simply more complicated articles

Summarizebot can simply more complicated articles

Memes and image-based content

Much like any other social network, Slack is yet another place to share memes and eye-popping images.

Many teams actually have Slack channels dedicated exclusively to meme-worthy content.

Such content can be used as reactions or as a light-hearted way to go back-and-forth with a coworker.

Slack is a akin to a social channel as users provide updates and share means with each other

Beyond traditional .GIFs and reaction images, image-based content from Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest is also fair game for Slack (think: infographics or graphs). The common thread between anything shareable in Slack is that it should be easy to digest at a glance.

But where can you find this content to begin with?

If your company uses a tool like Sprout Social (and you have access to it), then inside the Publishing tab you can utilize the “Find Content” feature to automatically surface articles based on your selected categories such as Arts and Entertainment, Business and Health, among others.

Use Sprout's Find Content feature to explore shareable articles

Use Sprout's Find Content feature to explore shareable articles

How to use Slack social media integrations

To better highlight how to use Slack to supplement your social campaigns, we’ve broken down a few key social media integrations to consider.

For starters, Twitter’s Slack integration allows you to monitor brand mentions and strategize Twitter responses with your team before you post on the platform itself.

Twitter integrates with Slack to provide company updates

Twitter integrates with Slack to provide company updates

From shout-outs to customer service concerns, the integrations keeps you updated within Slack without having to bounce in and out of Twitter.

Slack tweets

Slack tweets

Tools like Mention cover social shout-outs beyond Twitter, including a daily recap of analytics which breaks down your number of mentions, sentiment analysis and your most important tagged messages.

social mentions on slack

social mentions on slack

In terms of buzz-worthy content, Diggbot curates article feeds based on specific keywords and domains. This gives you a constant pulse on trending content based on a specific industry or site.

Digg bot for Slack

Digg bot for Slack

Oh, and don’t forget Slack’s GIPHY integration. This tool gives you instant access to GIPHY’s massive .GIF library, perfect for reaction images and memes that might very well end up being shared among your social channels.

giphy for slack

The beauty of third-party integrations is that they can be integrated into Slack in a matter of seconds and are typically free.

Slack for marketing

Earlier in this article, we covered what to share in Slack. On the flip side, you can also use the platform for prime examples of the types of content that are resonating with people or even likely to be shared across other companies’ Slack channels, thus providing you with new ways in which to amplify your content.

For those working in a marketing capacity, this means Slack can be a goldmine for uncovering a wide variety of ideas, suggestions, recommendations, commentary and inspiration – all from a trusted audience.

For example, if you’re a content creator, take note of popular themes and discussions that emerge which might make for a good blog post or generate ideas for compelling ad copy.

Keep an eye out for relevant trends and pay attention to the reception of the various types of social posts that get shared and think about how you may be able to utilize that type of content in the future (or use it to confirm your current strategy is in the right place).

You can then take these learnings a step further using Sprout. For example, with Sprout’s social listening tools, you can add topics yielded by Slack and monitor them across your connected networks to glean even more valuable insights around the conversation.

VTWO featured image

Dan Wilkins
General Manager and Co-founder

Coupled with Sprout’s patented ViralPost technology, you can ensure Slack’s content inspiration doesn’t go to waste by implementing optimal send times to maximize your audience when scheduling posts.

Innisfree Hotels featured image

Alyssa Townsend
Director of Social Media

Slack tips and best practices

Although Slack itself is fairly intuitive, using the platform to its fullest potential means understanding its best practices. Here are some quick tips for making sure that your team uses Slack in a meaningful way.

Pick out your channels

Your company’s Slack shouldn’t be a free-for-all of random channels. Instead, discussions should be confined to channels based on your company’s goals for the platform.

For example, does each team have a place to go back-and-forth? Is there somewhere to express company-wide concerns? Do you want to confine memes and funny business to a single channel?

There is no “right” way to set up your Slack channels. Of course, this freedom can be a bit daunting. To get started, here are some examples of recommended channels highlighted by Slack itself.

  • #Announcements
  • #Random
  • #AMA (ask me anything)
  • #Company-culture
  • #Suggestion-box

Outline expectations

Not unlike social media, some critics regard Slack as a potential time-sink for employees that can actually result in less productivity.

It’s important to highlight expectations for how to use Slack among your team. This can avoid time-wasting and likewise ensure that discussions are meaningful and productive.

In short, teams shouldn’t just see it as a place to chat. We recommend Slack’s own guide to onboarding your company to make sure that your team is on the right track from the word “go.”

Promote positivity

This might sound corny, but it’s definitely worth mentioning.

Your colleagues shouldn’t dread opening any given Slack channel. Whether it’s feedback or requests, stress the importance of keeping communication positive and constructive.

There’s no doubt that being connected around-the-clock to your team can be potentially stressful. To combat this, encourage your team members to mind their tone and likewise not be afraid of letting their personalities shine. Slack is a brilliant team-building and collaboration tool, granted teams understand how to approach it.

And with that, we wrap up our guide on how to use Slack!

Ready to get started with Slack?

While the concept of learning any new platform might be a headache, getting started with Slack is intuitive and seamless.

No matter what sort of business you’re running, Slack can bring your team closer together while also supplementing your social media efforts. We recommend it to just about anyone looking to get more work done, especially social marketers.

We want to hear from you, though. Still on the fence about Slack? Is your team already on the bandwagon? Let us know in the comments below!

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