How to Slack — for Newbies

“With remarkable consistency, the data confirmed that communication indeed plays a critical role in building successful teams. In fact, we’ve found patterns of communcation to be the most important predictor of a team’s success.” — Harvard Business Review

I’m doing a little experiment: I’m trying to make Slack more than just a work & collaboration tool, but one for my little groups as well. Last week, I created two Slack teams: one for my barkada (group of friends) and one for my family. Getting them onboard has been rough. Slack is primarily a work collaboration tool, not necessarily geared for community-type messaging, but here’s my attempt at trying to change that (or observing how I can do so). I started writing a “how-to” to help my friends and family members get started (as most don’t really use apps and a few things may not be as intuitive to them as it is to me.) And I decided that, hey, maybe I can share this guide to others as well. This is a pretty simple, bare minimum how-to. For more resources, check out the links I put in the bottom.

If you don’t know Slack, explore away. If you do and need help getting people onboard, feel free to share this!

Getting Started

  • Create a team by signing up here. Follow the instructions and you should have your team set up in no time!
  • If you were invited to join as a team member, go to the email you should have received and press join group. It will redirect you to a website.
  • Enter your username (which isn’t necessarily anything unique, just something that everyone knows you by; for example, I use @mika for all my teams) and a password.
  • Confirm your email. Go on Slack and check out the notification from Slackbot. Confirm your email through that and it will send an additional email to your account so you can set a password.
Confirm your email via Slackbot and then via email.
  • Boom! You can now access your team’s Slack account anytime, anywhere!

The Basics

  • Download Slack on the web and on your phone. All links are conveniently accessible here.
  • Fix your notifications. Go to Menu > Account & Profile > Notifications > Customize your notification settings OR Team Menu > Preferences. I recommend getting notified via mobile at the very least. Desktop can come in handy as well. Getting notified via email is secondary and sometimes unnecessary (or, in my case even more of a bother!)
The notification panel. Manage your notifications (separately on mobile and on web).
  • Join or create channels. These are the ones to the left side of the web/desktop app that look like hashtags. Default ones are #random and #general. These are threads that people can join in on. They act as separate chat rooms that can be made public (anyone can see them and join) or private (only people invited can join). So, for example, if I want to know about out-of-town trips, I join the #trips channel and we can talk about which tickets to buy for our backpacking adventure around Asia.

Really Cool Slack Things

  • Share files by dragging & dropping or by clicking the plus sign. You can also create new posts or upload snippets of code.
Uploading a file allows you to share it with anyone (privately or publicly), and add comments.
Aside from uploading files, you can create snippets of code, and now, create posts that others can edit (for example, creating those Secret Santa wishlists or fixing itineraries for a beach trip.)
  • Find everything in one place. Search your archive with the useful keywords listed below or star your favorite posts and access them later. Almost like email, huh? (But so much better.) You can also optimize your search with specific keywords and filters.
Optimize your post searches with these modifiers.
  • Integrate a plethora of other apps. No need to transfer your already existing workspace to a whole new application. Asana. Trello. Google Drive. Github. Twitter. You name it, Slack’s got it. Check ’em out.
  • Respond to posts via emoji. I still believe Slack was the first to capitalize on this: Facebook only followed with responding to posts beyond “likes” when it saw how Slack did it. Though I think Slack does it better as it allows you to respond to posts with any emoji. (It’s okay, you’re still cool Facebook.)
React to any post via emoji.
  • Notify people via mentions or direct messages. Here’s a quick list of useful mentions:
    @username: change username to a name and notify anyone you mention
    @channel: notify everyone on the specific channel you are currently in
    @here: like @channel, but less bothersome & only notifies those online
    @everyone: notifies EVERYONE on the team, yes everyone.
  • Set commands. Typing “/” will give a list of commands and their corresponding functions. For example /me + [something you are doing, ex. taking a shower] will tell others what you are doing with the format “Mika is taking a shower.” My favorite is /remind. When I type “/remind me to take a shower at 10PM next Friday” it will do exactly that. I can even /remind others to do so! No more “I forgot” excuses!!! Here’s a list of slash commands.

Fun Stuff to Appreciate

  • Slackbot is your little sanctuary. Send @slackbot the things you want to remember or note for yourself and it’ll be searchable as with anything else.
  • Follow the @SlackHQ NOW. Kudos to the ones handling the Twitter of Slack. Best customer service EVER. Plus you’ll see all Slack’s updates in quirky notes of 140 characters or less. For added help, check out the help page and the Slack blog and a list of articles curated from other Slack users.
  • Switch quickly with the Quick Switcher. Jump to channels, direct messages or other teams with a push of a button.
The Quick Switcher icon (bottom part of the Team Menu.)
Use the Quick Switch to switch from convo to convo to team to wherever else.
  • Customize your layout & theme. Need I say more? Team Menu > Preferences > Sidebar Theme. You can also customize your emoji styles! (That Slack team sure loves emojis.)
Customize your own Slack themes.
Choose your own emoji styles.
  • Make your own emojis!!!! I LOVE emojis and the chance to make my own?!?! I’m all ‘bout that. Team Menu > Customize Slack > Emoji or go here.
  • Create your custom welcome messages. Team Menu > Customize Slack > Loading Messages
  • Create your own Slackbot responses when someone says something. Team Menu > Customize Slack > Slackbot.

Other Useful Links

11 Useful Tips for Getting the Most of Slack
Several People Are Reading: curated tips from Slack users
Getting Started: Making Slack Work For You
Slack Introduction
Several People Are Typing: The Official Slack Blog
Slack Help Center
@SlackLoveTweets — all things we love about Slack
@SlackHQ — Official Slack Twitter

That’s it for now. If there’s anything I should add, don’t hesitate to comment. As for a post about gearing Slack towards my other groups, tune in for an update in the near future. (Maybe?) :)


If you liked what you read, I encourage you to recommend hit that green button down there. Or read my little guide on how to use Evernote in the best way! Or follow me for more tips and other posts!

P.S. I am not affiliated with Slack in any way (though working for them is a little dream of mine!) All content is curated from experience and other online resources. And this post is done out of love (for family, friends & for one of the best work tools in the world!!!)