How To Create, Setup, & Grow a Highly Engaged Community With Slack

The official 🐹 Hamster Pad guide to using a Slack chat to build a community.

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Slack has become one of the most effective ways to build a community online. Everyone from companies, to hobbyists, to political parties, are using Slack chats to collaborate, network, and have fun.

How big are these Slack chat communities? Surprisingly large.

There are a tremendous amount of fast growing Slack chats with thousands of members in them. The creators of these fast growing chat communities helped us make this guide. 🙌 🙅 😃

This guide will teach you how to:

  • Create Your Slack Chat
  • Customize Your Slack Chat Channels
  • Customize Your Slack Chat Settings
  • Tell People to Join Your New Slack Chat
  • Manage Your Slack Chat
  • Avoid Common Mistakes
This is a screen shot of the #nomad chat, a Slack chat with over 5,000 members.

Don’t know much about Slack? Here’s a quick FAQ:

  • What is Slack? Slack is a $3 billion startup 💰 in San Francisco that has created one of the best chat products in the world.
  • How many people use Slack? Over 2.3 million people are talking in Slack chats every day.
  • How much capital has Slack raised from investors? 💸 $340 million.
  • Why is Slack awesome? You can share basically anything: 😍 emojis, 🔗 links, 📺 videos, 📁 files, 📷 photos, gifs, etc. You can also easily set up notifications from Twitter, and other services, that get posted directly into the chat.

Step 1.

Create Your Slack Chat

⏰ Takes 1 to 3 minutes.

  1. Head over to Slack.com and create a new “Team”.
  2. Complete the sign up and now you have a new Slack chat!
  3. Head to 🐹 HamsterPad.com, create an account, and add your chat to the directory. This makes it easy for others to find and join your chat.
“A lot of companies have switched to Slack nowadays and it makes so much sense to use the same app to chat with various communities.” — 🐬 Steve Domin | Creator of Elixir Chat

Step 2.

Customize Your Slack Chat Channels

⏰ Takes 3 to 5 minutes.

Channels represent the different rooms in your Slack chat community. To start out you are automatically set up with a #general channel and a #random channel.

  1. Rename #general to #announcements and set it so that only admins can post in it (Check “Step 3: Customize Your Slack Settings” for instructions on how to do this). Everyone who joins your Slack chat will automatically be put in this channel, providing you with an excellent way to keep your community in the loop.
  2. Add a few channels that you think your community would like to post things in.

The types of channels you should create will depend on the type of community you are building and the specific type of audience you are catering to.

Here are some examples:

  • If it’s a music community 🎷 🎹 🎶, you might want to add a #new-music channel for people to share new music in.
  • If it’s a community of professionals, create a channel called #smallwins where people can post there recent accomplishments.
  • If it’s a startup community, create a #feedback channel where people can post their recent projects and get feedback from the community.

Step 3.

Customize Your Slack Chat Settings

⏰ Takes 1 to 3 minutes.

  1. Go to slack.com/admin/settings.
  2. Click “Expand” next to “Default Channels”. Add the channels you created as default channels. This will make sure that when new members join your chat they will automatically be put in these channels.
  3. Click the “Permissions” tab at the top of the page.
  4. Set “Who can use @channel and @here” to “Team admins and owners”. When you use include those in a chat message it will notify people in the chat, you want to make sure only you and other admins have this power (otherwise other members might abuse it).
  5. Set “Who can post to your #announcements channel” to “Team admins and owners” (if you haven’t already renamed the #general channel to #announcements, do that). This ensures that only you and other admins can post in this channel.
  6. Set “Who can use @everyone” to “Team admins and owners”. When you type @everyone in a message on Slack it notifies every single member of that Slack chat. It’s good to limit this ability to only admins so as to limit the amount of times it is used (it becomes annoying if people use it too often).
  7. Click “Save Settings”.
  8. Scroll down to “Apps & Custom Integrations”, click expand, set it to “Team owners and selected members”, and click “Save Settings”.

Step 4.

Tell People to Join Your New Slack Chat

⏰ Takes 1 to many hours.

📌 Slack doesn’t automatically let people join your chat. Follow these steps if you want people to be able to easily join your chat.

  1. Add your Slack chat to HamsterPad.com. This will give you a link that let’s people sign up and join your Slack chat. It will look like this: hamsterpad.com/chat/your-chat-name.
  2. Customize your chat’s Hamster Pad page. Add a description, tags, and upload a cover/background photo.
  3. Most important: Whenever you talk about your chat, tell them to go to your 🐹 Hamster Pad link to sign up and join the chat. Otherwise they will have no way to join your Slack chat.

📈 Now that you have your Hamster Pad link, which enables people to sign up and join your chat, it’s time to start telling people about your Slack chat:

  • Do you have a website? Put a button to join your Slack chat on your website and link it to your chat’s Hamster Pad page.
  • Do you have friends or colleagues? Tell them to about your new chat.
  • Do you ever email people? Add a link to your chat in your email signature.
“The APIs You Won’t Hate Slack channel was a combination of basic marketing and luck. I had a relatively successful book out called Build APIs You Won’t Hate, and all of the customers for that were in a mailing list. So, when I realized there wasn’t really a slack channel for API developers to chat about the ongoing problems, new tooling, seek help, etc, I figured my mailing list would be a solid place to start.” — 🐥 Phil Sturgeon | Creator of APIs You Won’t Hate
  • Have a Twitter account? Tweet about your new chat.
  • Have a Facebook page? Post about your new chat.
  • Have an email list? Send an email out about your new Slack chat.
  • Have a podcast? Start talking about your Slack chat!
“I started AngularBuddies because I was trying to learn Angular, and had all sorts of questions that I couldn’t get help with by simply reading stuff like StackOverflow. I took to Reddit and there was clearly demand because I acquired over a hundred signups in a couple days. Then I individually invited as many top players as I could. The unexpected result from that was the channel became more for ‘Elite Devs’ than I set out for, but I can learn from them just as well.” — 🐯 Pocket Silbermintz | Creator of Angular Buddies
  • Have a YouTube channel? Start talking about the chat in your videos!
  • Do you blog? Write a blog post announcing your new Slack chat. Include your Slack chat in all relevant future blog posts.

Step 5.

Managing Your Slack Chat

⏰ Takes forever.

  • Post interesting things in your chat. Share 🔗 links, start conversations, respond when others post. Be engaged.
“Most importantly, always provide value. Don’t just make noise for the sake of making noise. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask how people are doing or try to stimulate conversation from time to time. But it does mean you should always try to do way more than that.” — 🐸 Rick Turoczy | Creator of PDX Startups Chat
  • Put a lot of effort into getting to know everyone who joins your chat and being helpful to them.
  • Organize a meet up 🍺 👨 👸 for people in your Slack chat to meet each other and hang out in person.
  • Make sure people don’t get into fights. Discussions are great, but don’t allow people to be malicious.
  • Do regular Google Hangouts (video chats) with top members of your Slack chat.
  • Find some other people, potentially in different time-zones, who can help you moderate the Slack chat.
“Once a chat becomes large, it becomes harder to follow every conversation, so you have to have trust in the core members and trust that they will not get involved in flame wars.” — 🐰 Shawn Mayzes | Creator of LaraChat, Android Chat, DevOps Chat, Angular Chat, and Startup604
  • Create a #introductions channel and encourage new people to introduce themselves to the community.
  • Encourage people in your community to create their own channels in your Slack chat.
  • When you add new and important channels, make sure to go into your settings and make them defaults so that new members auto join them.

Step 6.

Avoid Common Mistakes

⏰ Takes forever.

  • Don’t think that the community will grow itself, especially in the beginning. You need to be actively 💃 💪 engaged.
  • If your Slack chat isn’t awesome 😕 in the first week or two, don’t give up. This stuff takes time and serious dedication. Keep at it! 🙏
  • Don’t overuse @here @channel and @everyone. When posting these in a chat it sends notifications (with a sound!) to a lot of people in your chat. Doing it too much will really really annoy 😡 people. Seriously, the less you use these the more impactful and useful they are.
  • Don’t over moderate. Don’t be too strict on which channels certain discussions have to take place in, your community may start to resent you if you do this. Give guidance, but let the community evolve on it’s own. Kind of like raising a kid.
“One thing I think that some slack communities do too often is trying to moderate people to have specific discussions in certain channels and also have way too many channels in the Slack team. I think moderation is okay depending on the format, but when you are trying to build a community that has a natural progression of conversations, I think moderation tends to make things too sterile.” — 🐵 Jesse Litton | Creator of Tech Friends
  • Don’t post things just for the sake of posting things! Always be sure that whenever you are posting in your Slack chat you are adding value.
  • Don’t create too many channels in the beginning! Start with a handful when you are first starting out.

Conclusion

Building a community is incredibly difficult. There’s no way around it. However, like most things that take a lot of work, it is very valuable and can be one of the most impactful things you ever do.

If you follow this guide, and put in the work, you will soon be enabling people around the world to meet each other, exchange knowledge, support one another, and have fun. 🎉 👯 🐹

Be strong! 💪💪💪

💬 If you ever want to chat with us, or other people who love Slack, come join our Hamster Pad Slack chat. We can’t wait to meet you.

You can also reach out to us on Twitter.

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Thank You

The People Who Helped Create This Guide

This guide would have never been created, especially with such expertise, if it wasn’t for these Slack experts.

These people have grown the largest Slack chats in the world, some of their chats with as many as 7,000 members and counting.

We are so appreciative of their efforts to help improve the Slack chat ecosystem and help others learn from their success.

In alphabetical order:

🐨 Charles Jo | Creator of StartupStudyGroup

🐧 David Markovich | Creator of OnlineGeniuses, ModChat

🐵 Jesse Litton | Co-Creator of Tech Friends

🐯 Pocket Silbermintz | Creator of Angular Buddies

🐥 Phil Sturgeon | Creator of APIs You Won’t Hate

🐸 Rick Turoczy | Creator of PDX Startups Chat

🐰 Shawn Mayzes | Creator of LaraChat, Android Chat, DevOps Chat, Angular Chat, and Startup604

🐬 Steve Domin | Creator of Elixir Chat