BONUS — The Definitive Guide to Slack for Organizing: Tips for Volunteers & Team Members
Joined a new Slack? Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your in-community experience.
Whether or not you’ve used Slack before, it can be overwhelming to join a new community and get settled in. With more organizations heading online to manage both local and remote communications, Slack provides some advantages like added security and customizations.
If you’re entering into an organization’s Slack for the first time, these tips and tricks will have you navigating the space like a pro in no time.
Direct messages, and small group DMs.
Direct Messages (DMs) are a great way to check in with people in your operation without airing any unnecessary or proprietary information in a public channel. Maybe you want to confirm lunch plans, but don’t need the rest of the team to do that, or you want to go over talking points without the whole staff weighing in. A direct message is a great way to do that.
You can send a DM to a single person by hitting the (+) next to Direct Messages in the left-hand menu (see below). Start typing the person’s (user)name and it should show up!
Small group DMs are perfect for coordinating between a couple people on something that does not require a whole new channel. If you go to the [+] sign next to Direct Messages, you can bring up a list of group members and add up to eight (8) of them to a DM. This should be reserved to short-term things [ex. Coordinating rides for tonight’s town hall], not campaign-long committees [ex. Discussing talking point for policy proposals].
Individual DMs and small group DMs will disappear from your dashboard after a certain period of inactivity but the history of that chat will not.
Tagging someone in a group channel
To mention someone, all you have to do is type @name. This will send them a notification that brings them straight to the place in the channel where they were mentioned so they can get to it quickly. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your staff’s usernames, as some will use nicknames while others use full names.
It’s important to think about the effectiveness to @someone in a public channel versus a public chat. There are times that it’s appropriate to do so [ex. Just want to say THANK YOU to @teammember for being an outstanding volunteer coordinator who arranged 50 volunteers to knock on 2500 doors today!] but you may also want to take things to a private message (see next).
It could also be helpful to tag someone in a public setting if you want to host a discussion and make sure things are part of the public record.
What do @channel and @here mean?
@channel vs. @here: Depending on the size of your team and how distributed they are, the utilizations of these features will vary. @channel will send a push notification to everyone who is in the channel (everyone’s phone will buzz and computers will pop up a notification). @here will send a notification to everyone who is currently online.
If everyone is, say, distributed around an office, using @channel may be appropriate when making an announcement. [ex. @channel BREAKING: WE JUST WON THE PRIMARY!].
If you just have a general question and want to make sure people who are online see it, @here is most appropriate. This may mean people who are offline miss it, but it’s not something that everyone in your operation needs to be aware of [ex. @here A volunteer brought brownies and there is only one left! OR Does anyone @here have an extra iPhone charger?]
**Bonus Tip: if you’re in a channel and want to see who’s online, click the person-shaped icon under the channel name. People who are online will have a green indicator next to their Slack name.
Cutting Down on Noise: Notification and Channel Settings
First and foremost, muting can save your sanity. Some channels post constantly, and research shows the dangers of being constantly available. Slack provides many options to cut down on noise within a Slack channel — this includes settings like: Notification Preferences, Do Not Disturb, Snooze, Unread & Starred, and Mute. Each of these provide a different way to cut down depending on your needs.
To get to the notification preferences menu, click on the name of your workspace, then preferences. One important decision to make is when you want to be notified. Do you want to be notified about every single message? Only direct messages, mentions, and keywords? Nothing? Instead of getting a notification every single time someone posts anywhere, in any channel, you can limit alerts to when you are tagged directly, part of a group tag (@channel or @here), OR in a conversation that you have starred.
The Do Not Disturb setting is also extremely helpful. It allows you to set a period of time every day where you will get no notifications for any channel. The automatic Do Not Disturb times are 10:00PM to 8:00AM, but can be changed to best reflect your schedule. If you know that you are going to be working 9–5 at your job but working on your campaign projects in the evenings, you can set up the schedule so that you only get notifications during relevant times. The Do Not Disturb option can be found in the notifications settings.
When you Mute a conversation or a channel, you won’t get notifications on your phone or computer, but you will still be able to see new messages in threads as they come in. Conveniently, you can mute specific channels.
Go to the gear in the top right of the app and it’s in that menu (see below). For instance, if you have a channel that updates with all of the tweets from your candidate or tweets about your district, it may be too much to have notifications for all of them as this can cause some extra stress (not to mention drain your battery if you have notifications on your phone!). “Mute” means you can monitor the channel in Slack but not get pinged every time a tweet goes out. To mute a channel, open the channel and click the gear icon.
If you want to mute all channels in Slack, but only for a set time, you can Snooze all notifications. If you have a meeting coming up or need to work heads down on a project for a couple hours, utilize the Snooze option. You can see that option by clicking on the bell next to your workspace name and clicking on the appropriate time on the dropdown menu.
For Slacks with many channels: the “Unreads and starred conversations” setting can cut down on a lot of clutter within your workspace. This changes which channels show up in your Slack sidebar, but does not affect notification settings. The sidebar settings are also in the preferences menu.
And there you have it. You are officially ready to use Slack and get organizing! If you are looking to run your own community, check out the full “Definitive Guide to Slack for Organizing” series of #RagtagTechGuides.