❤️Community Building ❤️

This is a living document of ideas and tips on how to make the most out of your Slack from a community building perspective.

Even though Slack wasn't intentionally designed as a community tool it has become a firm favourite for getting communities off the ground.

Why Slack can be great:

  • Familiarity
  • Mobile apps
  • Real time chat
  • Many many integrations and tools options

Down sides to Slack:

  • Lacks moderation tools
  • If your community gets big, the paid plan becomes ridiculously out of reach.
  • You lose content history if you don't go for a paid plan
  • Slack overload - it will be interesting to see how this evolves over time, but people can exist on so many Slacks and easily get overwhelmed.

Slack tips

Channels are wonderful, but perhaps not too many!

A bit like Goldilocks, not too many. Not too little.  What are the right amount of channels to have in a Slack community?

There really aren't any right answers in these situations, every community is different, you need to find the balance when creating your own.

These are the things I think about when creating new channels:

  • does it already exist? Or can it fit within an existing channel?
  • does it have a purpose?
  • how do we know if it will actually be used?
  • who or what will be driving content within it?
  • what should happen to it if no one posts to it?
  • are conversations around the proposed channel already happening?
  • who will be moderating each channel?
  • do you have consistent naming conventions?

Automated news updates via RSS

Screenshot from Ministry of Testing Slack where we feed in hundreds of testing blogs

Communities can be great for being the central source of information.  At Ministry of Testing, pretty much from day one, we started collecting RSS feeds from testing bloggers. When we started our Slack we realised we could feed the blogs in via RSS. This gave people easy access to the latest blog posts from the community.

This could be used for community blogs, but could also equally be used for your own blog or company updates, or any source of information where you can obtain an RSS feed.

At Ministry of Testing we have a dedicated channel purely for the blog posts. However, we do feed in Ministry of Testing news into the main (general channel).

Adding Context to Profile Names

Often in a Slack it is hard to know who is who.  Sometimes people can have branded profile images, but that feels like a hard thing to request from everyone.

I first saw this on the Commsor Slack, where a member requested each member put the community that they run or work for within their profile name.  This is such a simple action that immediately provides relevant clarity. Without this it is hard to know who is who.

My profile on Commsor Slack. My name + the community I lead at the moment.

Be Mindful With Your Channel Messages

Depending on the Slack, this can become quite a heated topic!

As Slack grows in popularity be mindful with how you use your channel messages. As general guidance:

  • be upfront from day 1 on how your message the community
  • encourage people to dive into their settings to adapt what messages they do and don't want to receive
  • use them only for important announcements for your main channel
  • structure channels so that you can use channel messages to target people who are interested in specific aspects of things you do
  • tackle complainers, be clear and what the Slack is for and that they can always adjust their settings to opt out.

Give the Opportunity to be Social

Communities human organisations that are designed to gather on a specific topic or organisation.  That doesn't mean you can't talk or share other things.

Consider adding channels that you feel may be beneficial, some examples could be:

  • self care
  • running / cycling / yoga / health
  • selfies
  • (or basically any recurring off topic conversations)

Use Channel Topics to Give Guidance

This little thing is often forgotten about, but can be really useful to guide your community to rules and expectations within each channel.  You can also put links within the channel description, which can be handy to pointing people to your website or anywhere that is relevant.

This is a blog channel on the Ministry of Testing Slack where we auto post blog posts from our manually curated RSS feeds. This collection has been built over a number of years!

Your Rules or Code of Conduct

Admittedly, people will often not bother reading Code of Conduct, but really you should aim to have one.  Even if it's just a few sentences long.

More important than a code of conduct, is your Slack living up to the code you set.  You must live and breathe the rules you define, people will take note of this more than any 'rules' you post anywhere.

Create a Company Account

Using a company account to interact with the community.

It's really interesting how people will engage with a company account versus a personal one.  I wasn't sure about the concept at the beginning, but I find it works really well for Slack and community building in general.

Why does it work well?

  • When you are building a Slack community it can be hard to moderate from your personal account, it ends up relying on a specific person who isn't always around.
  • Spreading the load between the team.  Having a company account means that different people can take on the load of managing communications.
  • Often people will vent their anger and frustration at people, but will behave differently towards company branded accounts.
  • You can set up Slack settings to ensure people get notified of DMs and other responses.
  • You can develop a brand character where it becomes more acceptable to share specific information.  For example, people will be more understanding of promotions from a brand, but may get sensitive or annoyed if the same message came from a personal account.

What can you post from the branded account?

  • discussions starters
  • interesting things you find, links, videos, quotes.
  • anything that you think would be useful!
  • ads & promotions
  • jobs
  • reminders, reminders, reminders
  • customer support and DMs

Re-use your content

Going where your people are is a community building strategy that I have done from day one.  No one told me to.  It just seemed to make sense.

If your people are on x. Make sure you have a presence on x.  It was key to our growth at Ministry of Testing.  In the early days we used LinkedIn (groups), then Twitter, then Slack, then LinkedIn pages.  Following the trends can be important.

People often get scared about this, they fear the work. And of course there is extra work involved, but it doesn't have to be as much as you like to think.

The key here is to reuse the content, but these days it's not really about directing traffic back to your main website or community. People want to exist where they are, not constantly be dragged off to some other platform or website.  

So, what you use in your main community, you can re-use in your Slack. Note that re-use doesn't mean copy and paste. It means take the form, then adapt it to what works best for Slack.  

Lazy marketeers have gotten all too much into the habit of tracking every single effort they put out. The result has led to the apparent need to link back and track every single interaction.

The best thing you can do as a community builder is to get out of this habit. Not everything needs to be tracked. You can create trust and results by investing in creating real conversations and relationships.  As you build your community you can find what brings value.  

The foundations of what brings value from platform to platform won't actually change.  The way you deliver it will.

[This will be continued, here within this post, for now I wanted to get something published.]