Slack is a great place to start developing relationships between community members, customers, and your company. While there are plenty of community platform options available, Slack’s straightforward community management features make it exceptionally easy to start conversations, facilitate and build relationships, and moderate discussions.
Whether you’re creating a community for your business, hobby, or interest, there are certain best practices that can help you build a vibrant and engaged Slack community.
Here are some of Slack’s community management features:
Community managers can launch public or private channels, which are separate rooms or tabs, within their Slack workspace to facilitate discussions. Channels serve to keep the conversation focused on specific themes and simplify the moderation process for community managers. Each channel has a thematic topic, and community managers can pin guidelines to the top of each channel outlining what kinds of discussions are in line with the designated purpose.
Similar to channels, threads are essentially replies to specific posts within a channel, enabling deeper conversation on specific topics. Only individuals involved in a thread discussion are notified of new replies. This keeps community members from getting inundated with notifications, while also informing those involved of new posts in the conversation.
Slack Profile Customization
Slack gives community moderators and participants the option to customize their Slack profiles. Community members and moderators can include their full names, preferred display names, roles, employer, pronouns, and profile photos to their clickable usernames and avatars. Community managers can also add optional fields to these profiles, including a favorite quote or emoji. Giving community members the option opens the door for a bit of transparency between community members and facilitates light-hearted, yet genuine relationship building. (NOTE: Slack’s current community management features do not let you brand your entire workspace)
Community members are able to send direct messages (DMs) to anyone in the workspace, to ask questions, offer advice, or discuss shared interests more deeply. These messages have a personal touch, and are great for delivering invites and more personalized insights.
The Workspace Sidebar
The always-visible sidebar, which features a list of all the people and channels users have recently messaged directly, lends itself naturally to ongoing, informal conversation. The sidebar is customizable, allowing community managers to create tags and organize chat messages into categories like “coworkers” and “customers,” for example. Community managers can also sort chats by recent activity and priority, allowing community managers track timely conversations or flag messages with important content.
Moderators can also set up auto-response bots to streamline community management. Slackbots can be configured to send community members reminders about certain events or guidelines. For example, moderators can program their Slackbot to send a warning message to community members who post a specific word or phrase, DM potentially inappropriate language, or otherwise break a guideline.
Moderators can set an unlimited number of custom Slackbot responses based on designated “trigger” words. Bot profiles can be customized with a face, name, and personality, and can be programmed to upload files, post messages, or send direct messages to users within a channel to promote or guide conversations. These customizations allow community managers to integrate automation without losing the brand’s voice and aesthetic.
BEST PRACTICES AND TIPS WHEN STARTING A NEW SLACK COMMUNITY
Starting a new Slack community requires careful planning and execution, to ensure that it is successful and serves it’s intended purpose. Here are some things to consider when starting a new Slack community:
- Purpose and Goals: Define the purpose and goals of your community. What do you hope to achieve by creating this community? Who is your target audience? What kind of content and discussions do you want to foster? Having a clear purpose and goals will help you attract the right members and create a sense of community.
- Community Guidelines: Develop clear guidelines and expectations for members. This can include rules around behavior, language, and topics of discussion. Community admins have the authorization to add and, more importantly, remove members from specific channels or workspaces, which can be helpful with guideline offenders.
- Channels and Topics: Think about the channels and topics you want to create within your community. Consider the needs and interests of your members and create channels that reflect those interests. Be sure to organize your channels in a logical and easy-to-navigate way.
- Promotion and Recruitment: Once your community is set up, you will need to promote it and recruit members. Consider using social media, email newsletters, and word of mouth to spread the word about your community. Be sure to clearly communicate the benefits of joining your community and make it easy for people to sign up.
- Engagement Strategy: Develop a strategy to encourage active participation and build a sense of community. This can include posting regular updates, starting discussions, and creating opportunities for members to connect with each other. Creating channels and threads for specific topics or interests will also encourage more focused conversations.
- Encourage Feedback: Your community is only as strong as its members, so it’s important to listen to their feedback and suggestions. Encourage members to share their thoughts and ideas and be open to making changes based on their feedback. This will help you create a community that truly meets the needs and interests of its members.
- Ongoing Management: Finally, remember that building a successful Slack community is an ongoing process. You’ll need to manage the community over time, responding to member feedback, enforcing guidelines, and promoting engagement. Be sure to stay active and engaged yourself to set a positive example for your members.
- Celebrate Your Community: Applaud your community’s achievements and milestones. Recognize top contributors, share success stories, host events or meetups, etc. Celebrating your community’s achievements can help build a sense of pride and belonging, and encourage members to continue to participate and contribute.
BEST SLACK COMMUNITIES FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
There are many Slack communities that cater to small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers. Here are a few examples of popular chat communities:
- Small Business Slack: for small business owners and entrepreneurs who share advice, insights, and support. The community has channels dedicated to specific topics, such as marketing, finance, and product development.
- Freelance Heroes: for freelancers and small business owners. The community has over 7,000 members and offers support, advice, and resources for freelancers across a wide range of industries.
- Indie Hackers: for entrepreneurs and small business owners who are building and scaling their businesses. The community is focused on creating sustainable businesses, and members share insights and experiences on topics such as marketing, product development, and fundraising.
- Startup Chat: for entrepreneurs and small business owners who are building startups. The community has over 20,000 members and offers support, advice, and resources for startups at all stages of growth.
- Boss Women Community: for women entrepreneurs and small business owners. The community offers support, networking opportunities, and resources for women who are starting and growing businesses.
It’s important to find a community that aligns with your goals and interests, and that has an engaged and supportive membership.
GETTING STARTED CHECKLIST
- Choose a name: Choose a name that reflects the purpose of your community and is easy to remember. The name should be unique and not too long.
- Set up a Slack workspace: Create a new Slack workspace for your community. Choose a workspace name that reflects the purpose of your community.
- Invite members (ongoing): Invite people to join your Slack community. Reach out to people who might be interested in your community through social media, email, or other channels. You can also encourage your members to invite their friends and colleagues. Identify desireable characteristic, and TARGET your ideal community member.
- Communicate guidelines: Post guidelines clearly and enforce them consistently to maintain a positive and respectful community.
- Create channels: Create channels within your Slack workspace that align with the purpose of your community. This will help to organize discussions and make it easy for members to find relevant content.
- Encourage engagement (ongoing): Encourage your members to engage with each other by asking questions, starting discussions, and sharing resources. You can also organize events, such as webinars or virtual meetups, to bring your community together.
- Promote your community (ongoing): Promote your community on social media and other channels to attract new members. Consider partnering with other organizations or influencers to expand your reach.
- Monitor activity (ongoing): Monitor activity within your community to ensure that members are following guidelines and engaging in a positive way. Address any issues or concerns promptly to maintain a healthy and productive community.
HOW TO MEASURE AND MAINTAIN COMMUNITY GROWTH AND VALUE
Every company and community will have slightly different goals. We have a few tips on how to keep your finger on the pulse of how your community is growing and facilitating members converting to customers.
Observe metrics like:
- Total number of members and month-over-month growth
- Total volume of platform activity (messages, replies, tags, content, etc.)
- % of members who are actively engaged
- Breakdown of members by category (contributors, creators, influencers, etc.)
- Trending topics that are company-related, such as feature requests or product appreciation
Set a performance baseline for the above types of metrics, then can set specific goals and KPIs. For example, you might set a goal to maintain a 15% month-over-month growth rate in your total number of community members.
Starting a new Slack community takes time and effort, but with careful planning and execution, you can create a vibrant and engaged community that supports your goals and values. As you continue to grow membership and engagement in your Slack community, you’ll ultimately be able to show how the community drives business impact across your organization.