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Over the past couple of years, if there is one tool that is loved by workplaces all around the world, it is Slack.

If you haven’t heard of them yet, Slack is a real-time messaging platform mostly used by companies to centralize their internal team communication with the hope of fostering better intra-team and inter-team collaboration.

It has close to 4 million daily users and 1.25 million paying customers. From the likes of NASA, Expedia, to small startups, people just love this app.

This article is mostly aimed at new users to help them understand how Slack is different from a chat app. They should follow a few etiquettes while communicating:

A. Etiquette to follow while communicating through Slack

Being a messaging platform, a lot of users end up treating it as another Facebook Messenger, which it is not.

You will be frowned upon and considered unprofessional if your messages don’t the fit the workplace context or if it is conveyed in a manner that is not in sync with your workplace setting.

Here are a few that you ought to keep in mind.

1. Do’s and don’ts while adding a someone to a channel

Slack is not WhatsApp. When you add someone to a new channel, make sure to consider the following:

  • Do inform existing channel members before adding someone new.
  • Do inform the person before adding them to a channel. Make sure they know why they are being added, what is the purpose of the channel, and what can/will be discussed.
  • After adding someone, introduce them to rest of the members. Make sure everybody knows the newcomer’s role.
  • Don’t add irrelevant people to a channel.

2. Communication style

This is where a lot of users go wrong, they end up communicating in a manner that is inappropriate. Here are a few dos and don’ts to help you communicate without getting frowned upon:

  • If you are new to a channel, go through the chat history or observe how other members communicate – it will help you understand what style to follow.
  • Make sure you go through the list of members in the channel before you start messaging.
  • Humour is acceptable, but don’t over do it.
  • Don’t write messages like you do in email, send one line at a time, give the other person time to respond.
  • Don’t use emojis too much when you are discussing work-related matters.

3. Basic courtesy

  • When someone has assigned you a task – acknowledge it immediately.
  • If someone has asked you for an update – acknowledge it immediately.
  • Don’t leave a conversation without informing, especially in channels.
  • If you won’t be available to chat or don’t want to be disturbed, make sure you change your status first.
  • Before sending a direct message to someone make sure you check their status.
  • If the person hasn’t replied immediately, don’t bombard them with more messages.
  • Don’t assign tasks to people when they are offline.
  • Don’t use ‘@’ if the matter is not urgent because most users get push notifications when you use ‘@’ to tag them.
  • Don’t use public channels for personal conversations.
  • Don’t criticize teammates in public channels, do it via a DM.
  • Do take Slack conversations to email, phone or face-to-face when required – complex problems, large attachments etc.

Slack channels have become a representation of your company culture and your personality. Keeping a few etiquettes in mind will definitely show you in good light. If you’ve already been using Slack for a while, these advanced etiquette guidelines will come in very helpful.

B. Must-know productivity hacks for Slack users

Only a few Slack users actually use it to its full potential. For new users, it may seem like every other chat app, but it is not. There is a lot more you can do with it.

Here are few Slack-hacks to improve your productivity and facilitate greater collaboration within your team.

1. Use features like ‘Starred items’, ‘Remind me’, ‘Pin an item’ effectively

In a conversation, if you come across something that you need to read/access later, you can use features like ‘Starred items’, ‘Remind me’, ‘Pin an item’ to save yourself from the trouble of having to go back and scroll up. Here’s how to use them:

  1. Starred items – press the Star button first. Later, you can access it by pressing the ‘show starred items’ in the top panel. When you star items, only you will be able to see them.
  2. Remind me – click on the ’show message actions’ button and you will see an option ‘ Remind me about this in’. You can learn more here.
  3. Pin this item – click on the ‘show message actions’ button and you will see an option to pin an item to a channel. Later you can access by clicking the ‘Channel Details’ button. When you pin items, all the channel members will be able to see it.

2. Text formatting

Formatting your text correctly will help you make yourselves more clear. This reduces chances of confusion – saving you precious time and resources.

Here are the ways you can use them to make your messages clearer.

  • Bolden the text – add asterisks (*) to it.
  • Italicize the text – add underscores (_) around it.
  • To format content as code, add backticks (`) around it.
  • To make content preformatted, add three backticks (“`) around it.
  • Strikethrough the text – add tildes (~) around it.
  • Quoting the text – add a less than sign (<) in front.
  • To create a list, use Shift + Enter to create new lines in your message, then add a number or a bullet (•) before each item.

Hint: If you can’t remember these shortcuts, just type in the name of the format you want the text to appear in, and a guide will appear on the right beneath your message box.

3. Slack shortcuts

Don’t waste time with multiple clicks, instead, learn these keyboard shortcuts. They will make your Slack usage a lot more simple and faster.

  • Cmd + K on Mac or Ctrl +K on Windows – to bring up the task switcher which will help you switch between conversations faster.
  • Up arrow – if you want to edit the message you just send.
  • The forward slash (/) – type in “/” to see a list of things you can do from your message box.
  • Mark a message as unread by pressing Ctrl and +.
  • Type ‘+’ in the search box to bring up options for filtering your search results.
  • Shift + Escape – mark all messages as read
  • Alt + Shift + ↑ / ↓ – sift through unread messages.
  • Ctrl + / – open list of keyboard shortcuts.
  • Go to previous channel or DM: CMD+[ or Ctrl+[
  • Go to next unread channel or DM: Alt+Shift+up arrow
  • Open All unread messages: CMD+Shift+A or Ctrl+Shift+A
  • Open starred messages: CMD+Shift+S or Ctrl+Shift+S
  • Open All Threads: CMD+Shift+T or Ctrl+Shift+T
  • See all of Slack’s keyboard shortcuts: CMD+/ or Ctrl+/
  • CTRL + Q – exit Slack

4. Prioritize conversations

Normally, there will be a lot of conversations going on simultaneously on Slack. This means a lot of unread messages for you to sift through which could be a major time suck. The best way to solve this is by clicking the ‘@’ button at the top right. It will show all the messages that you were tagged in.

Additionally, you can also search for messages with @channel tags, which are aimed for everyone and you will also be able to see emoji reactions from others to your messages.

5. Selective notifications

Slack’s notification settings allow you to get notified only when your name is tagged in a conversation. But, this may not be enough. Your teammates may discuss something that you are working on, or related to what you are working on. You can’t afford to not respond when such discussions come up. But, how can we do that?

Go to the Notification settings, you will be able to add a list of words to the ‘My keyword’ box. So that, when these words are mentioned by your teammates, you will get notified immediately.

Wrapping up

These are some of the basic Slack hacks and etiquettes that you should keep in mind, they will help you get started and learn to use the tool effectively. There are a lot more that you can do with Slack, especially with things like Slack apps, bots, and integrations.