The quick start guide to Slack for startups

For the manager:

Choose a few key team members that are intimately familiar with different operations in your business to help you set up and optimize Slack for your team. The exact number of people you want to recruit depends on your business and team size.

Adding these key team members early will make sure you don’t get overburdened with administrative tasks. The team members you select will become the “go-to” people for questions or issues with Slack.

Invite your team

manage_your_team

Go to the “Manage Your Team” menu on https://my.slack.com/admin

Add the names and emails of your key team members

Make your key team members Admins on Slack

Administrators are able to manage members, add integrations, moderate channels and handle other maintenance tasks.

Once your team has accepted the invitations, they will appear in a list under the “Manage Your Team” menu. Click on their name and a “Make Admin” button should appear.

This will give your key team members the freedom to explore and experiment with Slack’s features and optimize it for your team.

Once your team is invited and promoted to administrators it is time to dive into Slack! Share this article with them and have them follow the “For the team” section below.

For the team:

Welcome! By now you should have received an email inviting you to join your team on Slack. You should also have Admin privileges which means you can customize many features of Slack.

This is a guide to help you get all the essentials for your Slack set up and operational. You are one of the key team members selected by your manager to explore Slack and create the best possible environment for your team to communicate and collaborate.

The quick start guide to Slack for startups - overhaul your team communication in one week. Click To Tweet

Many people are still using email and can’t imagine another way to communicate in a business setting.

As a startup, making changes to the way you operate can be costly, especially with something as fundamental as your communication.

Having a week to determine how to use Slack with the key team members before bringing the entire team onboard should make the transition smooth.

Why Slack?

There’s a different feel to a Slack conversation compared to email. Emails encourage long, detailed messages with all the formalities included. Slack conversations have more of a “chat room” style, where concise messages are encouraged.

Channels and groups can be set up to facilitate better conversations around key topics for your team. This focuses the discussion and eliminates distractions while you are working.

Slack Basics

We have a printable checklist free to download with all of the key points of the post: download it here.

Download the desktop and mobile apps

Though the web app is fully functional, we recommend downloading the desktop and mobile versions of Slack to get the most out of the tool.

Here’s a list of Slack apps for computers, smartphones and tables.

Mobile app

The mobile app is very helpful for team members on the go. It may be a good idea to set your status as “inactive” on your phone. You’ll still be able to send and receive messages, but your team members will have different expectations if you appear to be working at your computer or if you are out and about.

To do this, tap the menu icon in the top right of the screen and go to settings. From there you can toggle the “active” status on your phone.

Do not disturb for iPhone

If you have a team distributed around the world, it is likely you’ll receive Slack notifications in the middle of the night on your phone. We recommend setting up “Do Not Disturb” on your phone. Unfortunately, this will also silence most calls, texts and other notifications on your phone, so it is not a perfect system.

There is a way you can automate “Do Not Disturb” mode on your phone so it will automatically switch on. I recommend setting this for about 1 hour before you go to bed.

Go to Settings then Do Not Disturb.

do not disturb

Allow calls from

You can set up favorites on your iPhone for people that you might want to hear from during these hours. Just find them on your contact list and select “Add to Favorites”

If “Allow Calls From “Favorites” is activated in “Do Not Disturb” mode, their calls will come through.

Learn the Slack interface

Mentions: Using mentions, you can notify team members of a message relevant to them in a chat channel.

Stars: Stars can be used to create a checklist in Slack. Each message you add a star to will appear in the stars list. As you complete the task that is related to the message, you can remove the star.

Hotkeys: To access the basic hotkey list, use ‘command + /’ for mac and ‘control + /’ for PC. My favorite is the quick switcher ‘command + k’, to jump between channels.

Searching

Depending on the size of your team, the volume of messages you send, and if you are on a paid or free version of Slack, searching may or may not be a useful feature.

Slack has modifiers to improve the accuracy of your search. You can combine these modifiers for even better results.

Here are a few examples of modifiers:

  • in:[#channel] – Filters search results to a specific channel
  • from:[user] – Filters search to show results from a specific user
  • has:[link] – Filters results around specific content

For more details on modifiers, check out Searching in Slack

With our team of 40+ and the free version of Slack, messages only last a few days before they are deleted and therefore unsearchable.

We use Trello for communication on higher level projects and to store and organize ideas for content. This allows our team to focus on immediate issues in Slack and not have to worry about the messages getting lost in a few days.

Related: How we effectively use Trello for project management

Channels, groups and direct messages

Channels are used to focus conversations and are open to your entire team. This is where you will start to enjoy the benefits of Slack.

Setting up the right channels

Setting up the right channels can make make it easy for your team to adopt Slack and move away from old communication defaults. Many teams have the following channels set up for their operations:

  • Management
  • Customer support
  • Development
  • Marketing
  • Creative

Keeping these operations separate allows for better focus on tasks and information relevant to each team’s work. All of these operations also benefit from conversations happening in the most public venue possible to avoid repetition, clarify messaging and let people know when a job is done.

There are other ways to structure your channels. Channels can be based on:

  • Geographic locations: Good for distributed teams that work in different time zones or to find someone to get lunch with.
  • Specific tools or integrations: If you have an integration that delivers a lot of data, it might be best to make a separate channel specifically for that app.
  • Projects: You can create channels specific to projects and close the channels once the project is completed.
  • Events: You can open up a short-term channel if your team is at an event and you don’t want to flood normal operations channels.

In the first few weeks with Slack, the key team members should create channels that may be useful for certain groups or projects within the business. After a week or 2, review the new channels. If they are well used, keep them. If they only have a few messages, then you can remove them.

new-channel

To create a new channel, simply click the “+” icon.

You’ll name the channel and add a short description of the purpose of the channel.

Through trial and error, you should have a system of channels set up that works well for your team.

Establish rules for channels

Once you have your channels set up, you should create rules to make sure they are used properly.

Rules and conventions for channels are best stored in the “About This Channel” section. you can find and edit the rules by clicking the “information” button next to the search bar.

Channel-info

Private groups

Private groups function almost the same as channels but are only visible and searchable to the group members.

We have a private group where only the management and administration team are members. Here we have reporting on key information to our business such as response times, new affiliates and if there are any failed payments.

Choosing the right integrations

Similar to channels, your key team members should experiment with adding and configuring different integrations.

How to add integrations

Typically, it’s best to add integrations to specific channels only. We recommend having notifications from apps you integrate with feed into the channel that’s most relevant to the app.

For example: You would want your Help Scout integration to feed into your customer support channel, but not your developer channel.

Integrations we use

  • Trello – Integrating Slack with Trello will send updates to a channel when there’s activity on Trello cards.
  • Help Scout – Integrating Slack with Help Scout allows you to see notifications when:
    • A conversation is created
    • A conversation is updated
    • A team member or customer has replied
    • Conversations are closed or deleted
  • Twitter – This is great for keeping on top of your social media marketing or quickly responding to customers who communicate with you on Twitter.
  • Google Drive – Pasting the link to a Google Doc in your chatbox will make it available for anyone in the channel and give additional information on the link instead of just a blind URL.
  • Giphy – Allows you to use gif images in your channels.
    • We recommend setting the filters to PG-13 for most work environments
  • Stripe – Stripe will post customizable updates to a Slack channel for:
    • Charges
    • Invoice payments
    • Subscriptions
    • Transfers
    • And more

For more integration inspiration, check out 17 Slack integrations to spice up your team communication

Automation

There are plenty of ways you can create scripts tailor-made to help your team perform better.

Slackbot

You can set up Slackbot to respond to certain messages in Slack. This is great for adding a bit of personality to your Slack and for automating instructions and delegation to your team.

You can create these responses in the “Customize” menu on https://my.slack.com/

For example, we like to celebrate great ratings on our customer support so we set up Slackbot as a cheerleader.

slackbot

You can also use automated responses that link to processes and procedures. Look for common words or phrases that are said when discussing a specific problem or issue, and set up Slackbot to automatically provide the solution.

If someone on our team mentions there are no tickets available, they will automatically get prompted to check out our “no tickets” process:

no-tickets-web

Zapier

With Zapier, you can automate messages to appear at certain times, or when an event is triggered in another app.

We use Zapier to remind everyone about our weekly team meetings and what they need to do to prepare.

It is easy to set up a weekly reminder to automatically go out to the team and attach a process with further instructions. For more on team task automation, check out: A simple process for team task automation with Trello and Zapier

WebHooks

You can use WebHooks to create more customized scripts.

We have a custom script in place so when a VIP customer submits a ticket, a notification will appear in this channel. This gives an extra boost in response time for all our VIP clients.

VIP-Bot

Conclusion

With some dedicated time for experimentation and exploration, your key team members should be able to configure Slack to suit the needs of your business. You key team members should also help bring the rest of the team on board and get everyone familiar with the app. After this first week of setup, you’ll start to immediately notice the benefits of better communication with your team.

We have a checklist available for free to share with your team and to guide you through your Slack setup. Download it below.

 

Download the Slack quick start checklist

This printable checklist contains all the key points from this post and will help you and your team get started with Slack.

About

Kyle is the founder of Conversion Cake . He is the author of "The College Entrepreneur" A book for students who want to break into entrepreneurship. Follow him @kylethegray

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