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Grow Your Business Technology

10 Practical Tips for Using Slack at Work

10 Practical Tips for Using Slack at Work
Credit: Fizkeys/Shutterstock

Slack has seriously impacted how many businesses work all day long. Communication is now much more fluid and specific, and there's a way to go back and check on previous conversations using what is essentially a glorified group chat. You can share documents and images, comment in threads to keep conversations organized and separate from the main channel, and tag people to make sure they see your message. But even if you use the tool every day, you might not know about a few handy extra tips to keep the communication flowing. Here are 10 to consider.

Did you know you can tag multiple people when you post a message? Many new Slack users don't realize you can tag as many people as you want. Just use the @ symbol and the username for each person you want to get a notification about the message.

Another easy feature to miss in Slack is the fact that you can Direct Message people in a group. That's because, unlike Twitter, Slack defines a Direct Message as any chat that takes place outside of a channel. To create a group DM, just click the plus sign next to Direct Messages and add the people you want to participate. They'll always see a notification for that chat.

Another overlooked feature is related to stars. In any channel or with any message, you can click the small star icon. Then, you can quickly see everything you've starred – just click on the star icon on the upper right of the screen. This is handy because it groups all important conversations and channels and lets you see all related messages with one click.

If you use the free version of Slack, you might start seeing messages about storage problems with a tip to upgrade to the paid version. The truth? You can keep uploading images and files, and you won't run out of storage. Instead, older messages, files and images will "roll off" in the archive and you won't be able to see them anymore.

Slack has a built-in poll function. You use it by typing "/poll" and naming the poll. This gives everyone gets a chance to weigh in on a topic without you having to wade through countless messages. It's a more direct method of making decisions as a team.

You might already know that Slack is all about improving communication on a team, and that emojis and animated GIFs certainly help. Yet, there's a science behind this. We all need encouragement, and an emoji is a fun way to encourage someone to keep doing great work, to acknowledge an accomplishment, or to lighten the mood. Just click the emoji menu in a chat and select the one you want. You can search for them or use the categories.

Another major timesaver lets you quickly edit your most recent message in a channel. Just press the up arrow, and you'll quickly see the message in an editing window.

Searches help you find messages, but it can be daunting because the results can include every instance of the word or phrase you type. To help, try adding search criteria like "in:channel" to limit the search to a specific channel, or "before:november" to only search for messages from before that month. You can also add a date or year.

Tagging people makes sense because the person you tag sees a notification (or the channel pops up as bold if they turn off notifications). Another handy tip is to tag channels, because when someone sees that tag, they can quickly click the tag to go to that channel.

Slack can become confusing for teams over time as you try to keep track of your messages. One of the coolest features is reminders. To use it, just type "/remind" and follow the instructions to tag the person, type the reminder, and pick the date. Your message won't appear for that user until the date you specify, which means you don't have to remember when to send it. Reminders are brilliant because you can queue up a series of them.

John Brandon

John Brandon is a technology expert, business advocate, and columnist. He has written over 12,000 articles in 16 years. His first articles appeared in LAPTOP magazine in 2002.