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Building Communities on Slack: A Bufferchat Recap

Jun 30, 2016 7 min readBufferchat

This week on #bufferchat, we were joined by one of Buffer’s Community Champions, Alfred Lua, as our guest! Alfred runs the Buffer Slack community and shared his tips and insights around building communities on Slack. We talked about setting up Slack channels, advice for encouraging members to engage with each other, tips for moderation, and lots more!

Catch our weekly Twitter chat, #bufferchat, at TWO times every Wednesday for valuable industry insights and networking with nearly 400 other smart marketers and community managers. Same topic, same place, just at different times – feel free to join in to whichever chat time works best for you!

For our community in Asia and Australia (or anyone in other timezones that like this time the best!): 4 pm AEST (Sydney time, UTC+10)

For our community in North/South America, Europe and Africa (or others!): 9 am PT (California time)

Bufferchat on June 29: Building Communities on Slack

This week’s stats:
1st Bufferchat: 63 participants; 230 tweets; reach of 678,772
2nd Bufferchat: 221 participants; 1,369 tweets; reach of 1,030,207

Q1: Why can Slack be a useful tool for building a community?

From Alfred:

  • Video answer: I think Slack can be a useful tool for building a community because of two main reasons. First, because it’s a chat-based platform. Conversations take place in real time and the environment feels more casual. This allows community members to get to know one another on a much deeper level. Secondly, it has a very friendly user interface, which makes it easy for most people to learn how to use it.
  • @ajavuu stated more great reasons here: – High engagement + Free!

From the community:

  • “Private way to connect w/ like minded ppl, great to ask Qs & admit “I don’t know” not as doable on public platforms.” @MandyKN
  • “It’s fun and intuitive to use. You can easily to integrate it with many other technologies.” @dsbrophy
  • “Certain messages that might make other forums get clogged up and spammy can be better appreciated on Slack.” @AnnDiab
  • @SlackHQ is awesome because you connect in real-time & you get to choose your own adventure (add or mute channels).” @ericajmoss
  • “Allows for asynchronous chat + enables a global community to share practice beyond scheduled Twitter chats :)” @_KirstenT

See all the great answers to question 1 here!

Q2: What are great ways to set up and use channels within Slack?

From Alfred:

  • Video answer: That’s a good question and it’s something I’m still trying to figure out too! So, if you have any advice on this, I’d love to hear from you! I like to see channels as a way of creating smaller communities within the entire community, to make it easier for members to chat. Currently, for the Buffer Slack community we have channels for topics such as social media and content marketing, we also have channels which are more localized for people who want to chat or meet up with other members who are based near them.
  • Recently, I read a post by @RichMillington in which he suggested purpose-driven channels…
  • …which I thought sounds like a great idea too! (even though I think the post wasn’t meant for Slack communities)

From the community:

  • “Always fill out the channel purpose. & create that random channel that’s purpose is no purpose – for fun :)” @MereMcCaskill
  • “Ask for opinions from community members to make it enjoyable for everyone.” @mattiheubner
  • “One awesome Slack community I’m a part of: @StartersHQ. They have different channels for news, intros, fun, & meetups.” @GeoffTBlosat
  • “Set up channels slowly. Less is more. Only set up a channel if there is a need. Too much can be overwhelming and confusing.” @eggwhisk
  • “Set up with communication goal in mind, interests, projects, depts, etc. Fine tune as desired/needed to fufill goal.” @graphic_cash

See all the great answers to question 2 here!

Q3: How can you encourage community members to engage with each other in Slack?

From Alfred:

  • Video answer: I think questions and answers are a great way to encourage interactions among community members. One thing I do which is not very scalable is when I chat with community members and learn about the challenges they face, I encourage them to ask questions in the relevant channels. Then, I’ll at-mention (@) other community members who might be able to help or share their experiences.

From the community:

  • “Ask questions. Invite them to share their opinions. Make sure it’s a safe place for them to chat and they’ll open up!” @ExpWriters
  • “Host community discussions by posting articles or mentioning trending topics.” @vpm_nyc
  • “Lead by example. Have fun, laugh. And use emoticons.” @damonclarksaid
  • “CMGR ask for talents & experience in intros, keep a list, then @ mention certain folks to ask to join in certain convos.” @AnnDiab
  • “Give them a voice, a chance to “lead” or be a “main contributor”. (sure it’s harder the bigger the community, thus channels).” @Troy_Sandidge

See all the great answers to question 3 here!

Q4: What are some tips for moderating conversations within a Slack community?

From Alfred:

  • Video answer: I’m really lucky because our community members are all very nice, and I rarely have to do any form of moderation. That said, I think a good strategy is to cultivate a community culture so that members know what is encouraged and what should be avoided. So I think clear guidelines can be very helpful, too.

From the community:

  • “Recognise text-based lang is open to misinterpretation. Moderate from that perspective, be positive + use emojis :)” @_KirstenT
  • “You want to foster a safe and open environment so the respect shown from the participants is enough for them to self-monitor.” @BeccaAtSocial
  • “Don’t direct the conversation, moderate it. Let people talk, and keep the peace. If you want to contribute do it as a member.” @kjaymiller
  • “Create a structure of open communication but with a line of protocols to be followed.” @GoNewYorkTours
  • “You can set notifications for profanity or whatever you don’t deem acceptable.” @ryanmcl136

See all the great answers to question 4 here!

Q5: What metrics can you track to measure the health + success of your Slack community?

From Alfred:

  • Video answer: Slack provides some basic stats on the free plan, which are quite helpful for measuring engagement levels, such as number of people in your “team,” number of measures sent, or number of people reading and posting. In terms of the success of a Slack community, I believe it depends on your business goals for the Slack community. David Spinks from CMX recently wrote a great article on defining a community’s business value.

From the community:

  • “How often are people communicating? Do they appear to be happy with the group? Don’t be afraid to ask their opinions.” @ExpWriters
  • “Measuring ENGAGEMENT is key to any success through social channels, whether it be on @SlackHQ or #socialmedia in general.” @winniegiang
  • “Thread depth, use data mining tools to find some fabulous insights, effort scores.” @tyna_c
  • “Number of ppl talking, number of channels being used, overall engagement & determine if it’s adding value to your business.” @SearcySledge
  • “Measure productivity, fewer miscommunications, collaboration.” @thedavepepper

See all the great answers to question 5 here!

Q6: What is your favorite feature on Slack, that others might not know about?

From Alfred:

  • Video answer: My favorite feature for Slack is the notifications settings. It allows me to set alerts for certain key words and phrases, and I can also adjust my notifications for specific channels, which can be helpful when there are many channels within the community.

From the community:

  • “…just learned @slackhq has @giphy integration!” @bentleyhqcom
  • “Editing! I see so many people do *asterisk corrections. But you can change the past! Soothes my former editor soul ^_^.” @damonclarksaid
  • “Making your own emojis is fun but can also be very practical to enhance your community culture!” @ksschout
  • “Use “/Remind” to set reminders for yourself or others. So useful!” @Ideon_Agency
  • “Slackbot responses. I’ll have it say positive things when certain things are said.” @Troy_Sandidge

See all the great answers to question 6 here!

Q7: If you’re part of a Slack community, what do you like best about it, or why did you join?

From Alfred:

  • For me, it’s the people in the Buffer Slack community!

From the community:

  • “The best thing about the communities I’m a part of its the people. They’re so kind, positive and willing to help.” @svikashk
  • “In a few marketing groups & its great to chat about the things we’re testing, share fun work, get new ideas.” @MandyKN
  • “I love the fact that communication is also asynchronous. You can catch up quite easily what you might have missed.” @coslois
  • “The various insights, spontaneity of ideas/solutions, & great convos w/ bad-a$$, interesting peeps.” @_nicolemich
  • “Great place to find people from all over the world who like similar things +have similar goals.” @heidilauren

See all the great answers to question 7 here!

Thank you so much to Alfred for sharing all of his awesome insights, and to everyone who participated in this chat!

Catch #bufferchat each Wednesday at 9 am PST, 12 pm EST, 5 pm BST (GMT+1)  **OR** at 4 pm AEST (Sydney time, UTC+10). Join our Slack community with over 2,000 members to continue these awesome conversations all week long!

Do you have any comments or answers to these questions? Leave your thoughts in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

Image sources: UnSplash

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