Slack and Social Communities

We recently started using Slack for our University social media group. For a while we have been exploring different ways of keeping in touch outside of meetings – LinkedIn group, SharePoint to name just two. None of these had really taken off and I was aware email was not ideal. We use Yammer in the Library for communicating between staff across the 7 floors and I was aware colleagues in other parts of the University had started using Slack.  Having done a comparison of both tools, we plumped for the latter mainly because:

  • The look and feel is nice! (yammer can feel a bit like what Facebook would have been if started in 2000)
  • Ability to create separate channels
  • Apps and integrations

We launched with a hands on session which allowed everyone to get to grips with the tool and start conversations online whilst sat next to each other.  This was great for sharing some hints and tips and for getting across the purpose of the tool.

For me, the biggest benefit of Slack is that it feels like a social media platform!  For our use this is really important. It promotes confidence and forms a social community that is very fluid.  We encouraged new sign ups (we’re up to 91 members!!) to use a clear profile pic and I set it to show real names rather than usernames so we could begin to put a face to the anonymised departmental feeds.  We are starting to see this community develop and it’s been great to see people using the channels in their own way. And of course there are the Gifs, the endless gifs


One reason for promoting a communication tool was to enhance how the departments support each other especially around sharing each other’s posts. With this in mind we have a Retweet Requests channel where anyone can post requests for errrm retweets (or other forms of posting).  Previous to this people would have to email me and I would circulate this to the group. Slack has allowed us talk directly to each other and speed up the whole process. I believe there is also far more sharing taking place than before. We are seeing positive rise in reach and interactions with this. One colleague shared the analytics for a post that she had added to the channel (on March 13th) and you can see the impact retweets from fellow departments had. The impression rate was higher than they would usually expect. Big win!


Having used Slack for a while now I can see some definite potential uses across HE.  It’s a great tool for group and project work – it’s really easy to share documents and communicate (built in conferencing tools etc). Slack is also really open so there is potential for embedding it in VLEs etc. Perhaps better suited to this type of work than WhatsApp?

There are a couple of things worth considering when setting Slack up:

  • Get your notifications sorted – Slack is designed to reduce emails (which it does) but it can also lead to your phone/tablet/desktop being overloaded with pings and pop ups!
  • Get everyone talking – Slack will only work if people engage.
  • Make it fun – use some of the apps (giphy for example) to allow users to experiment and enjoy themselves – this’ll bring them back.
  • Have a purpose – The main focus for our group is the Retweet Request channel.  this gives the group purpose and leads to conversations on the other channels.

If you don’t believe me on the joys of Slack, here are some comments from other members of our group:

Only positive things to say. Great to feel part of a social media community as often different units work in isolation

More inclined to pay attention to it compared to email because of the format in which it presents itself

Doesn’t have to block up our emails with frequent chains going back and forth and:01can send attachments easily, again so not to block up inbox size

I think the ability to dip in and out of conversations is my favourite thing about it. It’s easy to read a conversation and learn from it, then if you feel able to contribute you can jump in.

If you’d like to know more about how we’re using Slack just get in touch!

About the author

Mike Ewen

Hi, I am the online co-ordinator for the University Library. I look after all our websites, online resources and social media channels. I have a particular interest in how social media is used across higher education and am one of the organisers of the University Social Media Group!

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