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5 Tips to Keep Your Slack Members Engaged

(Originally posted on Medium)

I love to talk. It’s all I know how to do well. I grew up in the AIM era, so I’m very good at written communication. When I joined Women Who Code Dallas/Ft. Worth, I was elated that there was a devoted Slack space where I could “meet” people in the industry and chat about commonalities.

In July of 2018, after becoming the Dallas Network Director, I was given admin rights to our Slack space. Suddenly, I felt empowered to lead more discussions on our platform. It came naturally. What I didn’t know was the member base I was building and keeping around by having these discussions.

In December, Caree Youngman — our Regional Director — wrote about this on LinkedIn with this image attached:

I didn’t even know there were Slack analytics until Caree posted that! Now that I know, I check in here and there to see how we’re doing. Here’s what that graph looks like today:

Now that I’ve convinced you that I’m ~~the best Slack Moderator anyone could ever wish for~~, here are 5 things that I consciously do to keep members engaged on our Slack platform.

1. Start Easy Discussions

Get your members used to talking by asking them questions. General chatter will start to flow after you have a good user base, but this will take some time. Make your questions answer-able by anyone and open-ended. Here are some questions I’ve asked in the past month:

  • What is something you’ve accomplished in the past week?
  • What is a weird problem you had to solve recently?
  • What is something you’ve wanted to learn more about?
  • What are you working on today/this week?
  • What has challenged you in the past month?

Going along with this, establish good cadence with your questions. I usually do about 2–3 questions per week, and I will kick them off when I get to work in the morning.

2. Follow Up on Everything

Your members are responding to questions now. Good. Let’s keep them talking. After posting your question, stick around and ask follow up questions to every answer. That’s right. Every answer. React with relevant emojis. Pull details out of people. This makes the discussion feel more interactive rather than people just shouting into space.

If someone posts that they’re learning a new programming language, for example, I would follow up and ask why they chose that language. For work? What projects are they working on? If someone says they solved a problem, I would ask how long they had been working on the solution. Anything to keep people talking.

Other members will notice and eventually follow up on each other’s answers to discussions. It’s lovely to see members interacting like that. “Hey, I also just started working on a React project!”

3. Become an Expert on Your Members

Your members are engaged in discussions more. They’re talking about projects they’re working on or things they’ve learned. Absorb this. Members stick around when they feel more connected to the community, so now you get to play Platonic Match Maker and link people.

When Sally posts that she’s working on a new React project, I might tag Megan — who mentioned last week that she’s learning React, too. Boom. Instant friends.

When Paula posts a picture of her new puppy who is a pug, I might tag Joann and Tabatha who also have pugs. Boom. Instant friends.

What you’re doing is humanizing the digital presence of each member on your platform. Sometimes it feels cold to rely on text communication, which will have members disengaging from your platform. However, if Paula just had a conversation with 2 other members about owning a pug, she’s much more likely to stick around and post more pictures of her dog later.

4. Make New Members Feel Welcome Immediately

Joining a new community can be scary! Especially if these members haven’t met a lot of other people in person yet. Ensure an easy transition onto the platform by consciously making new members feel welcome.

This can be automated, which makes this SRE’s heart skip a beat! I configured Greetbot to welcome new members in two ways: a greeting in our #general channel and a private message.

The open greeting is simple and just tags the member. This is great, though, because not only does the new member feel ready to join in the discussion, but it lets other members know that we have someone new. After meetups, we’ll often have five or more new members back to back. It’s really lovely to see all that waving in #general.

For the private message, this is sort of always evolving, but I’ll share what we have right now:

Hey @new_user_name! 👋 Thanks so much for joining Slack!

Here’s some quick information about our Community!

• We have lots of fun communities here! #general and #random are our most active.
• Check out #announcements for updates from Leadership on upcoming events 🎉
• Some of our favorite channels: #applaud-her, #battle-stations, #book_brunch, #job-postings, #mental-health, #queer-space, and #volunteers
• You can react to messages using our custom emoji, and our fancy Reactji bot will cross-post that message to the #applaud-her channel!
• Last but not least, feel free to introduce yourself in #general

  1. What’s your name?
  2. What do you do i.e. school/work — If work, what tech stack?
  3. What is your favorite show/movie on Netflix/Hulu/YouTube/etc?
  4. What hobbies do you do?

Happy Coding! 💻

By joining WWCode DFW, you agree to adhere to our code of conduct:

(I’m a bot, configured by Claire, so reach out to her with any bugs 🐜 you find!)

5. Poke Existing Members

You’re doing great. You’ve got a solid member base who chat pretty often in #general and some other channels. Now, I don’t have a hard and fast rule for the timeline on this step, so all I’ll say is you will know when to do this.

Every so often, post in #general something like “We’ve had a lot of new members in the past couple months. How about we all re-introduce ourselves?” This way you get a lot of your existing members to engage and update everyone. Maybe they’ve gotten a new job. Maybe they’ve changed hobbies. Even if they’re still the same person, it’s a nice vibe to keep introductions as a continuous process.

That’s about it!

I could probably sum all this up by saying “Talk more”, but where’s the fun in that? I treat Slack just like I do any other social interaction: I try to ask more questions than I answer and keep everyone talking. People will tell you their life stories if you ask the right questions.

If all else fails, just invite me to your Slack space. You and I can talk all day!

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