Channels aren’t only one of Slack’s core features, but also a powerful organizational tool for your company. Slack channels help keep team conversations all in one place. They archive important conversations and bring order to your team’s back-and-forths.

With channels being such a foundational part of Slack, it’s important to be sure you think about how you set them up. A lot of the time you simply start with the two default channels, then when a certain topic seems to take on a life of its own, you’ll make another channel.

That process will work for a while when your company is small and it’s just a few founding members. But, as your company grows and more people join, it’s important to have guidelines in place. We can all appreciate a little chaos, but a complete free-for-all is probably something you want to avoid.

With that in mind, we created this guide to organizing Slack channels. In this article, we give five tips for organizing your Slack channels.

1. Start with team specific channels

When your team first launches Slack, you have two channels: #general and #random. With small teams it can be easy enough to assume you just need those two. In your #general channel you can talk about anything dealing with company business. In the #random channel you can post cat gifs and pictures of your awesome lunches. What else does a team need?

It may be tough to imagine a world where you’d ever need more than that, but there will come a time where you do. The best way to start adding channels is by making one for each team. Team channels help keep relevant conversations in one place. They can also serve as a place for other teams to get high-level updates about what each team is working on. Since your company is already split into teams, it’s a very natural starting point.

2. Use naming conventions

Some teams may want to make channel names using inside jokes, or other jargon everyone at your company may not understand. It’s also very easy for channel names to be ambiguous, making it difficult to decipher whether or not it’s something relevant to what you’re looking for.

To combat confusion, we suggest using naming conventions for your channels. There are any number of different approaches you can take when setting up your naming conventions. The only quality the conventions should have is that they’re predictable and repeatable.

First, consider how your organization operates. Maybe you want to have Slack channels for projects in your company. For those, you could have each channel start with the prefix “project” then a dash and the name of the project (ex. #project-newwebsite).

You can also use team names as prefixes and then have a dash and then the secondary purpose. For example, sales wants to have a new leads channel. For that you could call it #sales-newleads. In that channel all your sales agents discuss new leads they’re working on. The purpose of the channel is very clear by the name.

After you decide on your naming conventions, make a document that outlines how to follow the convention. This is helpful for new employees so they know how to find different channels and how to name them if they need to create a new one.

3. Be intentional when creating new channels

It’s very easy to end up having multiple channels that serve almost identical purposes, or channels that don’t get used at all and simply clutter your directory. Being intentional with channels is one step you can take to start off on the right foot when using Slack.

Though everyone in the company totally appreciates that really awesome “It’s Gonna Be May” *NSYNC meme you post every May 1st, memes have a time and place. Make sure every time you add a new channel you ask yourself whether or not you really need it.

Sometimes, it’ll be obvious that you need to create a new channel. Maybe there’s a certain topic in one of your existing channels that’s having a lot of back and forth. If so, consider adding a channel for that specific topic. As your company grows, these situations will come up more and more often.

However, just because there’s a lot of conversation happening around a topic doesn’t always mean it needs a channel of its own. Here are a few things to consider before adding a new channel:

  • It the topic already covered in a different channel?
  • Are there multiple people in the conversation?
  • Is this a long-term topic or something that will only last a few days?

If your answers are “no, yes, and yes” to the above questions you should probably consider creating a new channel. If not, it may be best to hold off and use a DM or Group Chat.

4. Use the description text to set expectations

Even when you use proper naming conventions, and vet each channel before creating it, there can still be some difficulty knowing exactly what a certain channel is meant to cover. It’s better to over explain, then leave question marks for someone new coming into the organization.

A great feature, and one that’s often overlooked, is the description text for each channel. This is the area where you can explain the purpose of the channel and also any rules that may apply. For example, you may want to be clear about what should and shouldn’t be posted in a channel.

Perhaps you have a channel called #support-tickets. The channel is meant to share common ticket themes the team is seeing so agents can be aware if they come across the same issue, but you don’t want lots of conversation in the channel so it’s easier to look through for agents on different shifts. Those types of details are great for the channel description and help the overall success of your team’s communication.

5. Consider adding “social” channels

Though Slack is primarily a work tool, and one meant to increase productivity, it’s important to remember it’s a communication tool, too. We all need “brain breaks” from time-to-time, so why not create some channels where employees can get to better know each other?

You could start a #foodie channel for everyone interested in fine dining. Or, maybe you have a lot of music enthusiasts. For them, you can create a #music channel where they can share new bands they’ve found, or playlists they’ve created.

These types of channels often end up being some of the company favorites. It’s not because these channels are where people go to avoid work, rather, it’s where people go to get to know one another better. When your team grows closer, it’s a win for everyone.

Slack in a great tool. There are many different functions and features, so it can be a little intimidating to set up. When you begin, start with the basics by adding team channels. Use naming conventions that are repeatable and easily understood to avoid confusion. Be intentional when adding new channels and use the description text to set expectations. Last, have some fun and add in some social channels, your team will appreciate it. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to becoming a Slack pro.

Questions? Comments? Share them with us in the Halp Community!

5 recommendations for organizing your Slack channels