It’s no secret that Slack is a dynamic tool. It allows teams to communicate in a fluid and transparent manner. Channels, direct messages, and threads are all amazing tools that allow you to organize messages and keep your team informed. One feature we love that doesn’t get talked about as much is User Groups.
With Slack having so many amazing features, it can be easy to overlook some. One feature we love that doesn’t get talked about as much is User Groups. User groups are a great way to make sure your team sees the messages they need to while keeping channel noise to a minimum.
Slack User Groups first appeared a little under four years ago, in October of 2014. Think of user groups like an email list. They allow you to communicate with many members at once, but don’t limit you to communicating within a channel. You can @ a user group’s name - @engineers, @marketing - anywhere, and everyone is notified no matter where you send the message, originally.
Getting your messages to the right people is one great feature of Slack User Groups, but there are a few others you should know about, too. In this article, we’re going to cover how to set up user groups and a few ways you can use them to your advantage.
For those not yet familiar with Slack User Groups, this section covers how to add them in your organization. As long as you’re on a paid plan (Standard, Plus, or Enterprise Grid) user groups are an included feature.
To set up a user group, first, click on the “More Items” menu in the upper right-hand corner of your Slack window. From there, select “User Groups” from the menu. After doing so, click “Create New Group.”
From here, you can choose a name for the user group, a handle, and also set a purpose for the group. The purpose is visible to everyone in the group, as well as in your Slack directory. At this point, you can also dictate what channels you’d like members of the user group to get added to automatically.
Next, click “Create Group.” The last step in the process is to send invites. Go through your directory and select those you want to invite to the channel and then click “Invite” to finish the setup process. By default, only admins and workspace owners have the ability to create user groups. If they’d like, they can open up permissions so others can create user groups too.
Now that we’ve covered how to set up user groups, we are going to cover how you can best utilize user groups. Though there may be many different use cases, we see two main categories: team communication and onboarding.
We tend to think of channels, direct messages, and threads as the ways to segment communication in Slack. All those features are very useful on their own, but can have downsides.
Channels, especially at larger organizations, can end up having lots of “noise,” meaning lots of messages that may not apply to everyone in the channel. Direct messages are usually meant for one-to-one communication. You can start group chats, but they can be cumbersome to set up if they include a lot of people.
With both channels and groups messages, you need to be invited to participate. In some cases, it may be fine to invite someone to a new channel, but in others, it won’t be. Using user groups allows you to get around that issue. In any Slack channel, you just need to @ the user group name and it notifies all the members of the user group. Below are a few use cases where user groups could be useful.
Adding new team members is a large undertaking. You need to make sure they get all their equipment, attend all needed trainings, and are connected to the rest of the team.
If Slack is a primary communication tool at your organization, a portion of onboarding will be dedicated to getting your new employee access to their needed channels. Keeping track of all the channels someone may need to get added to for each team is very difficult to manage.
User groups allow a way around that. When you set up different user groups you can also set what other channels to add that user to automatically.
Your admins and developers will also really love user groups since it’s possible to do programmatic group creation using the SCIM API. Programmatic group creation means one less manual task for teams, which is always a win. The feature allows you to map your organization’s structure in other tools to your Slack set-up.
If you’re on the Plus Plan, you can use groups to control provisioning accounts from your SSO tools. If you use Active Directory in OneLogin, PingOne, PingFederate, or Okta you can take advantage of this built-in user provisioning support to add employees automatically into Slack User Groups matching each employee’s existing group rights, roles and permissions in your internal directory.
Slack is full of so many functions and features, it can be tough to keep up with it all. Though there may not be a ton of content on Slack User Groups, it doesn’t mean they’re not incredibly powerful and useful.
In large organizations, sometimes making sure all the right people see the message in the first place is half the battle - user groups help manage that problem. Your onboarding process will also be improved by automating the addition of new team members to their needed channels.
Once you start using user groups, you may find it’s the feature you never knew you needed.
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