Slack Shared Channels: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet 2023
Slack shared channels, introduced in 2017, allow two separate organizations to work together in the same channel – each without leaving their workspace. Since posting, Slack Connect has also been launched – this takes the premise of a shared channel and opens it up to 20 different organizations within the same shared channel.
In this guide, we discuss what a shared channel is, how you can use it, and the benefits it might have for your team collaboration strategy.
- What is a Slack shared channel?
- What is Slack Connect?
- Slack shared channels benefits
- Slack shared channel use cases
- How do I share a Slack channel?
- How do I access a shared channel in Slack?
- Can I set up a Slack channel between companies?
- Can I share a private Slack channel?
- Slack shared channels security and privacy
- Slack shared channels best practices
What is a Slack shared channel?
Slack shared channels allow two different companies to work together in the same environment.
Both you and your external contacts get to contribute from your own Slack workspace while still accessing all the collaborative benefits of Slack.
You can send direct messages, upload files, use integrations, and even start calls.
Even better, there’s no new functionality to get used to.
Shared channels for Slack look and feel like the channels your team members are already used to.
This means that companies can easily reach the right people, both external and internal, to collaborate on a project.
There’s no need to reconcile a bunch of conversations from different areas like email, phone calls, and meetings. Everyone stays connected in the same place.
Plus, Slack’s security settings give admins full control over the information, documents, and other things that external users can access in a shared channel.
The functionality was introduced as part of the Frontiers developer conference in 2017. As VP of Product at Slack at the time, April Underwood said, “the technology aims to address the network that exists between companies that wasn’t visible or manageable before.”
What is Slack Connect?
Slack shared channels are now a part of Slack Connect. You can now share a channel with multiple organizations (up to 20) or just with one in the traditional shared channels way.
By taking the principle and technology behind shared channels, Slack Connect allows you to stay in your Slack workspace and chat with up to 20 different organizations who also use Slack.
Designed for scenarios where multiple external contacts need to collaborate, Slack Connect allows everyone to stay in their preferred Slack environment.
Slack shared channels benefits
During the beta release of shared channels, Slack earned more than 20,000 paying customers.
So, what makes Slack shared channels so useful?
- Keep the right people connected: With shared channels, you can bring both external and internal members of your team into the same space. This makes it easier to keep everyone from contractors to shareholders on the same page.
- Reduce fragmented work: Using shared channels, you can put everything in one place. There’s no more context switching between apps, inboxes, and other tools.
- Better visibility: Slack shared channels provide a place for teams to access to all the right information and support. This simplifies collaboration and helps IT leaders to track discussions.
- Reduced shadow messaging: When everyone’s connected in the same space, there’s less risk of users relying on external tools.
- Improved creativity: Easy messaging enhances creativity. Businesses share everything from documents to emojis, and even GIFs to boost engagement.
Slack shared channels provide a single pane of glass where everyone can interact, even if they’re not located in the same workplace.
This is an excellent alternative to forcing people outside of your team to create guest accounts every time they want to talk to you in real-time.
Slack shared channel use cases
Once you learn how to use Slack shared channels in your team, you can explore a range of fantastic ways to boost productivity and efficiency.
You might create a sales partner channel where you can track your resellers, channel partners, and suppliers. Maybe you’ll build a Slack environment where you can collaborate with external contractors.
Here are two examples of how leading companies use Slack shared channels:
- Improving customer insights: Hugo. Slack shared channels support agencies, contractors, and freelancers. Hugo now connects with everyone as if they were in-house colleagues. Hugo, a meetings company, uses shared channels to enhance operations. With shared channels, they share notes from customer conversations with agency partners. This gives partners a better view of the customer journey and the client’s needs.
- Reducing support ticket backlogs: Iress. Before shared channels, Iress relied on phone calls and emails for customer support. With around 500 emails per agent to handle, tickets often fell through the cracks. Iress use Slack shared channels to reduce ticket backlogs for high-priority tickets. The company experienced a 64% drop in its backlog.
Shared channels reduce the headaches of guest accounts and shadow messaging.
How do I share a Slack channel?
If you want to share your Slack channel with another team, you’ll need to be a workspace owner or administrator. You also need a Standard or Plus account for Slack. Shared channels aren’t available from free accounts.
Get the URL for the team that you want to invite, and make sure you have the email address of the Slack workspace owner for the other team too.
In your Slack sidebar, you should see a section called Shared Channels alongside your starred, regular, and group channels.
You just click the little + symbol next to Shared Channels to add a new one.
- Choose which people you want to access the shared channel from your team
- Give the channel a name so your employees know what it’s for
- Enter the email address of the other organization’s admin or workspace owner
- Add the Slack URL of the additional workspace
- Click Create and Invite
The other company will receive a shared channel request on their admin dashboard, or via the Slackbot. The workspace owner or admin will get an email alert too.
If the other person or company agrees to join your shared channel, you’ll have an environment where you can communicate with the other team – without leaving your workspace.
How do I access a shared channel in Slack?
Once an admin has created a shared channel, you should be able to access it like any other channel.
It will appear on the left-hand side of your Slack interface, under Channels:
The main difference between a shared and regular channel is that the shared channel will have a diamond icon next to the name.
Additionally, the external organization’s name will also appear above the messaging bar.
In shared channels, members can see the full profile of the other people that they’re speaking to, as well as profile photos and names.
However, only members of your own company will be able to see if you set a status in Slack.
You can also use apps and integrations as usual in shared channels, just as you would with any other Slack workspace.
Members will be able to see messages from bots and apps and even message the bot installed by another workspace.
However, slash commands will only work in individual workspaces, and members of external organizations won’t be able to use actions for third-party tools.
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Can I set up a Slack channel between companies?
With shared channels, it’s easier than ever to connect channels between companies.
A shared channel works just like a traditional Slack channel but it exists between two organizations.
With shared channels, you can create a common area between two workspaces where both teams can find all the information that they need in one space.
Shared channels also make it easier to streamline and simplify communication. However, just like any collaboration tool, shared channels work best when you know how to use them.
Aside from choosing whether your shared channels are public or private, admins will also need to think about:
- The goal of the shared channel: This will help you to name your channel and make sure that both groups stay on the same page. If you know the purpose of your channel, you’ll also be able to make better decisions about who needs to be included in the conversation.
- Channel guidelines: Define rules for how you’re going to use your channels. For instance, you might not allow memes and gifs as they could get in the way of crucial conversation. You may also need to implement policies on how information can be shared and which documents need to stay private.
- Removing the channel: Once you’re done with a project, you’ll need to make sure that the channel is removed from your Slack workspace. However, you may want to maintain a cloud storage facility where the other team or company can access shared files.
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Can I share a private Slack channel?
When Slack launched shared channels in beta in 2017, it was designed just for public channels.
Slack wanted to make sure that members could view and join the shared channels on their respective workspaces.
However, Slack quickly updated the function to include options for private channels too.
You can now share private channels that include more sensitive information.
This means that only the people on your channel will be able to see the information shared inside.
Admins can choose whether a specific channel is public or private for their specific workspace.
For instance, a shared channel can be private or public on both workspaces, or you can have a channel that’s private on one and public on the other.
Slack recommends using open shared channels whenever you can for shared knowledge and visibility purposes. However, that might not be possible depending on the kind of discussions you’re having.
For instance, if you’re speaking to an HR company about filling gaps in your team, you might not want the rest of your workforce to know you’re hiring immediately.
Admins can visit the Administration section of their Slack workspaces and click on Manage Shared Channels to control things like:
- Which external workspaces you’re connected to
- How many and which channels are shared with each workspace
- Which shared channels you’re using
- Shared channel pending invitations
You can also choose to stop sharing channels with anyone at any point.
Slack shared channels security and privacy
Worried about keeping your data safe?
When you’re sharing a Slack channel with external parties, you may be even more worried about security and privacy.
Slack offers a few things to protect your conversations. For instance, admins can choose between public or private settings for their workspaces.
When a channel is private, you get to pick who you want to invite for the conversation. When a channel’s public, anyone in the Slack teams connected to the channel can see its contents.
Each admin in the shared channel chooses if the space is public or private for them. Using the intimate setting ensures sensitive information in your workspace stays safe.
Other security options include:
- Retention settings: Choose whether messages sent in a shared channel are retained or deleted. This is useful for complying with things like GDPR.
- Export tools and DLP: If you have a standard or plus subscription, export information from shared channels. While both workspaces can read the content in a shared channel, only the workspace sending information can edit it, or remove it from Slack.
- Deletion and edit settings: Delete messages sent by members of your workplace. You can’t delete messages sent by other organizations.
Slack shared channels best practices
Like you have a strategy for using Slack internally, you also need a policy in place for getting the most out of shared channels.
Enhance your shared channel experience by:
- Clarifying purpose: Make sure everyone in the shared channel knows what it’s for from day one. You might pin a message with the key goals of the channel to the top of the page. You could have a meeting when the channel is created to discuss expectations.
- Creating guidelines: Have basic guidelines in place from day one. These should highlight how you expect people to behave on shared channels. Do you want to make sure channel doesn’t get overwhelmed with GIFs and memes? Make sure your participants know to keep things professional. You can also set rules for when people should be available for group meetings and brainstorming sessions.
- Using apps and integrations: One of the reasons people love Slack is it’s extensible. You can use apps and integrations in shared channels, like any other channel. Consider adding apps and third-party tools to keep your team on track. For example, you might have a bot to pull information from your CRM system with a quick command.
Only invite the right people: Just because you can pull everyone and anyone into a shared channel doesn’t mean you should.
Make sure the only people invited to your channel are the people who need to be there. Nobody will thank you for inviting them to a channel they don’t need to be in!