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Slack Shared Channels: A Thorough Introduction

Blog March 16, 2020
Slack shared channels
Dominic Kent

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Slack Shared Channels: A Thorough Introduction

Slack shared channels

Slack shared channels, introduced in 2017, allow two separate organizations to work together in the same channel – each without leaving their workspace. 

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. 

Jump to: 

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.”

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. 

Then:

  • 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. 

You may also like: How 6 Marketing Leaders Use Slack Shared Channels

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:

Slack shared 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.

Additionally, the external organization’s name will also appear above the messaging bar in a Slack shared channel

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. 

Managing Slack shared channels

You may also like: Top 10 Intercompany Tools to use with Slack

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. 

You may also like: Slack vs Email – Talking to Your Customers

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. 

Private for both workspaces

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.

What if my contacts don’t use Slack?

Slack introduced shared channels as a way to bring teams together from different environments. 

As more companies continue to work with distributed external suppliers, contractors, and freelancers,, this strategy for combined collaboration is incredibly useful.

However, it’s only going to be helpful for you if both you and the person you need to reach use Slack.

If your external contacts aren’t Slack users, then you can’t invite them into a shared channel. 

However, there is an alternative option. 

With Mio, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Cisco Webex Teams can all communicate simultaneously. 

Like shared channels, Mio allows you to reach people outside of your organization, or even just connect the employees in your team that prefer to use different tools. 

This way, you can keep the conversation flowing, share knowledge, and collaborate more seamlessly in every environment – not just Slack. 

Stay in Slack and chat with Microsoft Teams and Webex Teams users

You can stay in Slack and send messages to your contractors, suppliers, or clients that use Microsoft Teams or Webex Teams. 

They stay in their platform too and Mio translates the messages across platform.

And it’s not just messages that are supported! GIFs, emojis, channels, DMs, and message edits/deletes are all supported.

If this sounds like something you need, try Mio for free here.

Try it for free

Read Next: The Ultimate Guide to External Federation between Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Cisco Webex Teams

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