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At ReferralCandy, we do use team chats - and sometimes the messages, pings, gifs, and emojis get overwhelming. Our friends at Chanty have shared their experience building a team chat app and shared some best practices for getting more out of the
In the last decade, team chats have rushed into our lives. We instant message our colleagues, assign tasks to each other, share files, set reminders – all within a single app.
However, sometimes they bring us challenges. Communication in Channels becomes messy, get overwhelmed with tons of @mentions, or Threads get us confused, etc. All this inevitably affects our productivity.
Developing a powerful and easy-to-use Chanty team chat, we are well-versed of the challenges a communication tool can bring. We’ve performed an in-depth analysis of our competitors and we learned a thing or two about troubleshooting in team chats, we would like to share them with you. Here are the four frequently-asked-questions (and our solutions!) to get the most out of team chats.
Question: ‘Channels in our team chat overlap. Way too often, we discuss the same topics in different conversation spaces. People get confused and chats get messy. What should we do?’
1 - Get rid of overlapping Channels, Rooms, Flows, etc.
A short answer. For Channels not to overlap, it’s a good idea to have a separate one for every important and long-running topic. It may seem like multiple Channels aggravate communication, but, in fact, it’s the other way around. You can’t get lost in Channels, because you can easily find the one you need using search. Moreover, if you have separate spaces for each viable topic, your team members can participate in fewer channels. It means fewer notifications and much less mess.
Here are some details. Let’s share an example. Our Chanty marketing team writes guest posts on a regular basis. When we just started contributing to our partners' blogs, we discussed all related questions in the ‘Marketing’ Channel, but very soon we overloaded it with specific files, links, and comments. So we created a ‘Guest blogging’ Channel. But we also needed a conversation space for our authors to discuss some internal questions.
That’s why we set up ‘Writers only’ Channel, which now serves as a knowledge base of English sayings, idioms, etc. to which every team member can contribute. Then we created ‘Articles You Should Read’ and some other Channels. The variety of conversational spaces improved our writers' efficiency in solving day-to-day tasks and saved the other marketing team from notification overload.
The variety of channels created for Chanty writers.
Creating guidelines for naming channels is also a good idea for organizing your Workspace.
You can start with broad Channels like #announcements, #random, etc. and proceed with more project-specific ones. Consider using prefixes like team- or proj-, e.g. #team-dev or #proj-Easter Channel can also be sorted by department or location: #sales, #marketing, #newyork, #paris, etc. Smart naming will make search easier and avoid confusion every time you need to think which topics to discuss in a particular Channel.
However, the challenge might be bigger. If you have a large team, your Workspaces can overlap. The solution might be to use several of them simultaneously. Some team chat apps will allow you to share Channels between the Workspaces and connect the Teams.
Question: ‘I’m fed up with using Threads, as I need to spend too much time looking for them, expanding and loading. Sometimes I miss important Threads, which is very frustrating. What’s the best way to deal with them?’
2 - Embrace Threads and use them sparingly
A short answer. In order to handle Threads, use them for a clear purpose: to make a side discussion or a comment on a particular topic. E.g. your team won an award –
all the congrats and comments might appear in a Thread. Or suppose you found a bug in a piece of software your team is developing. Rather than clog up the Channel with dozens of comments, you can start a Thread discussion. But don’t forget about @mentioning whoever you need to see your message.
Here are some details. Many people have the love-hate relationship with Threads feature, as it has many cons. As noted in the question above, clicking on Threads and expanding them takes time, especially if they are too long; this Tweet must be relatable:
The thread was so long he couldn't grammar right
Moreover, Threads can discourage participation in discussion. Since their content is collapsed, you may not know whether it is worth reading and miss the important topic (unless you were @mentioned). Threads often have limited functionality – you can’t add images to them in some team chats.
Despite many cons, this feature also has a major advantage. Threads help keep Channels neat and tidy. They prevent active discussions from becoming derailed. So it’s a good idea to embrace Threads and learn more about them in a particular team chat you use. For example, in some communication tools, you can use Threads in private conversations, while in others it’s not possible.
Question: ‘I get tons of notifications. My colleagues use @here whether there’s a reason for this or not. They overdo with mentions @channel and @everyone too. I need to check notifications too often distracting myself from work.’
3 - Drop the craze of endless @here mentions
A short answer. First, it’s a good idea to set an agreement on using @mentions in your group chats. If we are talking about @here mentions, they are usually used for getting a question answered quickly by teammates who are actively working. E.g. you got a call from a client and want to ask your colleagues to follow up. Or you want to remind people about an upcoming meeting (in case you didn’t set up the automatic reminder). Second, do your best to adjust your notification settings. Tune them as finely as possible in your team chat messenger. You can limit receiving notifications to one to one messages or to specific groups. When in hurry, the easiest thing you can do is to snooze them.
Here are some details. Dealing with @mentions is a puzzling topic in nearly all team chats. We really have no choice, but use them often, because our team members are not expected to read every single message. If you don’t have @mentions in your message, it’s likely that either the channel is announcement based, or perhaps you posted general questions. But it’s important to use them wisely. Otherwise, your colleagues would end up like comedian John Christ in one of his skits.
For example, @team or @everyone can be used for general announcements about holidays, paydays, etc. Using @channel is appropriate for informing about your product updates or introducing a new distant co-worker in a big company.
All this brings us to a more general discussion about team chat etiquette. The rules like ‘Don’t spam’, ‘Don’t include unknown people into groups’ can be introduced formally or set by personal example. It’s always a good idea to have someone responsible for your team chat communication. In small teams, it can be a team lead, while in big teams there’s usually a need for an admin.
Question: ‘I’m trying to set reminders for everyone in the team, but don’t really succeed. It takes a good deal of time to set up the bot reminder’.
4 - Become skilled at setting reminders
A short answer. Yes, reminders can be confusing. Especially if we are talking about customized bots in team chats using ‘/remind’ command. As you probably know, such bots utilize casual language and convert it into a reminder. However, being hard to master, they are, in fact, manageable. Mostly, it's all about learning the reminder instructions and format used in your team chat, which inevitably takes time. With some testing and experience, the troubles usually go away.
Here are some details. Reminders are irreplaceable in helping us to remember about meetings, tasks, and deadlines, so getting friendly with them is vital for a deadline-driven team.
It’s also a good idea to double check the time and the date. The one set up in your team chat profile’s should be the same as the system time on your app or computer.
Some users also experience troubles using reminders in other languages than in English. In this case, setting instructions in Shakespeare’s language may be your only choice. If the cons of using reminder customized bots outweigh pros, consider switching to a reminder app.
We’ve briefly reviewed 4 challenges team chat users often face and provided the possible answers to them. Let’s wrap up some of these productivity tips in a few sentences.
- For Channels to not overlap, have a separate one for each significant and long-running topic. Use consistent and predictable conversations naming and keep your chats organized.
- Use Threads sharing your feedback on the specific message or file, so you don’t clutter your conversations space. If a subject is high-priority and long-running, it’s a good idea to discuss it directly in the Channel or create a separate chat for it.
- Be clear with @here, @team, and other @mentions. Agree on using them sparingly in your team chat. For example, only put @here to notify those currently working only and @team or @everyone (depending on a team chat you use) if you have a team-wide announcement.
- The bot reminders in team chats may take some time to fine tune, make sure you know how to cook them right. Otherwise, consider switching to the reminder apps.
What kind of challenges do you have in your team chats? Let us know in the comments and we might find the answer together.
Aleksey Chepalov is a part of the marketing team at Chanty — a simple AI-powered team chat. This powerful and free Slack alternative is aimed to increase team productivity and improve communication at work.
Aleksey is keen on such topics as marketing, SaaS challenges, and personal growth.