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How to Recognize Your Team Without Spending Money [Free Slack App]

Improve employee recognition for free with HeyEmoji—the free Slack app that helps acknowledge your team's day-to-day success.

Phil Henning

Phil Henning

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Employee recognition matters. But in a time of tightening tech budgets, it’s tough to find free ways to recognize your team. Most remote team recognition options are either a steep investment or, worse, a complete flop that leaves employees feeling underappreciated.

If it feels like there’s no good way to recognize day-to-day success without sacrificing cost or efficacy, you’re not alone! This feeling is exactly why we built HeyEmoji.

HeyEmoji is a free Slack app that takes less than 15 minutes to stand up and deploy. We love it so much we can’t keep it to ourselves. In this post, you’ll learn why teams love HeyEmoji, and how to deploy the app in Slack. (blue star)

Have a question about HeyEmoji? Join our Community Discord to chat with our team and fellow community members. 🥚

What is HeyEmoji?


The heyemoji bot is a self-hosted Slack reward system that allows team members to recognize each other for anything awesome they may have done 🌟 and leadership to showcase their most recognized staff! 📈 

Under the hood, this guide utilizes a Bitovi Github Action that deploys to your AWS infrastructure even if you don’t have a DevOps or Platform Engineering team. We aren’t going to explore the action in this guide, but know this is where the magic takes place! 🪄

What do I need to install HeyEmoji?

Great question. There are only three prerequisites to installing HeyEmoji:

The infrastructure resources found and created in this guide have no cost associated with them. HeyEmoji is 100% free to use and install.

How to Install HeyEmoji

1. HeyEmoji fork

Begin by forking the bitovi/HeyEmoji Github repo

2. Create a Classic Slack App


Next, you’ll need to create a Classic Slack App. Don't worry—it’s a lot more straightforward than it sounds.

The option to create a Classic Slack App is pretty well hidden under layers of menus, so we’ve linked it for you here. Just assign your Slack app a name and select a workspace for installation. Click Create App.

Once the app is installed, select Basic Information from the left panel. Then scroll down to the Display Information and provide the bot an App Name at minimum. Next, select App Home from the left panel. Toggle on Add Legacy Bot User.

Select OAuth & Permissions from the left panel. Install the app to your workspace with its new bot scope (The scope came from step 4). Finally, copy the Bot User OAuth Access Token for your HEY_SLACK_TOKEN. You’ll need this later, so make sure to store it somewhere safe.

3. Update Deployment Configuration

Now that the Slack app has been created, it’s time to make it your own! Update the deployment configuration to select the emojis you want to use and assign them points.

Bitovi uses eggs 🥚, hatching chicks 🐣, and hatched chicks 🐥 for our HeyEmoji point system. They are 1, 2, and 3 points each, respectively, but you can use whatever emojis and point values feel right. (We see you, Fibonnaci lovers 😉)

How to Update HeyEmoji’s Deployment Configuration

  1. Navigate the HeyEmoji repo fork you created above
  2. Select Settings from the upper panel.
  3. Select Secrets > Actions from the left panel.
  4. Within the Repository Secrets Scope (Minimum)
    1. Create a secret with the name AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and the value of your account's AWS console credentials of the same name
    2. Create a secret with the name AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY and the value of your account's AWS console credentials of the same name
    3. Create a secret with the name DOT_ENV, and the value of the values passed to HeyEmoji. Use key=value separated by a newline

Example DOT_ENV secret entry

Want to further customize your HeyEmoji configuration? Just update your Github Secret DOT_ENV


Github Action Configuration Customization

Remember that we are just using the defaults here. If you want to further refine the provisioned resources, that’s possible! Just refer to the doc for the Deploy Docker to AWS (EC2) Github Action in the Github Marketplace.

4. Deploy HeyEmoji 🚀

You’re ready to deploy HeyEmoji and start recognizing your team! First, navigate the HeyEmoji repo fork you created above. Select Actions from the top panel, then click Deploy HeyEmoji to AWS using the BitOps Github Action from the left panel. Select Run Workflow from the inner panel on the right. Optionally, update the AWS Region you are deploying to and select the green Run Workflow.

If this is the first time the infrastructure is being created, it may take an additional ~2 minutes.

When the action finishes, you can check out your newly deployed HeyEmoji app! 🥳

5. Verify the deployment

Lastly, ensure HeyEmoji is properly deployed:












Having completed the above steps, you should now have:

  • A deployed docker image containing our HeyEmoji application
  • A connected Slack App ↔︎ Service
  • A working recognition bot for your team to use!

Give your new bot (or yourself 😉) a point!

heyemoji-6 heyemoji-7


HeyEmoji is an awesome, free Slack app that makes it simple to celebrate and recognize your team's hard work and achievements.

With a 15-minute deployment time and customizable options, HeyEmoji is the perfect tool to showcase your team's success without breaking the bank.

Need Help?

Drop into Community Discord and let us know! Bitovians (and our community) love to solve problems and chat about exciting projects.

Need DevOps Consulting or Platform Engineering services? Bitovi has DevOps consultants who can assist with all aspects of your development and DevOps journey.


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