We decided to try out using a Yammer Network as a way to communicate and connect for the New Zealand and the Australian SharePoint Conferences coming up in July. We are already internally big users of Yammer, and I will discuss more on the use / integration points with SharePoint and other business functions that we utilise.

If you are just looking into Yammer, our events Yammer network is an excellent place to get started, and to learn about SharePoint at the same time.

The full blog post here details our audience, growing membership, helping people to learn Yammer, how to use groups (private and topic-based), other ways for information sharing and some of the alternatives as to how we arrived at Yammer as our choice of tool.

Where to start?

We wanted a place for anyone interested in the events; so that those attending, sponsoring, speaking, and organising have somewhere to go for getting updates, finding relevant information and to connect.

Of course we engage with LinkedIn, Facebook for NZ and AUS events, and Twitter; but all of those have their limitations – both in who uses what, and in the depth of discussions available. None of those media provide the platform to cover everything in the one place. We have tried a few other alternatives, that I’ll discuss in more detail below.

Audience and Growing Membership

We have found we have a number of different types of users. While the network is designed for anyone, there seems to be (as in most social use within organisations I have seen), that they fall into three main categories:

  1. Readers – who just come to peruse what others are saying
  2. Feeders – who feed into and promote content by voting, or liking, or maybe replying
  3. Leaders – who regularly start discussions, post links and disperse new information.

 

Helping People Learn Yammer

It was a great idea to include a group called “LearnYammer!” – We have Sam the SharePoint Man, and other members of our team who regularly post little tips; so newbies to Yammer can get the feel of what it’s all about. On other networks this has also been a great place for people to post questions – it’s all about getting the best use from Yammer. It becomes a mini training tool all built in!

Reducing Emails with Private Groups

One thing that has worked REALLY well, has been to have a private groups within this network. One example is for Speakers. This has allowed us one place to interact, share ideas (like presentation techniques), share documents (like Slide templates) and post announcements. One main benefit of Yammer is reducing emails, so while our support email receives lots of enquiries (often the same ones), this group allows us to post once, and have many view the answers.

We have another private group for the organisers of the events. It does require a little carrot and stick to get people using these groups instead of email, but people are fast seeing the advantages.

Moderation, Engagement and Fresh Content

060214_0225_UsingYammer1Like any form of social media, a Yammer network does require people posting and asking questions. Ensuring there are updates, and fresh content, as well as reviewing and replying what others are posting to and engagement, lies with our team in the first instance.  We have found the engagement is picking up as more people get involved, and interesting conversations begin. The time for our team to manage the network diminishes over time. It becomes a community site!

We updated a Network Usage Policy, as good practice and we allowed anyone in the network to invite others – and included a Yammer Tip showing them how!

Links can be added as Network resources, as shown in the diagram. Links can also be pinned to actual groups.  For example, in the Learn Yammer Group, we pinned resources relevant to Yammer; and Speakers can choose to pin their own resource material (or slides to their session group).

The analytics and admin pages are all nice and easy to use and provide the functionality we needed to keep an eye060214_0225_UsingYammer2 on how we are doing. We chose to personalise certain parts,  like the banner, and add images to the groups.

We were also able to bulk invite everyone who had registered for the events already. We also promote the www.yammer.com/stpevents  link everywhere so people can choose to join themselves.

Groups for Purpose

Groups are a great way of being able to filter through large amounts of discussion threads, through to ones you are really interested in. I think we are only touching the surface here. Our groups include one for each event, NZSPC and AUSPC. We are learning to be careful not to duplicate the messaging, and choosing where to post, to reach the right audience. Duplication would just make a repeat of email overload – something we are trying to avoid.

We have created one group for EVERY session at the events, and the speakers are engaged here, so if people want to connect prior, ask questions, bring up things they want to see included and presented – this is a great opportunity. The uptake has been slow, but it is happening.

060214_0225_UsingYammer3

Polls are a good way to engage people (see the example for my session) . This generated lots of discussion and provides insight into what people are doing.

This sort of engagement works for even those who just want to like and/or vote and read other peoples’ replies.

When you click on “Browse groups” you do need to watch carefully, as the immediate display is groups you may not have joined, and even when you click… 060214_0225_UsingYammer5 at the bottom of the popup, the default view is for “Suggested Groups” –so you then have to click on “All groups” or use the search, to see them all.

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Using images for the groups allows for a little more colour and meaning to the group pages, and when you search for groups; for example, we chose to use the Speakers picture on the individual session pages.

Topics are another good way of filtering information – this is similar to a #hashtag and means anything that has been tagged with a topic, can be grouped together, so you see all conversations under that one topic. Examples of using topics are YammerTip and Education – so anyone interested in Education sector and people to connect with can easily find this information.

Alternative options

At prior events, given we are SharePoint Conferences, we have used SharePoint to deliver as much as we could. The website http://www.sharethepoint.com/ was one of the first public sites in SharePoint 2013 in this region and hosts everything we do. So we tried that with “Connect” Community sites for each event  to encourage discussion and connection with speakers. To be honest the uptake wasn’t great.

I have seen Community Sites, which allow you to group or categorise discussions by topics, work very well internally on intranets, helping to engage users and making the intranets more “social” in nature. Publically this is a little harder to manage, although we do still have the Connect Site for overall Community discussions around all things SharePoint.

One big thing is the alternative tools for all sorts of communication and collaboration (OneNote, SharePoint Lists, Lync….)– so much so, and I get so many questions when we do training that I thought I would present on this exact topic: Choosing the right tool for the job!

External Networks

The SINGLE biggest advantage of our use of Yammer is in reduced email. As SharePoint trainers, we partner with consulting firms to offer training. We have networks set up with our partner companies so that it doesn’t matter who posts in either our company or the partnering company – everyone gets to see the updates. Unlike lost email threads, or where the message doesn’t reach the right people, the discussions are there, everything is searchable and it is contained to the appropriate audience.

The follow-up is faster;  we get an enquiry and any one of our team can respond. The responses, for example quotes, and information for planning training, gets communicated to EVERYONE, so everyone learns from one post, rather than multiple emails.

We can post updates after we visit clients and share collateral as files. We can also document detail on Yammer notes. It works!

060214_0225_UsingYammer6For people who are already using Yammer in their organisation, it is really easy to see the other External Networks they are part of and also where there are updates to view. That means it becomes part of their usual work day with information in the one place. They can also see who is online, and begin private conversations with people. This instant messaging also means faster results.

We also add our own Yammer Internal Network to the Home Page of our SharePoint Intranet. It means people can see new posts, wherever they are. There is a whole session on Yammer and SharePoint integration (and what’s coming) at both events. Look for the one by Elaine van Bergen.

 

Hopefully this has given enough of an overview and/or sparked enough curiosity to entice you to give it a go. I will see you over at www.yammer.com/stpevents and be sure to ask any questions inside the Learn Yammer group so we can all learn from the answers :). Debbie