Yammer 106: Yammer Groups

Yammer Groups are a powerful addition to its micro-blogging service, particularly for larger companies.

It’s great to have a Twitter-like service limited only to your company, but in a large organization there are frankly discussions (particularly frank ones) that should be kept to a smaller group.

Otherwise, if any employee can have access to any message in the company network, the conversation will need to be limited.

For example, when we get calls from journalists working on a story, we need to be able to discuss who would be the best subject expert to answer the questions. That typically happens by phone or e-mail, but a service like Yammer would be a great way to quickly alert our whole team about the request and to gather feedback and ideas. But that conversation shouldn’t be open to (potentially) several thousand employees.

In the old version of Yammer, as I described in Yammer 103, sending out a press call alert could be done by tagging the post as a #press-call-alert, and then inviting members of the media relations team to “follow” that tag. But anyone with a mayo.edu email address who had joined Yammer would have been able to see those posts (and perhaps follow that tag.)

With the new Yammer groups feature, it’s a lot more secure. You can create two kinds of groups:

  1. Public: Anyone with an email address at your company can join and view messages.
  2. Private: Only people who are invited can view messages or join. Furthermore, you can decide whether you want the group to be listed in the company directory of groups.

A Public group could be used when you want to create a community of interest that doesn’t need to be exclusive. An example might be people with a common subject interest, such as marketing trends, or cancer research, or human resources news.

A Private group is more appropriate for a defined work unit or team. For example, this is the group I started for the work division in which I am a manager:

I made it a private group, because it should be limited to people who report to my division chair. But I chose to list it in the Group Directory because that way I can start the group without inviting everyone. Yammer users can see the group and request to join. For a small work unit, though, you may not wish to include the group in the directory, since you can easily invite everyone who is a member of the team.

One of the neat parts about the groups feature is that when you start to invite someone who is already in Yammer, it quickly scans and suggests matches based on the first few letters you type. And if it doesn’t find a match, it still lets you invite people to the group based on their email address…which also invites them to join Yammer. I believe this will be an important feature for Yammer’s growth, as people invite their closest colleagues to join their work groups and therefore Yammer.

To make the groups work efficiently you need to have members adjust email settings so they get notification when someone in your group posts a Yammer. Each member needs to do this. Mine looks like this:

You can decide which groups’ updates are sent to you by email, or you can check the bottom box, to “Subscribe to new groups I join via email.” That way you will automatically get the updates for any group you join, without having to remember to change your email settings when you join a new group.

Following tags is a good way to engage on specific topics, and to know when discussion is happening on subjects that interest you, across your company.

But the new Groups feature significantly increases Yammer’s usefulness as a tool for work-unit collaboration.

The Yammer blog has more detail on Groups.

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Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

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