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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Yammer Groups Arrive!

For the last week or so I’ve had the opportunity to preview the new Yammer (which includes a much-needed Groups feature) on a staging server, with a limited number of colleagues. It was rolled out to all Yammer users last night, and I just created my first “real” group.

The Yammer Blog has an in-depth post on the new features. I will have more on it later today (including a new course in the SMUG Yammer curriculum), but my initial review is that they’ve done an excellent job with this upgrade.

If you haven’t tried Yammer, do it. And then share your comments below:

What do you think of Yammer’s new Groups feature?

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Yammering, Listening, and Improving the Product

This post is about a prime example of how companies can use social media tools to improve their products and services.

You would expect this from a company looking to make a name for itself in social media, as Yammer is. If social media is your core product, you should be out there listening and participating in discussions related to your company.

But by actually following through on this philosophy, and listening to your users, you can identify and solve the problems you didn’t know were problems.

As SMUGgles know, I like Yammer a lot, and have been experimenting with it. I’ve even started a Yammer curriculum in this university.

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Yammer 105: Making Yammering Effortless

I have found that when we introduce new electronic tools to the workplace, the adoption and usage varies inversely with the amount of effort required. There also is a significant direct relationship to the perceived benefit, but the basic questions are:

  1. How difficult is this going to be?
  2. How much do I need to change what I’m already doing?
  3. What’s in it for me?
  4. What’s in it for us as a group?

The first two questions can trump the others. No matter the payoff, if it’s too much of a change or is perceived as too difficult, you won’t reach the critical mass of users that will make the answer to #4 compelling.

When it comes to politics, it seems we all want change. But in the workplace we like our routine.

If individuals can see a personal benefit that doesn’t depend on everyone else also adopting the technology, that can help the adoption get started. And if that adoption can draw others along, so that they contribute to the greater good with very little modification of their current routine, well…

That’s change we can believe in.


Everyone uses email at work. Everyone complains about getting too much of it. If a tool can reduce unwanted and irrelevant email messages while still giving you access to the information if you later need it, that would be a great value, wouldn’t it? And if you could mostly use it right from your email client (i.e. Microsoft Outlook, Entourage or Apple Mail), wouldn’t that make the burden of questions 1 and 2 almost nonexistent?

This post is mainly intended for my work colleagues, who are part of my Yammer network. But SMUGgles can learn from the basic concepts and apply them to your networks (although the links I provide to make it easy for my work colleagues to join and follow tags will not work for you.)

Five Steps to Making Yammer Effortless

1. Sign up for Yammer using your work e-mail address. This is covered in more detail in Yammer 101.

2. Make your E-Mail Settings tab look like this:

This will ensure that you get e-mail notices of new posts from any people you are following and for any tags (or topics) you follow. To cut down on unnecessary email, I suggest that you de-select requiring confirmation of posts via email and notification of new messages you post via email.

3. Follow tags that interest you or that are relevant to your work

For our Medical Edge team, follow #medical-edge

For our media relations staff, follow #media-relations, #press-call-alert and #story-idea

For our Social Media team, follow #social-media-team

How do you follow tags? Click the relevant link and once there, click the blue “Follow” button as you see in the example below:

4. When you want to send a message to other staff who are interested in these topics, instead of deciding what email distribution list to use, Yammer instead using the relevant tags.

In this way, everyone who has followed the tag will get an email. You don’t have to pick a distribution list. The users have self-selected.

In addition to the main tags that refer to the interest group that should receive the message, feel free to add any other tags that would help you find the message later. Creating a tag is as simple as putting a # in front of a #word or #phrase-joined-by-hyphens.

Once you have done the set-up in Yammer, which takes about five minutes, this is the only step that involves any change from the way you currently exchange information by email. You’re just using Yammer instead of a distribution list. And I would suggest that this is even easier than email, because you can just get to the point and the format doesn’t encourage rambling messages.

5. When you get an e-mail message from Yammer relating to one of your tags, if you have something to say, just reply via e-mail as you normally would.

Yammer will log your response and will send it to everyone else. You don’t need to log into Yammer and post your response there. Just send a plain old-fashioned e-mail reply, and Yammer will take care of the rest. Your message will become part of the thread…as the recorded customer service messages say, “in the order it was received.” The entire conversation and its resolution is archived for reference.

6. Read messages you get from Yammer, and then delete them. You don’t need to save messages, because if you later need them you can search for them within Yammer.

For more background on Yammer check out the full Yammer curriculum.

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Yammer 104: Yammer as GTD General Reference File

In this post I wrote about how a blog can be the ultimate personal electronic “general reference” filing system that is consistent with David Allen’s Getting Things Done, or GTD, approach to life organization.

I still think a blog can be useful for general reference. I often use the SMUG blog in that way. I vaguely remember that I’ve written about something here, and use the search box at right to find the information, often including links to relevant external Web sites.

But that post was written in the pre-Twitter, pre-Yammer era. I think these micro-blogging tools can be even better for this general reference function than a full-blown blog is.

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