Before Creating a Yammer Group, Answer These 3 Questions First.

Before Creating a Yammer Group, Answer These 3 Questions First.

This post is for leaders within organizations who provide Yammer guidance & best practices. If you’re unfamiliar with the enterprise social network, read my post 5 ways to use Yammer for a decent primer.

Groups are arguably the best way to get instant business value out of collaboration tools like Yammer. They reduce the “noise” people see in their main feed by focusing messages around specific, affinity-based topics. For example, you might see groups for people to collaborate on key projects or company initiatives. You might also see groups designed to share best practices in a specific industry vertical. At Softchoice, we have a number of private groups used by departments to reduce the amount of email amongst teammates, while improving the conversational tone of the exchange.

Since a Yammer network “belongs” to all employees, each person has the ability to create a group. But just because someone can, doesn’t mean they should. Before people create a group, ask them to answer 3 questions:

  1. Does the group have a specific purpose? Does the proposed group create focus? For example, will it create conversations around a specific topic? Is it designed to share best practices? Is it’s purpose to crowd-source new ideas for marketing content? Or is the purpose simply to improve team collaboration? All of these are legitimate reasons to create a group.
  2. Is someone responsible for making sure the group thrives? Groups are only good if there’s frequent conversations and activity that’s on-topic. Otherwise you’re not giving people a reason to join – or stick around. Someone needs to be accountable and responsible for stimulating conversation, and it’s most often the admin of the group – aka the person who creates it.
  3. Can you measure the success of your group? How will you determine if the group is a success? Some basic measures might be the number of ideas/suggestions you get for a particular project. Other measures may include the amount of email reduction you see within a department, or the number of people participating in the group.

If someone can answer yes to all three, a group there should be!

If they can’t answer all three with a yes, there are other Yammer features they can still use. For example, if they just want a point-in-time opinion on something, polls or private Yammer messages work nicely. In fact private messages are a really convenient way to share with a small group of people. Everyone in the conversation thread gets notified of updates and mentions, plus everything shared is still searchable by the people who participate in the private conversation.

Public or Private?

If someone does creates a public group, everyone in the organization can join and see the content without needing permission. This approach works great for projects that are cross-functional and cross-departmental. Even people that don’t belong to a group can see the messages when they view the all-company feed.

Private groups are also very popular and a great way to improve team communications. In fact, metrics tell us that private groups at Softchoice see the most engagement – they have the most conversations, shares, likes and uploaded content. The reason for this is two-fold. Teams already spend a bunch of time emailing things back and forth that is only meant for the team. A private group allows that behaviour to continue, but in a more structured way. The other material benefit a private group offers a team is it allows employees who are less socially-savvy to experiment and “try out social media” in a safe way to a small group of peers.

Content that is posted in private groups does not appear in the all-company feed. And the only way people can see it is by belonging to it. It’s important to note that currently Yammer doesn’t allow you to make a group private, and then make it public. So choose wisely.

Purge and Merge

Once you have a large number of groups, it’s a good idea to evaluate how well they are doing. Undeniably, it’s better to have a smaller number of high-functioning groups with lots of engagement, than offer employees a bunch of niche groups with minimal engagement. Here are some things you should look for in a stale group:

  • When was the last time someone posted anything in the group?
  • Are people posting content that’s on topic, or ?
  • Are the messages repetitive?
  • Is there a similar group where the same topics are being covered, and seeing more engagement?

For stale/inactive groups, connect with the person who created them, and work with them to close it down. And for repetitive groups, make plans to combine them. The fewer, higher quality groups you have, the more likely you’ll see genuine engagement. Plus you’ll make it much easier for people to find interesting content that matters to them.

Are you using Yammer or another enterprise social network like Chatter or Jive at your organization? Are you also finding groups an optimal way to get business value out of the tool? Or is there something else you find even more valuable? Sound off below!

About Joel Marans

Joel loves making people and organizations look great through creative uses of technology. When he's not fulfilling duties as a proud papa & husband, he leads creative services and digital marketing at Softchoice, one of the largest IT solution providers in North America.