Developing your Yammer group

There are lots of guides out there on using Yammer, the internal social networking tool – how to set up a network, build your profile and so on.

However, that’s not all there is to Yammer and a key skill is community building, particularly if you are running a group.

Now, Yammer is a pretty easy to use bit of software. Many of the ways of making your group work as an effective community however, are nothing to do with software and everything to do with human behaviour.

Here are five tips to designing a Yammer group to succeed. A lot of the advice can be applied to any online community, too, so even if you don’t use Yammer, it ought to help.

  1. Make it look fun

This is key. If you want people to join your Yammer group and get engaged with it, you want to make it an attractive looking thing to do.

Things to consider:

  • The name of your group – make it sound nice and welcoming and don’t be tempted to make it sound all corporate and dull
  • The image you use as the group’s icon – again, avoid the dull corporate approach. Is there a fun joke you can make with the image? Pop culture and retro TV references are always a winner
  • Your short description – you only have a few words to make your Yammer group sound like the sort of thing a normal person would want to join. Use them wisely!
  • The longer information text you can add to the sidebar – this is where you can go into more detail, and perhaps add in some of the more serious work stuff that your group is about
  1. Start small and grow organically

It’s very tempting when starting something new to be excited and enthusiastic about it – quite right too! However, with any online community, it’s a good idea not to shout too loudly, particularly in the early days.

After all, when it has just started, your community is likely to be a bit short of content and activity. You don’t really want hundreds of visitors to stop by and perhaps be disappointed by what is on offer.

The way to get around this is to start small when it comes to inviting people in. Don’t do a big launch but gradually get more people involved, so that the levels of content and activity in your group are in sync with the number of people visiting.

  1. Engage the engaged

As part of the start small approach, who should you get involved first? You might be tempted to reach out to new people, to instantly get a return on your new group by being able to point to new audiences being engaged with your work.

However, it’s far better to get people involved early who you can rely on to make a strong contribution. Much of the culture of an online community is set by early members, so make sure the people you encourage to join will exhibit the sort of behaviour you want to encourage in your group.

  1. Give people a reason to join

If you are at a stage where you want to give your membership a boost, how do you get people to sign up?

One way is to make it so people have to be a member to get something they want.

As an example, say you run some training and want to share the slides and other resources with those that attended. Rather than emailing them around, why not upload them to the Yammer group, so that people need to be there to be able to access them?

  1. Keep up the flow

As a community manager, it’s vital to keep up a flow of activity. How quick that flow is, and how much of it you need will depend on the topic of your group and the personalities of those involved.

You will be in the best position to decided what the best flow for your group is – how often new discussions ought to be seeded, for example, or how many times documents ought to be shared for comment.

You don’t want the flow to dry up – people will lost interest – but then you also don’t want it to become a flood because people will be scared off.

Collaboration ground rules

groundrules_bSometimes to make collaboration work you need to set some ground rules.

It’s easy to say, “let’s start up a google doc!” – and imagine everyone leaping in to give their ideas. But it’s not so simple as that, especially if folk haven’t had the experience or confidence in this way of working.

Instead it’s necessary to have a think about how the collaborative activity might be approached, and ensure everyone is aware of the process you have selected.

Often this will be the case when the technology available is a bit lacking. As an example, a recent collaborative effort I started was based in a ‘Note’ within a group on Yammer. Notes are the collaborative writing part of Yammer, but they aren’t terribly sophisticated and won’t allow you to use formatting such as tables.

So, I spent a bit of time describing how to add ideas to the list. I came up with a fairly simple process that involved a bold heading for each new item, with two bullets points underneath for other related information to be recorded.

Without this introduction, people may have been unsure what to do, and so not bother, or even accidentally start hacking up what others had written.

At the very least, when working on a Google Doc with others, for example, I’ll put “No deletions!” at the top as a general rule to people.

Any other collaboration ground rule tips to share?

What I’ve been reading

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