What do people use your Yammer Networks for?

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I was thinking about how when we first set up our External Network for customers, we thought they'd use it to connect with each other--actual networking--since our customers are scattered all over the country, some globally, and often think they're the only one who does what they do in their area.

 

That's how we marketed it at first, too: Social network! Find people who do what you do!

 

Instead, they're using it primarily for Q&A. They help each other solve challenges. They share documents. They work out loud. Any networking in the sense of "Hey, you're in Milwaukee? I'm in Milwaukee too!" is extremely low by comparison. I can't remember the last time I saw one of those.

 

In fact, the one exception, a specific group set up to faciliate Midwest meet-ups, remains active and robust but is not reflected anywhere else in the network even though it's a model to uphold.

 

What trends do your Yammer networks have? Are they different from what you expected, or tried to achieve?

7 Replies
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I agree, Becky. While I think there is some inter-personal networking, I believe the bulk of what people are looking for are connections to leaders, and resources.

 

When users are invited to our Yammer network, the response I often hear is "...ugh. Not another social network!" 

 

I think the key is thinking in terms of what can they get at your network that they will simply not be able to get elsewhere? Hopefully, they will arrive at networking with each other on their own, but we first need to get them there by providing curated resources, access to leaders, and the ability to collaborate in ways they will only be able to do in your network.

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Stellar question! My Yammer community experience has been similar. While loosely bound together in a mutual cause, we are prone to want to solve problems and transact rather than explore possibilities and potentials. Growing beyond transactional interactions is a sign of community maturity in my opinion and takes intentional cultivation of trust. No easy feat!

 

I'm a fan of the Questing Disposition approach but few volunteer to lead out and take initiative. How do we grow creativity, curiosity and leadership?

 

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Yes--providing the "why?" ahead of time that fits your audience as best as you can figure.

 

One of the things we had to learn was not to refer to Yammer as a social network, even under its corporate aegis. Too much stigma. So our "Why you should join" reasons evolved to include phrases such as "exclusive professional development network" which fortunately is backed up by our network actually being used that way. . .though it took time.

 

 

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That is an excellent question right back! Perhaps it involves a different way of looking at how people are interacting in this space; are the leaders already there? What should we do as community managers to nurture this--and when should we stay out of the way?

 

What comes to mind right now is one of the customers on my EN who has shown himself both to be an advocate for our training but also challenges us to do more & be more. He's a prolific commenter and uses his experience to help others. Now, he's doing that on his own, because he wants to and he has time to. I'm wondering now what tools/concepts I can provide to take it further, if I even should. 

 

cc @Simon Terry

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External networks are a rich form of community but they are also challenging because many of the connection, enforcement and reward dynamics in employee communities are missing. People are there for intrinsic motivation and purpose, not necessarily the extrinsic rewards on offer. People will need help to create a shared context and to build relationships together.  The bilateral connection of individual to organisation is the most obvious context and will dominate if you don't encourage alternatives.

 

Leadership is a critical part of any community. There is always some there. We need to take care that any community leadership we offer doesn't quash the natural leaders and enthusiastic contributors. Things to consider:

  • offer the natural leaders a way to identify themselves
  • foster and support the community leadership with status, information, recognition and additional capabilities
  • give the community challenges that matter to them to draw people into leadership roles
  • foster some creative tension to draw people to engage more with the community
  • have conversations about purpose, promote role models and generally make community-led contributions an expectation in community activity
  • Community rhythms and rituals can be important in fostering shared leadership and creating an expectation of action that people step up to fill

 

I'm reading Peter Block's Community at the moment after it was recommended to me and it has some good additional perspectives on how to approach community building generally. Etienne Wenger et al's Cultivating Communities of Practice is also worth a study for ideas.

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In short, revisit the connection in any External Network continuously because even if you were clear in setting it up, remember you have a tiny fraction of people's attention. It is likely to be forgotten or lost often and need continuous refresh. Some ways to think about connection: https://simonterry.com/2017/02/02/start-with-connection/

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I love this. It is definitely challenging with External Networks because people can be coming in from all sorts of different cultures, organizational or otherwise.

 

Having a shared goal or goals from high-level (everyone there had the same training or facets thereof) to granular (specific discussion on something that happened at a specific workplace) gives the "why" in our case.

 

Cultivating those natural leaders and enthusiastic contributors so that they themselves bring up more of the high-level stuff is a great goal for me to have, and find out more about how we can best help the people we serve.