People love purpose-driven events where they can meet other people and talk about things that interest them. In the digital world, you are no longer bound by physical limitations of having to be in the same place at the same time. The popularity of Twitter has given rise to tweetchats, popular online gatherings of people discussing certain topics and using hashtags (#) to easily group conversations. Did you know you can do the same thing on Yammer? One of our customers, Austen Hunter, wrote about his experience with a Yammer event at his company.
Oftentimes, this is a good way to conduct a “townhall” meeting with executives or around a topic. Because the conversation is not bound by limits of time and space, the conversation can develop before and after the actual online chat. Here are some success tips to ensure that this event goes off without a hitch.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
Even though the nature of a Yammer event is all about honest, realtime conversations, you must plan for success. We recently conducted a Yammer event with the Yammer Customer Community. Prior to the event, we did a lot of preparation around big picture stuff like goal and vision, as well as executional details like dates and general logistics. There was also lots of communication – lots and lots of it!
The first key step in planning your Yammer event is figuring out a topic, purpose, audience, event leaders, and timing. For our inaugural event, we wanted to keep it broad, but depending on your use case, it may be better to find a more consolidated topic and keep the conversation focused around that.
Once we set a date and decided a topic (a strategic “state of the Union” and peek into the future townhall with Yammer CEO David Sacks), we had to figure out the actual details of the event:
- We chose to create an events group for this conversation and all future conversations, into which we invited our cmmunity. We recommend inviting your entire target audience into the group so they won’t miss the conversation even if they don’t go. We do recommend doing it in a separate group because it will be easier to find and refer to, without overtaking the main feed.
- We chose a topic for the chat, so that people can easily follow the conversation. In Yammer, topics act much like hashtags in Twitter, uniting conversations and making them easily searchable. In Yammer, you can follow topics, as well as people.
- Just like with any community effort, you have to lead by example and illustrate the behaviors you want others to do. We recommend seeding some questions and getting community members to submit questions ahead of time.
- When a Yammer event happens, the conversation moves at a million miles a minute, so you have to make structural decisions before it starts. Will you have all the questions and answers in one thread or start a separate thread for each question? We opted for the latter, so each question could act as its own thread-starter, prompting its own conversation.
We recommend having more than one person help coordinate and communicate the event. This way the tasks can be shared if needed.
Communicate for success
We created the event and initial communication about it in the main feed. This communication included a request to post questions to the events group. You want to create the event at least 2 weeks prior, but not too far in advance so that it gets stale.
We broadcasted this announcement to make sure that it delivers to each community You should choose the method that works for your network – broadcast, newsletter, invitation cards, etc. As with seeding questions, look for your community “movers and shakers” to help you communicate, as long as the content is something that your community actually wants to talk about.
Prior to the event, and at the start, clearly communicate republish rules: is it OK to tweet / blog about the event, externally? Establish protocol about sharing things publicly.
Get executive sponsorship
If the goal of your Yammer event is to boost internal engagement and get everyone excited about a more open and collaborative paradigm of communication, we recommend to involve a senior executive. Exec sponsorship in general is a big part of your success in internal communication strategy.
To drink our own champagne, we put our CEO David Sacks front and center during this event. First, he shared the Yammer vision and strategy with everyone in a webinar format, and then answered questions and engaged in a conversation directly and in real-time. Because your exec is probably really busy, make it easy to work together by taking care of the details early: communicate the vision, the timeframe and logistics.
At the beginning of the session, make sure you restate the objective and introduce the format, topic and the key participants. Things will move very quickly, so make sure that you either share the burden of typing across several people or have designated “scribes”. During our Yammer event, we were uncharacteristically lucky because our CEO is extremely tech-savvy and also types very fast. However, depending on the level of facility with the tool for your organization, you may need to either do a little more tool education or plan for multiple executive participants.
Because this is a conversational medium, you will inevitably come across questions that aren’t clear; in this case, don’t be afraid to put it out to the rest of the community for the clarification and to help shape the conversation. Back-and-forth is expected, and most answers got more questions, which got more answers. Make sure you stick to the topic you preselected, and gently nudge the conversation towards it during the event.
It helped us have several people at the table collaborating for answers, bringing different perspectives and insights. Having scribes was also extremely useful in a situation where a question repeated itself. In that case, a scribe would post a link to the existing question. Scribes during the event were really important to keep everything on track and to direct the executive’s attention where it should be drawn to during the chat.
We were able to answer the majority of the questions in the time span allotted and continued the conversation afterwards. Community members who weren’t able to attend in real-time were able to join the conversation at their leisure.
We were excited to learn that during the event, the number of actions (likes and comments) increased by 120% vs. the average of most active times during the days preceding the event. During the week of the event, compared to the week before, the number of engaged users grew by 28%, the number of total actions grew by 61%, and events per engaged user grew by 26%. The residual effects were felt the week after the event — compared to the week prior to the event, engaged users grew by 15%, while total events grew by 43%, and events per engaged user grew 25%.
Check out the following thread analysis contributed by our community member Bruno Hülbüsch. It shows the multitudes of threads, and you can clearly see that each thread had 2 or more participants. The avatar in the middle, highlighted by a circle, is David Sacks.