Feeding the Newsfeed

Ben Wilde, SharePoint Program Manager, discusses how to take advantage of SharePoint’s new Social features by posting rich messages to the newsfeed and making sure the right people see them.

Why Social?

I’ll admit it: when I started working on SharePoint’s social features, I didn’t understand the value and was worried that we’d be building something that distracted people from getting their work done.

As we near the end of the release, my view on what social features are and what value they bring couldn’t be more different. After I grab my morning coffee, the first thing that I do is bring up my Newsfeed to scope out what’s happening with my co-workers and projects, and to see what’s being discussed across the company. My Newsfeed gives me a sense of comfort, a reassuring feeling that I’m up-to-date on the things that I care about and the things that are happening around me. In fact, I love reading my new SharePoint Newsfeed so much that I already wrote a blog post that includes a description of how I use it. 

In addition to using the feed to see what others are saying and doing, it is also a valuable tool to proactively seek out new information. Who can I ask about upgrading from SharePoint 2010? Has anybody ever set up a SQL Server? Does anybody have any contacts on the Windows design team? Posts reach a large audience and I’ve found that I am usually able to get answers within minutes. I can also choose to have a conversation with a smaller group of people to discuss progress on a particular project.
I’ll use the rest of this post to talk about some of the rich ways that you can add new posts to the Newsfeed, and how you can take advantage of it to get your work done every day, whether you’re focus is on general sharing and discussion or on targeted collaboration.

Sharing with Everyone

When I navigate to my Newsfeed and make a post, by default, it will be visible to everyone at Microsoft. I’ve found that this is a key way to share broad information or to get difficult questions answered. The act of posting in the feed is simple and familiar (and we spent a lot of design time ensuring that this would be the case), but there are a few tricks to make sure that the right people are made aware of the post.
When I want to get someone’s attention in a post, I “@mention” that person. Almost every day, I see questions in the feed. I don’t always know the answer, but sometimes I know who does. I’ll often reply to a question, mentioning someone (by typing the @ sign in my reply) to make sure the question gets on their radar. This is still a public post but it appears in that person’s Mentions view and they’ll get an email to draw their attention to it.
Sometimes, when creating a post, I add a #tag to associate the post with a particular topic. As we’ve been building the feed, we’ve found (and fixed!) quite a few bugs. One common way that people report bugs is by posting in the feed with the tag #BugForThat, as in, “There’s a bug for that.” In addition to making it clear that someone’s found a bug, our team leaders can follow #BugForThat to see what’s broken as issues are reported. Or, they can click on #BugForThat and see all of the posts reporting issues. They also find it helpful when posts have screenshots and videos demonstrating a #BugForThat.
One last thing I want to mention is that, unlike other feeds I’ve used, posts that contain links to documents show a preview in the feed. Scanning this preview often this gives me enough information without opening the full version. How cool is that!?

Posting to Certain Groups of People

I love being able to post broad questions, but sometimes I want to have smaller, more private discussions. To do this, I use a Site Feed (just like it sounds, it’s like a Newsfeed, but on a site). Only people with access to that site can read it. Since this feed lives on a SharePoint site, we can also add other apps and functionality to the site to share documents, track tasks, etc. And the best part? If I follow those sites, all of the conversations that happen on them will be consolidated into my Newsfeed, so it truly does become a single place where I can find out about all the things I care about.

I’ve tuned in. You should too.

After using the Newsfeed every day for the past year, I can’t imagine getting work done without it. I’m way more informed at work than I’ve ever been before, and I feel empowered to get quick answers to my questions and feedback on ideas that I share. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the team that’s built such a great set of features which, contrary to my initial concerns, have proved to be a huge productivity boost for everyone who uses them.