The micro-blogging stream

As I mentioned in a recent post, we are using Yammer in our organization to share what we are doing with a geographically dispersed team. It started out really strong, but participation has fallen off somewhat, unfortunately. I am still hopeful that this will prove to be a worthwhile way of forging connections between dispersed co-workers, but I am worried that like so many of these sharing initiatives, it will just fizzle out.

Part of the problem is communicating the value to our colleagues who don’t want to just jump in and start participating. It is very hard to communicate the value of micro-blogging tools like Yammer and Twitter to people who aren’t using them. They tend to make fun: “Why do I care what someone had for lunch today?” I know I made lots of fun of Twitter before I started using it.

But when you do start using it, you do realize the value. I suspect the value is slightly different for everyone, again making it hard to communicate. But also it is rather Zen. It has to do with being in touch in a new way with the rest of the world and making unpredictable connections as a result.

There are two things I do know about using Twitter, Yammer or any similar type of social networking tool:

1) You can’t treat it like email. In other words, don’t even try to keep up with everything that is said. Instead, think of it like a constantly flowing stream. Every now and then, you dip your foot in the stream and see what’s happening. You are likely to find something of value then. But you can’t worry about all the stuff flowing by that you are missing because you are focusing on something else. This is the only way I know of to make these tools work for you, instead of adding just one more source of information overload.

2) You have to participate in the conversation. Sitting back and watching the stream flow by won’t cut it. The connections won’t form. When you take a moment to dip your foot in the stream, always say something. I have three suggestions for what to talk about:

  • Say what you are working on right now. Don’t worry that your activities are boring. Your co-workers or colleagues will likely be interested. At the very least, it reinforces connections between you and the people in your network.
  • Ask a question. You may be surprised who has the answer.
  • Share something you’ve learned or a great link or resource you’ve found. That may be just the thing that someone else in your network is looking for.

One response to “The micro-blogging stream”

  1. […] We are using a wiki for our Open Source development projects, but I don’t think we’re quite there on the collaboration aspect. Like all social media, a wiki becomes more worthwhile when more people participate meaningfully in it. But it is very difficult to communicate the value to someone who hasn’t participated in order to convince them to contribute. First, you have to do, and over time, you probably will come to know the value. This is similar to the value of micro-blogging, as I pointed out in an earlier post. […]

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