This week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with Sarah Moran (@sarahmoran). As you will hear during this episode Sarah has a lot of experience building “physical communities” (… that sounds bad! I mean non-digital communities!) and translating that experience to build community around brands like Virgin Australia, Tourism Queensland and more. She is currently the Brand and Marketing Manager at a small but growing application development house called GO1.
In this episode Sarah shares with us some of the exciting, and challenging aspects of community management within a small but high growth and geographically dispersed organisaton – with the added complexity of language barriers in her Yammer network.
Links we discussed during The Yaminade this week…
- AduroLMS – the Learning Management System from Sarah’s employer GO1
- The Yammer Customer Success Center
- The Best Job in the World campaign from Tourism Queensland
- Virgin Australia (@virginaustralia)
- Tourism Victoria (@melbourne)
Remember… it is episode one – I haven’t got to the funky podcast opening and closing music yet so please enjoy The Yaminade in it’s rawest form!
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Transcript of Episode 1 of The Yaminade
Paul: Today we’re talking to Sarah Moran, our very first guest on The Yaminade so thanks for joining us. If you’re in Australia, Sarah has a bit of an online presence, she’s been around the online management troughs in the online community If you’re so we can get some perspective on what you’re about to share with us?
Sarah: I’m a digital native and lover of all things Internet. But also offline I’ve done a lot of community initiatives. In 2008, did you know, Paul, I was Queensland’s Young Volunteer of the Year?
Paul: Oh congratulations!
Sarah: Thank you, it’s a little feather in my cap there! I think I took my love of building community offline and saw the potential that the Internet had for building community online and how you could build global communities or niche interest communities so I very early got on board with doing that.
Paul: Very good. You’ve worked some pretty amazing brands and amazing campaigns like Virgin Australia and Tourism Queensland
Sarah: Yeah, being able to apply community management in a marketing sense and getting people excited about an idea or concept or place really sparked my interest early. I was Virgin Australia’s first Social Media Manager and was able to build up the online communities for Virgin Australia and Virgin Blue back in the day. I was one of the first full-time Social Media Managers but I would also say Community Managers employed full-time for the brand. After that I was lucky enough to take part in Tourism Queensland’s best job –
Paul: A lot of people listening internationally might not have heard of that one –
Sarah: it’s funny the people you meet and they say “oh you live in Queensland, they have good jobs there, right?”
Paul: That was me!
Sarah: I went a whirlwind tour of the world in 12 days as part of that, building social media content about random hotel rooms in Japan at all hours of the evening… then I went on to work for Tourism Victoria I was @Melbourne on Twitter which was quite a privilege
Paul: And a responsibility
Sarah: Yeah I reckon! The hipsters will have you if you’ll mess with their brand! And being able to build up that content there and that community of people across Facebook and Twitter and a variety of other places. My favourite was YouTube, and I think that that’s something that I think a lot of Community Managers, even now, haven’t fallen in love with in the way I’d like to see.
Paul: And not just externally but internally too, how do you share those stories that occur within your organisation
Sarah: Well when you talk about internal management, there was this funny sort of thing that happened as Social Media Manager, people look to you for being the tech innovation and people want to apply these things internally as much as externally, even in terms of policy, people say “can I share this on Facebook or will I get in trouble?” [laughs]
Paul: Exactly. Policy is one of those things we get a lot of questions about. What is the right policy to place and then more importantly how do we reduce that between policy and practice. It’s all very well having a policy but if you don’t follow it or it’s not something people can understand and it can’t be execute on, it’s going to be a challenge!
Sarah: It’s one of those funny things that unless I’m friends with that person on Facebook I don’t know that they’ve posted it but how nice is it that they want to post about work to their friends and family.
Paul: Yeah, it’s a place that people want to work!
Sarah: I’ve been very privileged to be able to work with a number of high-profile brands and at the same time, given that the roles will always be innovative, be able to apply them externally and internally.
Paul: Brilliant. The focus of this podcast is about internal community management, though you can use Yammer to build external communities, which is probably a discussion for another day. Talk me through your current role and some of the things you’re trying to achieve with GO1, which I’m sure you’ll talk about in a second and look at how you’re trying to build a community within that community by using the tools that are available to you.
Sarah: At the minute I’m working as Director of Marketing for GO1 and we build a number of different Enterprise products but we are also massive users of Office 365. When I introduced the CEO to Yammer, he wanted to do it for a while but he didn’t have the capacity to champion it as a natural Community Manager, and I’m a natural Community Manager.
Sarah: In fact I made a vow to myself that I won’t work for a company if they don’t use Yammer as it’s very reflective of them. If the group of people working there haven’t demanded it, then it’s not the place for me. We have offices across Australia and across the world. Being able to community globally within a company is 1) very important and 2) very exciting, to be able to get real-time ideas on feedback or marketing concepts means I’m not in a silo as the Marketing Director, everyone can contribute to ideas and make them better which has been really amazing to see.
Paul: It’s intereting. You talk about being a global organisation, where are your offices located?
Sarah: Vietnam, San Francisco, we’ve got a couple of offices in Australia and we’re about to open up in the UK.
Paul: So obviously there’s a big language barrier between San Francisco and Australia, with Australian English and American English and the z’s and s’s, but the interesting one for me is Vietnam. There’s obviously a language barrier there. How did you go about creating or engaging a community when English isn’t their first language?
Sarah: One of the best things for us is encouraging people to talk with photos and animated gifs which are the universal language of the Internet.
Paul: Cats and gifs, yeah!
Sarah: That has really helped us engage. What we didn’t have before we started our Yammer network was, you know, that you might see a name in an email but you might not have any awareness of who they are as a human that you’re working with. So we were able to empower them to share as they would and without policy. I live in the privileged world of start-ups and policy comes second! [laughs]
Paul: We’ll worry about that later
Sarah: We were able to build up this sense of engagement through logos and other language that isn’t just words. Also we brought on a team member who enthusiastically, if necessary, would translate. For us, that was really good as we don’t speak Vietnamese. But to know that there is that same amount of love going into messages and translations was really good.
Paul: Very good. From a global perspective that’s really interesting. The other angle I’d love to explore is building community within a start-up or within a small team. I’m assuming in the start-up world the team would be pretty close already, is that generally the case?
Sarah: That’s probably the biggest hurdle you face when you bring on new team members. Once you’ve hired all your friends [laughs] you need to reach outside that for certain skill-sets, We’ve definitely gone through that organisationally of, “ok we need to grow our capacity, so how do you, in a start-up, bring on new team members without a formal induction process?” so we use hashtags to say “oi newbie, look over here”
Sarah: and that’s great because in an organisation you should only have to answer a question once. That’s how I feel about Yammer and it’s biggest value for me is that I can answer a question once in one place and know that it lives there and people can just search. Like “oh how do I fix the printer?” “I’m sure the printer has been broken before”.
Paul: The printer’s always broken anyway!
Sarah: Internal search for that person. So they don’t have that inhibition around asking questions because if they’re asking a question, we know that they’ve checked to see if it’s been asked before so they shouldn’t feel bad.
Paul: Have you put anything formally around that process, like a note which points people to what they need to look at first or is it still pretty organic?
Sarah: It’s reasonably organic, except there is one post that I created as an intentional get started post. It goes “here’s the software we use and here is how we use it” because software these days has multiple functionalities. But the culture within an organisation determines how technology tends to be used.
Paul: Technology isn’t deterministic, it’s how you adopt company engagement that makes the real difference.
Sarah: Exactly, and I’m like “this is what we use for internal chat and this is where this lives” so that is a pinned post, so people check that post first and if people feel the need to add something to it they can
Paul: It’s interesting. Something that we get questions around all the time is “I’ve got Yammer, I’ve got Salesforce Chatter, I’ve got Link through Office 365, I’ve got email, I’ve got Sharepoint and I’m supposed to be doing something with Sharepoint, I’ve got some Atlassian product that I’m supposed to be doing something with this as well, I’ve got Whatsapp, Cotap, which one do I use when?” is one of those things that people struggle to navigate. Even with that guidance, is that solving the problem for people or are people still having the challenge of wondering which tool to use when?
Sarah: I think that will always be a problem when a program can do more than one thing or there’s more than one product to do one thing and that’s ok but where it covers the gap is “in my old organisation I used this like this, in your organisation, how do you use it?” so even if people are familiar with the products, it just gives them a bit of a roadmap to say “in this organisation, this is the lay of the land” and as we bring more people in, we’re getting more insights on how to use these products better
Paul: New blood brings in new experience.
Sarah: That feedback loop that can sit in Yammer.
Paul: As we kinda opened with, you’ve been on the scene for a little bit and you’ve explored different organisations. Because you’re a name that a lot of people are familiar with from people who are just starting out how they build engagement within their own networks. What are the kind of questions you get and what are the 30-seconds-or-less answers that you give people so you can move on with your day?
Sarah: I think one of the big things is “how do I start?” because people have this fear that they don’t want to get egg on their faces if it goes wrong. “I want to champion this, it’s got my name on it, how do I not stuff it up?” and one of the things I really recommend is to have a pre-planned core group of users to start off with, people who are happy to get going. So start small and then build it out. One of the organisations I worked for when we launched our Yammer network, you know how you can add contracts from your address book and invite them all, that happened and I was like “no, it’s too soon!” [laughs] but it came from a very senior person so what it accidentally did was add this clout to it.
Paul: Executive sponsorship!
Sarah: Exactly! So he accidentally championed it which was great
Paul: best Manager ever! [laughs]
Sarah: I was like “Thanks, my record might have increased slightly now that we have 300 users!” What else? Probably just about how to maintain community within a formal organisational structure. “But we’re so conservative.” And you say “but how awesome is it that you have a space to not be” and you can give people permission to share beyond… like an email is so formal and it’s great is it to liberate people from that?
Paul: One of the things that I have seen within our organisation but also with customers is executives at the top of organisations definitely see the benefit in it: breaking down silos, giving people an opportunity to voice opinions and ideas and let them surface to people who can make a difference, people on the ground love it because they feel more connected. The people that absolutely hate it with a passion are Middle Managers as their primary role is to manage communication up and down the chain. The forward-thinking Middle Managers use it to their advantage to maintain control and elevate their position in the organisation from a perception point of view or connect with people to get things done. But there’s this middle management layer which feels a loss of control when it comes to it. I think for me that’s one of the biggest – the question I get is “I wonder how you get that middle management to want to participate and let go of control of communication within the team and then if I get egg on my face, I’m waiting for that next job when my manager dies or moves on…”
Sarah: It’s funny how that’s applied, they think “if I don’t use it, it won’t happen”, it’s like “no sorry, this has already happened, are you coming?” And that’s ok, but what I tend to do or recommend people do is have offline conversations about it. Then it tends to happen via social pressure. But it’s funny when those people come across to the dark side, they become “oh I get it now!” and I’m like “I’m glad you’re there”
Paul: “what were you scared of?” It’s the fear of the unknown and no matter how much you try and talk to people about the value of it, it’s not until they see it and get their hands dirty, I think that’s the “aha” moment. We get questions around security, “what kind of things should we be posting, what shouldn’t we be posting?” is there any guidance you’d like to give?
Sarah: It’s not what should or shouldn’t we do, but what if someone posts something bad. And that’s difficult because it’s covered in every other policy. Like, you know it’s covered in Sexual Harassment, etc. Just because the system has created a different system, it doesn’t mean your system of communications changes.
Paul: If someone said that at the water cooler, the same rules apply, right?
Sarah: I think it was The ABC adopted a 4 line social media policy and the essence of it is actually one like and it’s “don’t be dumb!”
Paul: Exactly, “your name is on this!”
Sarah: Yeah, I was like “don’t be an idiot, and you’ll be fine!”
Paul: I don’t know if that keeps the lawyers happy though, that’s a challenge!
Sarah: And it doesn’t stop the idiots!
Paul: I like the approach. The policy already exists, how do you communicate within a brand and external communication, it’s all there…
Sarah: Tone of voice is within the style guide…
Paul: Interesting… That’s something I’d never thought about before, as when you’re thinking of policy, I thought about external use of IT as a policy as a go-to, but there are always policies there that are already in place
Sarah: It’s not the first time two humans have had a conversation.
Paul: Actually it might be depending on who you have at work [laughs] because it gives people a voice who’ve never had a voice before, that man in the mailroom in the basement, he’s finally got the chance to talk to someone.
Sarah: [laughs] yeah and how awesome is that, that people can buy into the bigger vision of the company that they can go home and be like “what happened at work today?” “Well actually we just released a new product and all these people are using it and I contributed to that.”
Paul: And be part of the team. One of the questions that a lot of people have is when they’re starting out on this “that’s all very well and good, but what’s the ROI… how do we get a return on this? We’ve got to spend money on a platform, whether it’s Yammer or something else, we’ve got to spend money, potentially, hopefully on community management to put someone in a full-time or part-time capacity to manage this thing and nurture this thing, that’s going to cost us money. How do we calculate the return that we’re going to get by using this tool?”
Sarah: I struggle with that one as I don’t work with organisations who don’t get the value of accelerating the way in which we get things done. For me, I can get things done quicker and that’s the Return on Investment. One thing we don’t measure is how many emails people check and the time spent archiving or filing emails.
Paul: Most of it is boring stuff that doesn’t need responding to.
Sarah: Yeah, and for me Yammer allows me the massive opportunity to not to send a group email, so straight up that’s 5, 6, 10, 100 inboxes that don’t take the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 seconds to read and delete
Paul: and then the 15 minute cognitive lag when you’ve thought about something else and can’t get back on track.
Sarah: Exactly, and we’re not measuring that at the moment anyway so I can’t say “you’ll save this off your bottom line” but you will get things done more efficiently and more intelligently. Getting the right information at the right time, how do you measure that? At the moment we don’t but one day we will. So I’m like “hmm sorry, you don’t get it!” I avoid those questions.
Paul: Fair enough. It’s interesting that all the points you make there are pretty spot-on. A lot of the stuff people want to measure in Yammer, we don’t actually measure today: we don’t measure engagement. Some people try to in satisfaction surveys “would you recommend this place as a great place to work? Do you like the way we communicate?” and you get an arbitrary measure like “last year we were 4.23 now we’re 4.25” it doesn’t really mean anything!
Sarah: It feels good!
Paul: From a platform point of view, you’re not really talking about much money to put this technology lubricant into an organisation that will help connect people and understand their context or expertise and how you can apply their skills to help solve your problem or vice versa… all that qualitative stories that you pick up within organisations about how this tool has changed the way we have done something or helped us get a deal that we were never going to get before or help bring a product to market to solve a problem we didn’t know existed before someone in the network thought about it, explored it and we took it to market as a commercial product.
Sarah: and that’s the thing on ROIs is that they often look backwards because they go “this is what we have spent and then we spent this, what was the difference?” Well actually, if having a network of people that can talk to each other allows a sale that never would have otherwise been a discussion point come into being, where does that get measured, how does that get captured?
Paul: Profit line [laughs]
Sarah: I don’t know if that’s the best place to measure [laughs]
Paul: It’s all about people’s satisfaction and all that kind of stuff. Irrespective of whether you’re a commercial organisation like yours or mine or government agency or a non-profit, all those things apply. Even in a non-profit sense, if you go back to your volunteer experience and connect volunteers and share experiences so you’re not wasting volunteer time –
Sarah: It’s incredible, if they have a high level of engagement they will come back. “I didn’t feel like I just wasted my time, these people valued my time, I will volunteer for them again”.
Paul: I was volunteer in the Queensland State Emergency Services for five years and we had a good in-person community within our group, but there were other experiences that people were exposed to in other depots or regions around the state. Having a tool like this would have been so good from a learning example so we could learn from others. For example if a group of people who have just been to a motor crash, we could learn from the complex problem of getting someone out of the car and into the ambulance and it could be really good from two points of view. One is the decompression in getting it all out and reflecting. But doesn’t have to be a motor accident, it could be that tender presentation that you just lost or you just won! How do you decompress from that, how do you share the learnings from that with your team or organisation? Irrespective of what company you’re in, there’s a much bigger value in play here within the organisation… I’m trying to think what else we can talk about. This is the first one, so it’s been a bit rough but I think we’re getting there which is good!
Sarah: No, it’s great! I think what’s next in terms of community management internally… Yammer is now a purchase-based, it’s been purchased by Microsoft, it’s now mainstream –
Paul: it’s not cool anymore.
Sarah: No, it’s all good, “you’ve still got it guys, I love you” but I guess now it’ll be great to see what happens in a post-Yammer world. I’m really excited to see what kind of applications will come out of it. For us, now that we use Yammer every day, we’re conscious of what that does for our products. “well you know, if you can do this in Yammer, why can’t you do it in a LMS or CRM”, but the platform will allow us to have many different ways of communicating incorporated into our products
Paul: We’re seeing that with Microsoft as well. Yammer was sitting there on the side but now it’s integrated into more and more platforms, whether it’s shared online or Dynamics CRM or whatever the product is, there’ll be some sort of Yammer hook where you can take whatever you’re working on, that content, and get it into the community as a contextual conversation, irrespective of the platform and that’s the exciting thing. I think it’s going to happen not just in Yammer networks or Microsoft products, but through other products as well around the world. It’s really interesting.
Sarah: It’s exciting!
Paul: I think a good question to close on is: if you’re starting out, what are the three things that you would focus on to help take you from zero to a growing, well-engaged network?
Sarah: The first thing that I would do is to know that it will take time. You don’t start a network overnight, so being able to say “I’m going to commit to this for X period of time, be it one month or three or six” and know that’s the investment you’re going to put in up-front before you will see the results. The second tip, as I mentioned earlier, is this idea of a few people who are on your side who you can say to “I’m going to do this, here’s what you need to do to spark conversation and make this thing come alive”. And the third thing is, don’t give up! So that goes back to number one. But do keep at it and know that it will pay off and will pay off in unexpected ways, that’s the best bit. You can predict that something will happen and you can also predict that you don’t know what that something is, and that’s pretty great!
Paul: Thank you for joining us on our very first episode of The Yaminade. Plug time, if people want to listen to Sarah Moran, where can we find you?
Sarah: Aduro is Latin for “flame”.
Paul: Beautiful, I’ll put a link on the podcast if people didn’t catch that. Thanks Sarah
Sarah: Thanks for having me!