As part of our latest study on Enterprise Social Networking we have looked into communication in groups. In our case study on Yammer at Deloitte Australia we have analysed communication in the thirteen most prolific groups, coded communication threads and carried out a cluster analysis to identify different types of groups. For the full analysis please download the full report.
We found four types of groups (see also figure below):
- Conversational groups (‘virtual water coolers’) contain a large share of threads in which individuals come together and discuss a certain topic. Therefore, threads are slightly longer compared to the other group types. While a variety of topics are covered, most of them are in some way work-related or specific to the case organisation. We conclude that this archetype resembles a form of ‘virtual water cooler’, where people meet to discuss a broad range of topical work-related issues with intermissions of the occasional non-work related discussion.
- Solution-oriented groups (‘innovation hot spots’) are characterised by lengthy conversations with a focus on problem-solving. Typically, users post a problem with related information and others reply, presenting their point of view of a possible solution or providing additional information that might be helpful. In addition users focus on innovation topics that are not directly related to the participants’ daily work, but due to the high interest in such topics, many people engage and provide new input, enabling to innovate on both internal processes or external markets and products.
- People-centred crowdsourcing groups (‘networks of expertise’) have ‘Idea generation’ as a distinctive characteristic. While ideas are not always actually generated on Yammer, discussants often contribute contact details of colleagues for others to seek their expert advice. Overall, we perceived that the more complex the topic, less idea generation takes place on the platform, but is met with useful references to colleagues.
- Information sharing groups (‘information streams’) are places for participants to share information of different kind, such as links to external web pages, figures, videos, animations and audio files. Participants post new and useful information for their colleagues. Content however is often not discussed or commented further, but sometimes enriched by context information.
Notably, all groups show a certain amount of information sharing. We assume that all group types tend to evolve from this initial archetype.