We call our Yammer network The Tent. The Tent has almost 9,500 users who are mostly lay and professional leaders from Reform Jewish congregations throughout North America. Our users visit The Tent to ask questions, to share information, to find expertise, and to connect with other leaders as a way to strengthen their congregation and to create community online.
Most days, The Tent serves as a nice way for our leaders to connect and share. Other days, The Tent is a necessary and vital way to keep our users informed and connected during times of emergency and concern. This week, The Tent has been necessary.
Utilizing the power, reach and immediacy of Yammer, people throughout our Movement were able to stay connected to vital information while southeast Texas was battered by Hurricane Harvey.
First, our Movement leaders posted in Yammer about the steps they were taking to stay in touch with congregations during the storm. These posts were accompanied by the topic #HurricaneHarvey.
Then, leaders from some of the affected congregations gave updates, shared reports and information they shared with their members. They also answered questions from people in other areas of the country. These posts were accompanied by the topic #HurricaneHarvey.
The URJ staff reviewed emergency response related documents in The Tent that would be helpful to congregations during the storm. These documents were accompanied by the topic #HurricaneHarvey.
With the simple inclusion of a number symbol followed by a few letters, an entire collection of information and conversations was created. In effect, we created our very own hurricane response website in a matter of moments.
When users click on the #HurricaneHarvey topic, they are brought to a webpage with the words “Hurricane Harvey” across the top. Below, there easy to see tabs that organize the information into conversations, files, images and videos. We did not have to pay programmers to create a new website, or graphic artists to create an eye catching design. All the content we want to share, all the vital information that members of our synagogues may want to see, can all be found in one place…one dynamically created website.
And we can do more.
If we want to connect users outside of The Tent to our #HurricaneHarvey information, every topic has a link, and that link can be shared on Facebook, in emails, on Twitter, anywhere that has a data entry field.
If we wanted our users to focus only on the files that were being shared, rather than all the conversation, we could click on the “FILES” tab, and then copy and share that URL. Based on the way we use our topics, we can connect users just to the specific collection of information we want them to see. In this case, I may very well want to share our emergency response plans with synagogues in the path of the storm.
Some may say that Yammer is not fancy, and it does not look contemporary, or even very attractive. But, what Yammer lacks in style, it makes up for in functionality, its ability to share information quickly, easily and directly.
Ultimately, there is only so much we can do to ease the suffering and concern of people experiencing a major storm event like Hurricane Harvey. But, we are a community, and that community is reflected online through a network like Yammer/The Tent. Our community works together when we can use our network as a way to collect necessary information, to give people a voice in looking for help or sharing concern, and to make the organization of that activity sensible and easy to navigate.
Maybe, in a way, the simple functionality and power of a hashtag can help.