Working as a Network – Yammer as a Distribution Group

Editor’s note: In partnership with Microsoft Press, MVPs have been contributing to an ongoing guest series on their official team blog. Today’s article is from Office 365 MVP Darrell Webster which is the 46th in the series.  

We have a number of communication tools available to us now via the different Microsoft platforms and services. Many of us belong to multiple email distribution groups and receive messages from them daily. Distribution groups are used for group communications, notifications, reporting and asking for help "to find those lost keys".

In this blog post, I take a look at Yammer, the Enterprise Social communication platform. I discuss briefly how communication differs from that of email. But then I introduce a few steps to help us get the best of both, using Yammer via email and through conversation posts on the Yammer website. We can make Yammer behave like a Distribution Group.

Yammer can be most simply described as a private collection of places for conversation for your organisation. Conversations are in a forum format. The different places for conversation are called Yammer Groups. The collection of groups are called a Yammer network.  

Conversations are most commonly started by visiting a Yammer group from your web browser and posting a conversation in the group’s conversation feed. It is very much like posting the start of a conversation or a question on a forum. People reply to the posts and to each other's replies.

Groups in a Yammer network can be Public or Private.

  • If a group is public:
    • Anyone in the Yammer network can join it.
    • Conversations and posts to the group are open to the rest of that Yammer network.
  • If a group is private:
    • Members need to be invited to join the group. Others can request to join, but won't be given access until a group admin grants membership to the group.
    • Conversations and posts are kept within the group. They are not visible to the rest of that Yammer network.


Email distribution groups that use Microsoft Exchange can also be configured as Public or Private. These are Open or Closed distribution groups. Most distribution groups are created as closed groups. Members can only be added to the distribution group if an admin adds the member. But the lesser used Open distribution group allows people to discover the group from the Global Address List and join the group.

The main difference between a distribution group and a Yammer group is the discoverability of conversations.

  • Email distribution groups - You will only receive a conversation if you are a member of the group at the time the message was sent. Only members of the group will receive messages. Depending on how long they have been a member and how they organise their email, they will have a history of conversations.
  • Yammer groups - Conversations are kept in one place, discoverable by all who have access to the group. Conversations can be discovered more easily because of the open nature of a forum. The Yammer newsfeed on the home page of the network will display new conversations or replies as they are posted. It's very easy to read something new and join the conversation. Conversations can be tagged with a topic, making them even easier to discover in a search.

Conversations in Yammer can be more easily discovered and joined than conversations sent via a Distribution List.

We can access Yammer via a web browser and the Yammer app for mobiles and tablets. But one very useful way to keep in communication with your group’s conversations is through use of email notifications. If you have posted a reply to a conversation, you will receive an email when others post their responses. When you reply to the Yammer email notification, your reply is added to the conversation thread in the website.
The added benefit of Yammer email notifications is that you can access Yammer from any device where you can email from.

Click here to continue reading full article


About the author

Darrell is a Training Specialist for His key interest is helping businesses and schools to understand how to effectively use Office 365 online services, to work from anywhere using mobility, device and cloud technologies. He focuses on getting the knowledge to the end user, so they can make the most of the tools they have available. Darrell says "with a name like Webster, I was born to work with online services."  Find more great Office 365 and Yammer articles on his blog or follow him on Twitter 

About MVP Mondays

The MVP Monday Series is created by Melissa Travers. In this series we work to provide readers with a guest post from an MVP every Monday. Melissa is a Community Program Manager, formerly known as MVP Lead, for Messaging and Collaboration (Exchange, Lync, Office 365 and SharePoint) and Microsoft Dynamics in the US. She began her career at Microsoft as an Exchange Support Engineer and has been working with the technical community in some capacity for almost a decade. In her spare time she enjoys going to the gym, shopping for handbags, watching period and fantasy dramas, and spending time with her children and miniature Dachshund. Melissa lives in North Carolina and works out of the Microsoft Charlotte office.



Comments (2)

  1. Smartmil_Toys says:

    Nice article that mirrors my assessment.

    The largest issue in my opinion is educating users on the appropriate tool. Microsoft has released a number of collaboration tools that overlap greatly and differ only slightly from each other.

    I feel like some of the more recent releases around social or collaboration are technology for the sake of technology without a solid use-case behind them.

  2. Smartmil_Toys says:

    Good news for me!

    Thanks to author…

Skip to main content