Yammer Is What You Make Of It

Full disclosure: I’m the Yammer network admin for our employee network and two external networks, and am part of at least eight other external networks and groups. We’re a Microsoft shop and use O365, so Yammer being an integrated part of that is a no-brainer for our company.

There are a few points I saw about Yammer that I wanted to address.

Social network?

I realize that Yammer calls itself a social network and this term is listed as a “pro” in this list, but that term can carry too much stigma, the ever-present bugbear of “you have too much time on your hands” or inundation by cat video.

I don’t call Yammer a social network, because it isn’t. Sure, conversations happen, just the way they do when you get people together in person. But that’s a byproduct of what has proved to be a rich and fertile professional development network — both inside and out.

The main purpose I see it used for is learning. Call it collaboration, call it any lucrative word you want. What’s going on is your colleagues, from executive level to intern, are coming together in this shared space to make what they do better, stronger, and more efficient through a variety of ways.

And, in the process, find out about each other in ways that help all of us desk jockeys see each other as people, not just titles.

Yammer facilitates all this. But it doesn’t do it alone. So that brings me to the point about “Keeping Up” as listed under the Cons.

Keeping Up With The Joneses

Look, any network with more than one person in it is going to get loud, even if it’s just words in your own head. It’s going to get busy.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t manageable and that’s where, like with any community, online or off, you need strong leaders. People take their tone from the top. You get a good community manager or team in there to guide, train, and shape, you’ll get far fewer complaints about perceived busyness and confusion.

I have no anecdotal complaints about search not working well for people; either no one is telling me it isn’t, or it’s fine, or it’s somewhere in between. I like it. I can find more than I asked for, sure, but I do find what I’m looking for.

Controls. ←this is a big one

“The openness of Yammer often scares organizations who do not want users to be able to post for everyone to see. There is still no ability for a user to flag/report a thread much like other social networks.”

This is far more serious and has little to nothing to do with Yammer or any other online community at all. If you are an organization that does not encourage open collaboration, does not want people to feel able to share ideas and impressions, does not want people to step out of their roles, and fears hearing that *gasp* maybe not everyone is happy with the status quo, then no, you’re not going to like Yammer.

Providing a place for your people to talk pays off. You can do something with shouts. You can’t do anything with whispers. You’ll just be wondering why there’s high turnover or disgruntled faces.


What I’m Really Saying With All This Is…

Yammer does work, but you have to work with it.

Pressing play won’t make this run smoothly. It takes a dedicated person or team who knows what they’re doing. It also takes time.

At first, we too experienced the “Just another IT thing” and “I don’t know what to click when” and “I don’t have time to go to yet another place” talk. That was good. That’s how you help people find reasons to try it despite themselves. That’s how you find out how to meet people on their own terms.

I’ve seen our company culture evolve for the positive. We went from “Just another IT thing” to “I’ll put this on Yammer so everyone can benefit.”

I’ve also seen our customers latch on to their own Yammer community and absolutely thrive — they get to compare training strategies, get micro-learning opportunities, get help from someone who went through exactly what they’re going through now, share challenge-to-success stories, and more. It’s fabulous, for them and for us.

And nah, this isn’t a magic wand. Nothing is. Network admins see the seamy underbelly of this product just like with anything else.

But we keep using it and promoting it because you know what? We see positive results. We measure success. We see the story of our company unfold.

It may be anecdotal, but I’m still going to say it because I feel it (and I’ve got the data to back it up): Yammer is for organizations who want to be not just good, but great.

Now go read Mel’s post about it for additional insight.

I’m a children’s book author, online community manager, and a Microsoft MVP x6. Hi there! http://beckybenishek.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/beckybenishek/

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