It’s been more than 10 years since Yammer came onto the scene as one of the first enterprise social networks (believe us, we’ve been there since the beginning!). You’ve probably heard of it. Maybe you’ve even used it. And if you’re reading this blog post, it’s likely that you have a Microsoft O365 Enterprise license, but might not be sure whether Yammer is a good fit for your organization’s internal communication and recognition efforts today. Advertisements for newer enterprise social network platforms have you intrigued. Do companies really find value in Yammer in 2020? And, what about Teams?
Take it from us, Yammer is without a doubt still relevant in 2020. Talk Social to Me has been helping companies deploy enterprise social networks, like Yammer, for more than a decade, and we’ve heard quite a few rumors, falsehoods, and assumptions about Yammer over the years. Communication friends, it’s time for us to clear the air and give you our insider’s point of view about what’s real – and what’s not – in the world of Yammer.
Yammer Myth #1 – “Yammer is out of date, and Microsoft isn’t investing in it further.”
First, a bit of history: Before Microsoft acquired Yammer for more than a billion dollars (yes, that’s billion with a B), it was a standalone product built by a company called Geni. From 2011-2013, Yammer kept its own identity under the Microsoft battle cry of “Go Yammer!”, but it was rolled into larger Microsoft subscription bundles in 2014. For the next two years, people were concerned about Yammer – and for good reason. Microsoft made some missteps. As competition increased in the collaboration market, Microsoft quickly re-focused its attention on making Yammer an integral part of the O365 suite in 2016.
If you haven’t been keeping up with headlines, Microsoft continues to improve Yammer and keep it competitive with comparable products. Microsoft deemed 2020 the #YearofYammer leading up to its Ignite conference in November 2019. A complete overhaul of Yammer will transform the product into the tool for internal communications we knew it could be. New features include an improved mobile experience, pinned posts, branding opportunities, and more. Let’s not forget about live and on-demand events, and question and answer capabilities, as announced in 2018.
As a Yammer Adoption Specialist partner, Talk Social to Me gets regular updates about the product and roadmap. If we weren’t confident in the trajectory of Yammer, we wouldn’t be writing this article right now (or encouraging clients to stay the course). Yammer is here to stay, and we’re excited for its continued evolution.
Yammer Myth #2 – “We have Teams, so we don’t need Yammer.”
We feel you on this one. Teams and Yammer have similar – and have sometimes-redundant capabilities. Hear us out: that doesn’t mean that Yammer doesn’t have a place at your organization. The essence of each platform is inherently different. To help reduce confusion, you need a formal communications strategy that maps out which tool to use when.
In brief, Teams is great for day-to-day communication, transactional chats, and quick decision-making among a small group of four to eight people. We like to ask clients – “Is what you’re saying or asking right now something that could disappear at the end of the day, and you’d be OK? Then it can go on Teams.” Yammer is intended to be a place for breaking down silos and building long-standing, time-tested conversations. It’s where the frontline worker sees the human side of the CEO. It’s where employees, regardless of location or department, can connect on global issues that impact their organization globally. This is done within open or closed groups where threads are highly searchable (a functionality that is more difficult to execute in Teams.) Both can operate together in harmony at your organization, as Microsoft intended. But it does require a strategy and most importantly, helping your employees to understand which tool is right for the job.
Yammer Myth #3 – “If I launch Yammer, employees will participate.”
Promoting Yammer on your organization’s SharePoint page might get some employees to log into Yammer… when they see something that piques their interest. If Yammer is just another channel, are employees really going to return to the platform regularly, without an inherent reason?
You need to help those who are day-to-day people managers to transition their actual daily work and communications onto the platform. Create and shape use cases before you launch the platform; this is the single most effective way ensure the Yammer momentum keeps going. Be sure to talk to your employees, too. Learn what it’s like to operate a day in their shoes before pushing a new platform. How you present and market Yammer to your employees matters.
For Communicators, this often means building some structure into the handful of spaces you’ll use for company news and executive conversations, but not over-architecting the collaborative spaces that working groups use.
We advocate for a brick-by-brick approach to rolling out Yammer. The correct sequence of events and use of language during implementation can make or break employee buy-in to the platform.
Yammer Myth #4 – “Our leaders don’t have time for Yammer.”
It’s a common answer, but we beg to differ. Effective leadership engagement on Yammer doesn’t have to take a lot of time – we oftentimes coach C-level leaders about how to spend “the cracks of their day” on a train, between meetings, and in line to be active on Yammer. And, SWOOP Analytics found that a successful leader’s actions on Yammer boiled down to just four strategic interactions (reply, @ mention, etc.) per working day. The study found the posting of new content averaged just 2 posts every 3 weeks.
Keep in mind, when we say “leader,” he or she doesn’t have to be in the C-suite. Engagement from relevant, functional leaders (think directors and VPs), on Yammer is critical to unlocking full business benefits. To ensure their posts and interactions on Yammer are strategic, we recommend a customized coaching session with your leader. Even if your leader is active on external platforms, like LinkedIn, we suggest sitting down for a Yammer-specific session. Communicating authentically to your employees is a different skillset than a public post on Twitter. (Just say no to ghostwriting. Employees can smell inauthenticity a mile away.)
Yammer Myth #5 – “We don’t need a community manager. IT can just manage Yammer themselves.”
We’ve worked with numerous organizations where those implementing Yammer thought this could be the case, but eventually, they recognized that community management was not in their wheelhouse. Yammer shouldn’t fall on the list of miscellaneous duties that IT (or any single department for that matter) is responsible for managing. A cross-functional operations excellence committee that advocates both for your employees and the leadership during the implementation journey should manage Yammer. This way, you can ensure that Yammer – and all your Microsoft 365 applications – can reap the most business value for your organization.
Yammer is Microsoft’s way of helping enterprises connect people to people, and people to information, in a single online space. It’s not going away anytime soon, and it’s not the same as Teams. Yammer is relevant today, but just as with any enterprise social network, you will need a strategy, leadership engagement, and a community manager to reap the most business value.
GIF sourced from giphy.com