I’ve been systems administrator and community manager for my company’s Yammer network for about two years now, and I’d like to briefly share what I’ve learned and experienced from this product so far. For those not familiar with Yammer, its social platform designed for companies to communicate, discuss, and share knowledge internally. The concept and interface is very much like Facebook and functions around a central “all company” news feed where staff post and share information that broadcasts to the whole office network. To foster discussions among specialized groups and communities of practice, staff can even create their own groups to have more targeted interactions without clogging up the all company feed. Most important of all, all public posts and discussions are fully searchable, creating a company repository of all things worth knowing, sharing, and learning about. Yes, it is used by staff for borderline activities such as helping their children sell girl scout cookies and everything in between, but the one valuable thing about Yammer is that it creates unique and critical content. But of course this content creation does not happen overnight and requires consistent messaging and coaching with staff to help understand the value of Yammer. I’ve tried many strategies and found that the highest participation and adoption came when mandates were slowly introduced, paired with clear communication of expectations, and the tangible benefits to the end user. After all, people are only going to use company-based systems if: a) they are forced to; or b) if they find value. With the latter, it’s often orchestrating conditions where unique or critical content is being leveraged.
After managing this social platform for two years, many of our goals are finally being realized:
-To build discourse in the office
-To channel our collective knowledge
-To create collective awareness of projects
-To share ideas and techniques.
-Connect people and resources.
-Prevent knowledge from getting lost in emails
I’m ecstatic to see these results trending upwards, and have a few pieces of advice for those wondering how to keep building a social community:
1. Use analytics to inform your assumptions on adoption. Yammer has an excellent analytics dashboard to help measure and quantify adoption and engagement. I can see what topics are being discussed and created, and even see what types of information users are searching for. Make decisions based on what’s happening, and understand that it’s a long term project in content building.
2. Positive reinforcement. I’ve hosted “The Yammies”, where we reward users who have posted great examples of knowledge sharing, social engagement, good inquiry.
3. Help curate and manage the tagging process. All posts can be tagged with topics to help organize ideas and aid in maximum retrievability and searching. Stay on top of this by helping staff understand the importance of metadata and maintaining threads.
4. Aim for a healthy distribution of content. If you’re posting tons of content and announcements daily as community manager and dominating the feeds, it’s time to think about distributing the messaging responsibilities. Delegate posting duties to as many different people as possible, and at the same time be the first to tell people that an email chain or in person discussion should instead be a Yam. Lead by example and coach up.
5. Identify champions. Sense of ownership and place is very important for users to feel safe and welcome in posting and participating in these communities. 80% of content created will come from 10-20% of your staff, so it’s important to encourage and nurture these early adopters and champions and make sure they are also leading by example.
6. Make Yammer fun! Post pictures, videos, and other media from company events and office parties and softball games. You’ll know you’ve made it when there’s a 75 person thread discussion debating BBQ techniques.