Ten Yammer mistakes to avoid

Are you using Yammer inside your organisation? Would you like to know some mistakes to avoid?

I’ve been writing about using social media for internal communication on my blog since March 2009.

I asked my network via Twitter whether this would be a valuable article to write and you said yes. So here goes…

I’ve spotted so many mistakes over the years, so based on your feedback, I thought I’d collate some to share with you. I’d love to know yours, feel free to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

New to Yammer? Let’s just bust some jargon and provide clarity…

Yammer is owned by Microsoft and was one of the first Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs). It’s now part of Office 365 and makes it easy to share, create, and edit content (you can even do so in their app). Every group within Yammer gets a shared set of resources to manage documents, showcase content, share notes, and organise responsibilities.

Microsoft say 85% of Fortune 500 companies collaborate with Yammer.

Are you? How are you using it?

Intelligence from the Microsoft Graph enhances your ability to search for people, files, groups and conversations. We’re going to hear more about this over time, but if you have Office 365, check out Delve. You can now easily integrate Yammer across your sites and video broadcasts to keep the conversation going as you move across your organisation and experiences.

Microsoft state it: “helps you improve engagement with everyone in your organisation through social networking. Enhance communication to build a culture of transparency, keeping everyone from leadership to Firstline Workers informed, aligned, and moving forward. Build communities of interest to bring people together around shared topics, interests, or areas of practice. Gather ideas and feedback from across your network of colleagues to build on the work of others and achieve better outcomes.”

Have you seen the new Yammer logo? Microsoft recently unveiled some new look Office icons:

Here’s the list of ten Yammer mistakes to avoid. In no particular order, they are:

Ten Yammer mistakes to avoid

1) Thinking about Yammer as a Comms channel. It’s not.

Yammer generates conversations owned by the organisation. Not IT, not HR, not Comms. You maybe involved in setting it up, but if you merely use it as a broadcast tool, you are missing a huge trick.

It can certainly be a fantastic place to curate conversations and encourage employees to discuss what is going on inside the organisation, but just viewing it as a Comms channel means you miss the vibrancy and connections that come when you nurture the community.

2) The Comms team are the most active users

For Yammer to really work and be embedded in an organisation, employees need to see the value in it for themselves. Therefore having the Comms team or IT team as the most active users can signify that’s not happening. If it’s your names on that list – and remaining on that list – there’s more work to be done.

3) Not encouraging the community

When looking to increase adoption of Yammer, encourage the most active users to continue doing what they’re doing. Why are employees using it?

Your internal case studies are the ones that will resonate with employees – how are their peers using Yammer?

What value are they getting from Yammer? Take that insight and share it across the organisation to help role model behaviour.

I’ve written many times about the power of peer-to-peer communication, it is way more powerful than finding a generic case study. Seeing people your employees recognise talking about how your internal social network is helping them solve problems is far more compelling than an article by the Comms team or a case study from another company.

Tip: Consider having community managers or content champions who can encourage the behaviours you wish to cultivate in your organisation.

4) Not signposting to Yammer from Comms channels

Yammer may not be a Comms channel, but you need to signpost to it from other channels. Want to drive adoption? I recommend highlighting what’s been going on in the network.

That could even be a regular article in a weekly newsletter/intranet stories saying What’s been happening on Yammer this week.

How will you recognise employees who are using it well?

5) Leaders not getting involved

Do your leaders understand how to use Yammer? Do they realise how important their interactions are?

I think the power of the Leadership Like is ten times more powerful than anyone else’s.

I was shown a London council’s Yammer network recently where the CEO logs in twice a day and welcomes everyone who has joined it. They’ve just launched and their CEO has made it their business to set the tone internally and demonstrate the fact they make the time to be on there.

6) Leaders disappearing post-launch

Your leaders need to stay visible once you’ve launched. It’s no good just showing up to highlight the fact you are now encouraging working out loud and collaboration, then disappearing after a month.

Consider integrating conversations Yammer into business as usual communication. For example, could you host a Town Hall then have a one-hour YamJam (when employees know they can log on and a leader will be there). Some of my clients are using this as a way to capture questions and conversations that weren’t possible during the Town Hall. The mindset you need from leaders is a willingness to “Ask Me Anything” using Yammer.

7) Not shifting to informal communication

The beauty of internal social networks is the ability for leaders to interact in real-time. A common mistake I see is Comms teams forget some leaders may never have communicated directly with employees before, particularly if they’re senior. It’s typical for senior leaders to have their work analysed, reviewed and in some cases, written, by the Comms team.

Yammer eradicates that and I’ve noticed the need to ensure leaders understand they need to shift from formal, hierarchical and corporate communication to a more informal, chatty and approachable way of communicating.

If you write a status update on Yammer in a formal way, it will stand out a mile. Think informal and real-time. It’s ok to make mistakes. Leaders are human after all! Our job as Comms pros is to ensure they are comfortable and realise that shift.

8) Not trusting employees 

You cannot control organisational communication, particularly via Yammer. Nor should you. I focus on having the mindset of “flexibility within boundaries” when it comes to Yammer or any other internal social network.

You need to trust people to do the right thing, rather than assume they’ll do the wrong thing. My husband Jon is an IT Consultant, that’s his phrase, and I agree with it.

You don’t need incredibly long social media policies, but having guidance can be helpful. Keep it short, keep it positive and recognise you can’t control what people say, you can only control how you react and respond.

Enterprise Social Networks make previously invisible conversations, ideas and people visible.

Trust them and you will uncover come hidden gems.

9) Deleting controversial comments or conversations.

If a comment is controversial, keep it. (Unless it is libellous or offensive to an individual). I think it’s far better to have visibility of the true sentiment and conversations in your organisation. Only then can you act on them.

If those conversations are removed and sanitised, you are taking away the essence of why collaborative communication exists. It’s about authentic, truthful communication, warts and all. Shiny and polished corporate comms is on the way out. Peer-to-peer and honest conversations are on the way in.

10) Trying to control release

If you have Office 365, you have Yammer, whether you’re “ready” for it or not. There’s a chance employees will have discovered it and determined the use for themselves and be communicating in their own ways.

Don’t try to control it or pretend Yammer doesn’t exist.

Instead, embrace it and nurture the community and conversations.

My lovely friend Dana Leeson says: “Build it and they will come only worked for Noah and his ark” – love that!

Does this help? What mistakes have you experienced and think other comms pros should avoid? I asked this question via Twitter @AllthingsIC:

Further reading about Yammer via my blog:

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Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 4 December 2018.

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