Peer to peer to success

I recently spotted on Twitter that Tony Stewart from Aviva Investors was Tweeting about how he has been using Yammer, a free private social network for companies, in his workplace.

I asked him to share what’s been happening with readers of Diary of an internal communicator, so we all get to benefit from what they’ve discovered and I’m delighted to say he has written the article below.

Tony is an Internal Communications Executive at Aviva Investors. He describes himself as passionate about peer-to-peer communications in the workplace and a ‘champion/geek’ when it comes to using rich media and social networks to engage and inform colleagues.

Over to you Tony…

Social Media as an employee network; the concept may fill some Internal Communicators with fear, but here at Aviva Investors we’ve embraced the beast, and finding that it’s actually a friendly giant…

Yammer is an Enterprise Social Network, or really, ‘Facebook for organisations’. It started life here as an experiment by a few IT colleagues, and membership was relatively low, as was engagement.

But its potential; a platform for all global colleagues to share and collaborate openly across departmental borders was quite frankly just too much of an Internal Communications win to pass up.

So I encouraged my team to get behind Yammer and realise its potential.  

We created guides, online training sessions, and awareness campaigns, visited team meetings and at every opportunity encouraged people to share content on the platform.

We maintained the project to educate and inform the business as what Yammer could do for them, and how it would help us all create a more collaborative and open culture right across our company.

Now? We have a lively and engaged online community, sharing every single day:

  • Project updates and successes are shared
  • News items and opinions
  • Policies scrutinised and discussed
  • Research on our client experience
  • Exec projects, whereabouts and current thinking
  • Video updates for more emotive and personal content.

Our community has surprised us along the way too. One of our Luxembourg colleagues shared a great photo of the view from his office window, and before we knew it the thread was inundated with colleagues across the world sharing their unique vistas, and gaining never-before seen insights into how our colleagues across the globe work.

A photography group was also created by like-minded enthusiasts, just to share and discuss something they enjoy, and before we knew it there were competitions and social gatherings.

This is reflected in more ‘business’ focused groups, where projects that collaborate on Yammer leave their doors open to the rest of the business, inviting dialogue, feedback and ideas into the project by those interested in the work going on there, even if it doesn’t directly impact their own day-to-day work.

Reaching across borders

If you fancy creating your own enterprise community, a determined, enthusiastic and tenacious community leader is key.

While there will always be a handful of fans that ‘get it’ from the start, you have to really get in there and lead the other 90 per cent of the workforce into a different way of behaving at work; that is, talking about what you’re up to, reaching across team borders, and not relying on a hierarchical cascade structure to share what’s going on.

Our community was grown from the bottom up, with executive contributions not being a key ‘must have’ for the early days of the community.

This way we ensured it was an employee network with the door wide open, rather than something led from the top and forced.

The approach has always been to create a community that people want to be a part of, because the value of joining was so clear, and it seems to have worked. Of course now the Execs don’t want to miss out, and over time they’ve joined, with regular contributions and exchanges that help employees to stay up to speed, see their more human side, or simply recognise colleagues for their efforts in a more visible way.

It’s taken a while, I’d say a good six months to a year of plugging away to nurture the community and the right environment. The tipping point for us came at the end of 2011, when we went ‘full fat’ with the paid-for Yammer, but now the community has a momentum all of its own.

It’s an ongoing commitment, and still we’ve a lot of ‘lurkers’ that worry that their posts might be ripped to pieces by colleagues when they hit the update button.

But I can confidently show them a wealth of examples from others who have taken the plunge, been made to feel welcome, and continue to have rich and productive exchanges, every single day…

Post author: Tony Stewart

Thank you again for sharing your experiences Tony. What strikes me about this approach is the power of ‘bottom-up’ engagement and how one action from an employee wanting to share his window view sparked a wave of similar posts and captured other’s imaginations.

The ability to adapt and evolve an idea is key, to give flexibility within a framework and to see where the journey takes you. Ensuring the value of joining was evident by not forcing the issue appears to have worked well and I’m sure other comms professionals will find this case study as interesting as I did.

Do you have an example of a project that has worked well within your workplace that you think other comms pros would benefit from reading about?

If so, do get in touch to let me know and you could see your article here. Email me: and hope you have a good Easter week,


First published 2 April 2012.


  1. Alan Hilliar says:

    That’s a very helpful reflection on how to generate momentum on Yammer. Thanks!

  2. Tony Stewart says:

    Thanks Alan! Are you looking to use internal social networks at your business too?

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