While most organizations have a long history of using document and team-based collaboration platforms, such as SharePoint, many end users struggle with the transition to a more social model of collaboration. As with SharePoint and Exchange and other productivity platforms, people generally understand how the main features in Yammer work – how to attach a document, how to participate in a threaded conversation, how to create a group – but they do not see how these features come together to improve overall workplace productivity.
 
Social can have a transformative effect on an organization, impacting both performance and culture. It’s the ROI of social – it provides a way for teams to make communication inside and outside the organization more transparent, and to put context around the content we create and use. According to an Avanade study on social use by Information Workers, the vast majority of respondents (82%) want to make social a more integral part of their work activities because it makes work more enjoyable (66%), teams more productive (62%), and the ability to complete work faster (57%).
 
Businesses are using Yammer to build internal and external communities, to encourage and capture thought leadership, and to seed innovation. They are using it to connect with and develop partner relationships, and as a way to improve their interactions with customers. However, most people need help understanding how to get the most out of the Yammer platform, and how its features can make them more productive.
 
When talking with teams that are new to the Yammer platform, I like to focus on features that can provide “instant” productivity:
  1. Track important conversations using Bookmarks.

    One of the biggest complaints about using any social platform is that conversations can become easily lost. Yes, you can always search for a topic, but you may not remember what to search for. Instead, use the Bookmarks feature, which can be found under ‘More’ at the bottom of the item you would like to bookmark. Once a bookmark is added, it will be stored in your bookmarks under your profile, providing you with a listing of conversations of which you want to keep track. To remove something from your bookmarks, simply go back into ‘More’ and unbookmark the item.

  2.  Pull people into a conversation.

    While scanning through Yammer conversations is a regular part of my day, others may only go into Yammer when prompted (usually by an email reminder). For groups that I own, or when I am responsible for a conversation happening around one of my projects, I often “pull” people into a conversation by simply replying to a comment with the name of the person I want to include in the dialog. It’s a quick and easy way to share a conversation, and by mentioning someone, will trigger a notification to their account.

  3.  Redirect conversations using Share.

    Another way to encourage more participation is by using the Share feature. It can be great for extending a conversation from one group into another, or for grabbing the attention of specific individuals. For example, someone may identify an important technical requirement for our next product release within a marketing Group on Yammer. You can send a copy of that conversation over to the engineering Group, or as a private message to specific engineers who should be a participating in the conversation, ensuring that the right people are participating in the dialog.

  4.  Recognize someone.

    A great way to encourage participation and to get more people engaged on the Yammer platform is to develop a culture where people recognize the work of their peers, and make that praise more visible. Including praise in your Yammer strategy is not about stroking egos, but about encouraging participation and sharing. If people are being recognized for their hard work, studies have shown that they will continue to perform better.

  5.  Create external networks to collaborate with partners and customers.

    One of the strongest value propositions for Yammer, in my view, is how quick and easy it is to setup and manage external communities. In my previous post on this site, I expanded on this topic (Connect with partners using Yammer) with best practices for creating external communities. Providing more visibility to your partner and customer communities will most definitely strengthen your connections with those communities.

  6.  Use the Announcements.

    Similar to broadcast messages on SharePoint, Yammer allows administrators to create Announcements that automatically post to the top of your network, and can be a fantastic way to ensure the visibility of important messaging. Announcements can be directed to the entire network, one or more Groups, or to specific individuals.

  7. Join relevant networks.

    Yammer has become the community hub for all things Microsoft, and there is a wealth of resources available for partners and end users to connect with Microsoft product, marketing, and sales organizations – and with others in the partner community. Most of these external networks are open to anyone, so just follow the link and request an invitation. Here are the networks which I highly recommend:

Just remember as you start to think about your Yammer strategy that the overall goal of any social platform is not about rolling out new technology, but to help you to reach your business goals by communicating better as a team. Teams that share content, ideas, and innovation are more productive than those that don’t. Even the most intuitive tools still require a cultural change for them to be effective. Hopefully this post has given you some ideas about how you can make your own internal social collaboration efforts more effective.

If you’re looking for additional “power user” tips that can help your team become even more productive, please check out these 3 articles on my personal blog at www.buckleyplanet.com.