Using social media in business is currently fashionable. But fashion – like technology – is transient and prone to hype. Here is my opinion about how to use social media to enhance individual careers as well as corporate goals on a long term basis. I discuss this in the context of Yammer.
What is Yammer?
It is a platform for social networking in business context. It allows people to create groups for specific topics, projects, common issues requiring discussion. Members can post things and administrators can add announcements. Once posted, others may reply to it, like it, follow it and share it. Just like other social media applications. But all in the privacy of your own secure corporate network. It can also be extended for external parties when required.
That is the bare bone description of Yammer. But currently there is a lot of debate, lot of content and lot of confusion about exactly where Yammer fits in into a typical business organization. Here is my opinion.
Technology should done one or both of the following:
- Improve something which already existed dramatically and / or
- Create new ways of doing things which were simply impossible without the use of the technology in question
From this point of view, Yammer does both. We will focus on item 2 in this article.
Why not item 1? Because in that sense Yammer is a more evolved Discussion Group.
This concept has existed for decades and many applications / platforms offer this facility.
What can Yammer help you do
which was impossible to do earlier?
Look at it this way. I want to ask a question which I do NOT know whom to ask.
But I have a feeling that SOMEONE in the organization can answer it.
You cannot mail it to EVERYONE – because it is blocked.
No problem. That is when you post it on Yammer.
Yammer posts are viewed by many employees (potentially by all – but that is just an ideal thought – just like hoping that a mail you sent to EVERYONE is going to be read by everyone!).
If someone knows the answer, she will post it.
As soon as someone replies to my post, I am notified and I know the answer immediately.
Job done. Could not have been done with existing technologies earlier.
Reverse scenario (use case)
I did something which I feel will be useful to others.
But I don’t know who exactly are these “others”. In that case, post it on Yammer.
Is it like showing off? May be. But if you have genuinely done something good, why not highlight it? Especially if others can also benefit from it?
Encouraging discussion about a specific objective
There can be many topics which can be discussed. But let us focus on something which can be done better and faster – if there was an easy way for everyone to put forward their thoughts, objections, queries, concerns.
One common scenario is creation of HR Policies (or for that matter any kind of standardization). You already have a draft policy created. But you want people to read it, opine on it, highlight issues which may have been missed. These inputs can then be incorporated into the final version of the policy.
How would we do it? Send a mail to EVERYONE with track changes enabled?
If many people respond, we have to waste lot of time in opening two documents and using Merge option in Word. Painful and practically impossible.
Instead if the document was posted on Yammer people can post their opinions there. Not only that, they can read each other’s views and come to consensus faster and in a more informed manner. This is a great use of Yammer. Forming consensus or capturing concerns, objections, feedback and ideas.
Please note: DO NOT upload documents to Yammer.
First upload to OneDrive and the post the view link to Yammer).
Why is this in red color? Well I will explain in another article in greater detail.
For now, just remember that Yammer is for interaction not for storing documents!
This is an obvious scenario. These could be routine dissemination of company-wide information as an adjunct to the announcements shown on the company intranet. But that is not all.
In case of emergencies, the IT infrastructure itself may be down. Posting announcements on Yammer can be a part of disaster management (if not recovery) process. Usually email and other formal applications will be affected due to an IT outage.
However, Yammer is a globally available system, hosted independently of your organization. Therefore, it may be one of the few communication channels you may have in hand. Of course email may work – but there is no need to waste time sending mail to everyone. Yammer Announcement in the company-wide network will send notifications to all staff members. The only pre-requisite is that all employees must have installed the Yammer app on their mobile devices.
Of course, if internet and telecom both fail in a disaster, none of these options are going to be available. Recent events have shown that this is NOT a rare occurrence!
Where there is no defined process or
the process is counter-productive
Here are some assorted scenarios. Think about whether organizations are likely to have a structured and well defined process to handle these.
- A new employee just joined. New to the city. Needs help in finding accommodation.
- Customer has praised you and appreciated your products as well as service. Ideally everyone should know about it – it is the best form of motivation.
- You are planning a new event and you want ideas to make that event more meaningful, unique and exciting for your customers.
- A new product is being launched and you want everyone to suggest brand names for it.
- One of the employee needs financial help for a costly medical intervention. We need to appeal to all employees to contribute.
- Due to some urgent market need, every employee needs to be educated about a new procedure, rule, pricing change, product alteration, etc.
- You need quick feedback about something. No time to create surveys.
The list can go on and on.
But usually there will NOT be a structured way to handle all of these kinds of scenarios.What to do?
Some of these may be handled by posts on intranet. But there is a problem. Usually Intranet is read only for most employees. Here we want inputs. It is not enough to just use comments on intranet posts – that is too limiting.
This is where Yammer shines. No process.
But need immediate pooling of inputs for all staff (or relevant staff).
The single objective of indulging in office politics (willingly or unwillingly) is to further your career (Often at the cost of others – which is not exactly right. But human nature is like that).
Having said that why not do it in a nice, proactive and ethical way rather than using unethical and unprofessional methods.
- Post good work that you have done
- Post customer testimonials
- Talk about a topic which you are good at in a manner that it helps others as well
- Answer questions posted by others – even if it is not a part of your job
- Post tactics you use, research references you have already used, contacts which may be of common interest, important facts about specific customers, competitors or the business environment which may be relevant to many others, market intelligence (without violating any norms / rules / laws), disturbing tactics being used by suppliers, distributors, customers, competitors, etc.
- Approach people by posting something of common interest and directing it specifically to relevant people (even if you do not know them personally)
- Seek people with common interests, specific skills, complimentary expertise
- Praise others – although it is a selfless gesture, it does reflect very well on you as well.
- Ideas are limited only by your imagination…
All that happens is not good – even if you want it to. It is statistically impossible. Usually organizations are well prepared for good and favorable things but shaky when it comes to negative things or discontinuities.
Suppose there is an unprecedented crisis – it could be due to a disaster, economic collapse, litigation from customer, sudden change in government regulation which jeopardizes your business, revelation about corruption at your company, harassment case against some staff or department… you get the idea!
Now, everyone needs to wake up, come out of their comfort zone and do something about it – in terms of providing ideas, specific support, identifying important contacts, finding potential solutions, manage business discontinuity.
There is obviously no process – and no time to establish one. That is where Yammer can be of great use.
I have consciously avoided mentioning specific scenarios by industry vertical or department or role. The idea is to show that if you understand the base concept and strengths of the platform – you can use it to enhance your positive side and overcome organizational weaknesses. That is called effective utilization of technology!
It is up to you to think, try, experiment, adapt and apply it to your advantage. Enjoy!