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As an IT service owner and also a Microsoft MVP, I’ve seen some of the things that happen when new Yammer networks are launched. From my experience, many are easy to avoid with a little bit of careful thought. So, here are the Top 10 mistakes to avoid.

 

1. Don’t just turn on Yammer (they won’t come just because you built it)

You need to develop a launch plan. If you’re an IT administrator, work with your HR, Communications, and Legal teams before Yammer launches. Make sure that Yammer is enabled to address specific business use cases and organizational pain points. This alignment between the use cases and Yammer’s features will help drive the pre-launch activities and commitment with specific stakeholders.

 

The worst thing you can do with Yammer is to just turn it on and expect end-users to create thriving communities based wholly on groundswell motivations. More likely, the first people entering the network will not see anything of note and think that it isn’t worth further investigation.

 

2. Don’t forget to create groups - fully configured - before launch

Does your network have places for users with shared interests to gather and collaborate? If not, create those communities of interest prior to launch for your most engaged constituents and teams. The Mac Users group is often a popular one. We’ve seen incredible engagement with a Photography Club community as well.

 

The key point is that when your Yammer network launches, make sure that there are groups available for people to immediately join and start engaging. Make sure these groups have descriptions, logos, and a welcome message.

 

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When a user sees a group that is not fully configured, they will see a dull gray icon. They will see no colleagues and no activity. Why should they care if you don’t?

 

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3. Don’t make all of your groups Private

Default to Public groups, which are open to everyone in the organization to read and also to engage in.

 

It’s a lot easier to join the party when you can see what’s happening and how the participants are enjoying things. If your Yammer groups are Private that’s equivalent to a speakeasy where you need to know the owner or the special code word just to get inside to look around.

 

4. Don’t only use All Company

Yammer is tuned for the in-group experience. With features like the group listing it’s easy to see where the latest conversations are taking place. And once people join groups, they receive special benefits such as the in-group Announcements. Yammer’s digest emails focus on group conversations, too.

 

 

5. Don’t shame people who don’t do things the right way

Take the time to explain best practices to those unfamiliar. For example, your Communications team may want to create an account for a generic persona or department, but the best practice is in Yammer to post from genuine user accounts.

 

When in doubt, it is always good to follow the cardinal rule of “Praise publicly, punish privately.” Celebrate great posts, and when someone does not follow community guidelines, let them know in a way so they don’t feel publicly shamed.

 

 

6. Don’t let the senior team off the hook

Funding and engagement should not cease once the network has launched. If they truly want to “walk the walk” of having the open-door policy, they’ll need to be genuinely engaged with the platform on an ongoing basis.

 

Make this easy to do with an “Ask the Executives” group so the feedback is focused (and easy for the executives and support team to monitor).

 

7. Don’t be a silent advocate

If you’re the Yammer administrator, don’t be afraid to jump into the conversations early and often. Don’t assume that the right person will answer the questions – add them via an @ mention so they’ll be notified about the post. If you’re not sure or disagree, say so. Your genuine opinions or questions are just as valid as anyone, and your respectful discourse will be a model for others.

 

8. Don’t forget to leverage the champions and power users in your organization

Every organization has experts who love to lead the discussions in communities. These are the people you want to bring into Yammer early, perhaps in a pre-launch or soft-launch period. Consider empowering these folks to be group administrators in your launch groups or even in communities like “Yammer 101” or “Welcome to Yammer.”

 

9. Don’t plan to only push information

Yammer’s superpower is open conversations. Your stakeholders and Comms team need to understand that this isn’t a platform for one-way delivery of information.

 

If people have questions or concerns with a corporate communications message, isn’t it better to have those items addressed alongside the post for all to see? It can also save churn within the Communications team, and also avoids mixed messaging when each team member responds to emailed questions individually.

 

10. Don’t overlook content distribution in Yammer

Yammer has great features for content sharing, with rich previews right in the body of the message. The files experience in Yammer is now integrated with SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, so it’s easy to link to content that’s related to a conversation or announcement. It’s always better to point to resources directly, so that your colleagues get the latest version. When content is distributed via email attachments it can go stale over time.

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What about you? Have you made these or other mistakes in your Yammer launch? What do you know now that you can share for someone else about to launch their Yammer network. 

 

Don't forget about the Adoption Resources here

 

More about Kevin

 

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Kevin Crossman is the IT Service Owner for Content Collaboration at Juniper Networks, Inc. He’s been a Microsoft MVP since 2016 with a focus on Yammer, Microsoft Teams, and Online Communities. Outside of work hours, Kevin is a Tiki Bar and Mai Tai enthusiast. Twitter.com/kevincrossman

9 Comments
Contributor

My question is how do you start the conversation dealing with Yammer after the organization has a bad experience with it previously and when some of the leadership roll their eyes the moment you say Yammer?

That's a really interesting question, Shaun. First, as noted above "Make sure that Yammer is enabled to address specific business use cases and organizational pain points. This alignment between the use cases and Yammer’s features will help drive the pre-launch activities and commitment with specific stakeholders." So presumably you're bringing this up as a solution to some pain points (hopefully not the same ones when there was a prior bad experience). Additionally, I think next week's Yammer news could be really impactful at helping to reopen those conversations. #YearOfYammer
Contributor

@Kevin CrossmanI would love to see an article about how to recover from a failed early deployment of Yammer. Or how to rebrand Yammer in a way that leadership will have buy-in and assist in removing road blocks. I am sure I am not the only admin facing something like this. Early adoption of Yammer was centered around enterprise social media.

 

With the new way of thinking of Yammer, which I am in total agreement with, recovering from that failure is difficult. Even with making sure that Yammer addresses a business use case, leadership still might think of it as social media. 

We had to do a hasty re-brand of Yammer after we launched our Yammer External Network to our customers. We'd been focused on the social aspects--the networking--and hadn't realized that what our customers really wanted was to talk about our products and training with each other. This despite having told us over the years that they wanted a community so they could keep in touch!

 

So adoption and engagement were low until we figured out by the types of conversations that were going on what we needed to do. After that, our language and methodology changed to put the work first, as it were, with the people-connectivity being a natural byproduct instead of leading with it. We try not to use the word "social" at all, really, and that includes for our internal network.

 

It's hard to re-launch because you have to rebuild trust. What you said about leadership buy-in is key: Finding at least one sympathetic/enthusiastic leader is what you need, and then look at use cases. Perhaps you develop a contest that mixes online and offline components. Perhaps there's a team or department that is buried under meetings and Reply-All emails and would be grateful for a tool that will eliminate a good chunk of those. Finding people who are willing to lead by example and try Yammer again can take some digging, but if you had & took note of any early adopters/power users the first time around, reach out to them again as well.

 

And when in doubt, ask! When you're finding out where people's pain points are in their jobs, ask what they think would help, and work in Yammer to that conversation. Ask if they'd be willing to try it again to make their lives easier--or even as special insiders testing out functionality. People do like feeling that they're part of an exclusive crowd even when the goal is to make an inclusive experience. :) 

Microsoft

@Shaun Jennings  great questions. A one of our guest blogger has written about similar experiences. Check out the take on this here. 

Unlocking Value with Yammer and [Customer Story] How the NRMA breathed new life into its Yammer network with $0  

 

Also @Kevin Crossman  @Becky_Benishek  are the right people to bounce things off of for sure! 

Contributor

@Allison MichelsI have read the Unlocking Value with Yammer article. But the NRMA article was new to me. Thank you for those resources. It is still going to be a hard adoption process and once we start, failure is not an option if we wish for it to thrive.

New Contributor

Hi Kevin.

You're right about the use cases and the buy-in from leadership. I would love to also have a fully configured Yammer on roll-out, but isn't Yammer access and profile creation dependent upon user sign-up (unlike other O365 resources)?

 

How does one get fully configured Yammer groups if the users don't exist at launch?

 

Diby

Well, you could play with only licensing certain users for a specific time. But even in a situation where everyone is fully licensed I think if you focused an org could do all the group/community set up in a week or two, and some invites for early adopters.
New Contributor

Hi Kevin,

I am talking about licensed users - even they need to sign up for Yammer :(

 

Diby