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Yammer in Local Government – an experiment in internal social media

We’ve been tryiyammerlogocolorsmallng-out Yammer at work (Brighton & Hove City Council) to experiment with social media internally.

Yammer is a microblogging, social network, discussion board and knowledge base service for organisations. Yammer networks are for organizational use with everyone using the same company e-mail address.  You can access it through your desktop, the Web, e-mail, instant and text messaging, as well as iPhone and Blackberry smartphones. You can find all the details by watching the video introduction or screenshot tour on the Yammer website.

It’s like twitter on steroids but with a business purpose. It has lots of other features like profiles, rss feeds and organisational charts. Unlike twitter you can extend messages beyond 140 characters, attach documents and before you ask, yup it’s secure.

Yammer has the potential to reduce email clutter, boost employee engagement and office communication. It could equally be seen as a distraction, a duplication of email and may create a divide where certain people who use it are ‘in the loop’ and those who do not are left out or don’t ‘get it’.

About the Yammer experiment…

We piloted Yammer with the marketing and web teams who work closely on the web/intranet. The teams are based in different offices. We have a call logging system but it doesn’t really meet the needs of the teams for instant updates or effective two way communication. It’s been useful for quick updates and collaboration on projects in between weekly meets.

The Yammer experiment has recently been opened up to all council staff.  It’s growing rapidly between teams – staff are posting comments and already work groups are forming . Some staff do not understand why they are there, others (those more used to social networking tools) are posting regularly.

What we have learnt so far…

1. Start with a small group of employees to understand and evaluate features

2. Then try to get everyone in an organization on board

3. Use people/workgroups who ‘get it’ to tell others about the benefits

4. Help staff understand the purpose of the tool:-

– tell them its about ‘what are you working on?’ not what’s on the telly tonight
– if used properly it can really enhance collaboration between teams and breakdown ‘silos’
– It reduces the need for group emails
– it’s searchable and you can tag messages to find relevant information easily

5. Give examples of how Yammer could be useful to the organisation for example….

– instant messaging can be used in a crisis to communicate between teams

6. Clarify if social media features can be developed on your existing intranet – avoid duplication, use the tools to test the water and make a business case.

Yammer tips

We have been posting Yammer tips on our network to help staff understand the purpose of company/enterprise micro blogging and  find business uses….

  • Yammer tip no1 : What you are working on?
  • Yammer tip No2 : Unlike email you can choose who you get updates from – it’s called ‘following’.
  • Yammer tip No3 : Did you know you can sync Yammer with Twitter tweets?
  • Yammer tip No4 : Senior Managers – Did you know you can Yammer on your Blackberry?
  • Yammer tip No5 : Use Yammer to brainstorm ideas e.g what do staff think about the new brand, ideas for campaigns or tag lines
  • Yammer tip No6 : You can set up simple sms texts to groups – useful to communicate information in emergencies
  • Yammer tip No7 : You can use Yammer groups as a substitute for company mail lists.

Finally…… wondering what yammer means?

1. (verb) howl, wrawl, yammer, yowl
cry loudly, as of animals
“The coyotes were howling in the desert”

Can Yammer improve productivity by reducing the number of emails? Is Yammer good or bad for actually getting work done? Why do we need this when e-mail and intranet applications do similar things. What does this mean for council internal communications, the intranet? At the moment I’m not sure, but  it’s interesting and exciting to find out.

More about Yammer
BBC Technology news