Yammer: Feature Rich or Distraction Heavy

Much to their credit, the developers at Yammer continue to add new functionality and features to its enterprise social network platform. Since acquired by Microsoft in 2012, it has slowly become more integrated with Office 365 functionality offering its users true collaboration functionality in a feature rich environment.

When a Word (or Excel or PowerPoint file) is viewed in Yammer, it opens in Word online. If “Edit File” is clicked, the file opens in a full browser based version of Word, offering much of the same options and features found in the desktop app, plus the ability for simultaneous editing my multiple users.

Discussion groups now offer Office 365 connectivity. Associated Sharepoint sites can be created, file folder based document libraries, OneNote and Planner files. All of these tools greatly enhance the power of Yammer to truly be a cohesive workplace tool for conversation, content creation and true collaboration.

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Even when making a comment, Yammer now offers new features. Files can be added to a comment directly from a computer, from OneDrive or from a Yammer group. Very recently, Yammer has even introduced the option to upload GIF files, those animated graphics seen in many social network posts and emails.

When talking about Yammer in my organization, people often wonder aloud why we don’t just create groups in Facebook. “Everyone has a Facebook account, why not just do they work where people already are spending their time?”

I talk about how Facebook is not created for work. While trying to wrestle through challenging conversations and important work issues, users would also be seeing cat videos, advertisements, and cooking videos. We should be doing our work in a platform that not only is truly dedicated to our work, but also offers the ability to do that work in a relatively distraction free space. All of the links, all of the tools, all of the posts (for the most part) we see in our Yammer network is deeply focused on our work.

Does the addition of GIFs take away from that work focus? While GIFs are fun to look at, I have yet to see a GIF that truly adds to a conversation, contributes to our knowledge base, or helps the work move forward.

However, GIFs do grab our attention. They make us smile. They bring our eyes to a post, and maybe through that GIF, we will engage with a post in a way we may not have done otherwise. On Marketingprofs.com, Marissa Aydlett writes:

“GIFs bring the right amount of fun to your content while they enrich your messages. GIFs grab hold of readers’ attention, keeping them engaged from the first sentence of your communication to the last.

Moreover, GIFs are particularly helpful in grabbing attention in our over-stimulating digital world, where consumers are regularly drawn in a variety of different directions… and can be easily distracted.”

So, I find myself concerned and intrigued. I am concerned in the sense that for all the conversations I have encouraging people to use Yammer because it is a platform dedicated to our work, free of distractions, they will soon tell me to eat my words. Won’t a GIF take us distract us from our work?

But, I think I am a bit more intrigued than I am concerned. When driving down a long, boring road, a little bump in the road can make us a bit more alert, and look around and appreciate the scenery. Maybe, in the day to day course of our work, we will see a GIF, loosely connected to our work though it may be, and we will smile. Maybe we will engage with the information in a way we wouldn’t have otherwise. Maybe we will wake up.

Maybe, we will even do a happy dance.

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