A Tale of Two Yammers

“It was the best of Yammer, it was the worst of Yammer.
It was the age of collaboration, it was a time of access.”
-A Tale of Two Cities (if it was a book written about Yammer)

                                1280x720-yammer-blue  1280x720-yammer-blue

Yammer is a network based enterprise collaboration system. If an organization is using Yammer, they have a “home” network based on their internet domain. Only people who have email addresses in that domain can access the network. The network is a place only for employees (with a couple of exceptions), and the language Yammer uses in the network and email notifications assumes that everyone in that network is an employee.

“Yammer is a private social network for your company.”
“Your company uses Yammer to share files.”
“Enter your work email address.”

All this language makes perfect sense, and it sends a message to people in the work place as they activate their Yammer account that Yammer is a way for people inside the organization to get work done.

Beyond the Home network, Yammer recognizes that many people and organizations often collaborate with people who are not on their staff. Vendors, clients, other partners. Due to Yammer networking and security protocols though, if I work at Smith Accounting, and my email is lglickman@smithaccounting.com, anyone who wants access to our Smith Accounting Yammer network must have a smithaccounting.com email address. What do I do if I want to connect with people outside our organization?

To address this need, Yammer also offers external networks. A company can launch an external network, and collaborate with people using any kind of email address. It is through this external network solution that my organization is able to offer a collaboration space to almost 10,000 volunteers and leaders throughout North America. Yammer is a wonderful platform, and it has served our needs well.

Yammer serves our needs well, that is, if our users immediately dismiss most of the language they see as they activate their account and use the platform.

“Enter your work email address.”
Our users are volunteers. They want to connect to a larger community so they can discover and use information and expertise that will help their own organizations. Sometimes they are retired. Sometimes they have a work email address that they don’t want to use. Sometimes they are stay at home parents. Although generic email addresses, such as Gmail, AOL and Yahoo addresses work just fine in a Yammer external network, there is no language that tells our users that. All they are ever told is that they should enter a work email.
“Enter your email address.”

“Your company uses Yammer to share files.”
No we don’t. We are not their company. They are not our staff. They don’t work here. These words mean absolutely nothing to our users, they only cause confusion. Our users are volunteering their time, efforts and expertise, and language that refers to “your company” only serves to establish a mental barrier. Now we have to work harder to share a message of inclusion and higher purpose.
We use Yammer to share files and participate in conversations.”

“Yammer is a private social network for your company.”
I formally invite Yammer to never use the word “social” again.

Yammer is not a social network. Do you know why? Because more and more, people don’t like social networks. The word “social” gives them license to ignore our invitations and  reason to themselves “I don’t do social networks.” Yammer is a wonderful collaboration network. It provides our volunteers an amazing to work together on something important and sacred. We are not sharing vacation photos, and we are not taking a quiz that will tell us what 1970’s TV sitcom star we are most like. We are collaborating. We are sharing. We are creating community.
“Yammer is a private communication and collaboration network.” 


Yammer should offer home networks and external networks. They are wonderful tools! But they should also recognize that the reasons for using these two different types of networks are often vastly different, and as such, they require different messaging and a different interface. An external network is not for employees, the language and messaging should better reflect the audience.

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