Yammer is about to change. A lot. And if your organization uses the Yammer Enterprise Social Network platform, you need to be prepared.

At the recent 2019 Microsoft Ignite conference, Yammer announced that 2020 would be the #YearofYammer. Rebuilt from the ground up, Yammer will have a new user interface, new connections to other technologies, and new ways for leadership to connect with staff.

Yammer groups will now be known as communities, and every community can be customized in ways that were just not available before. As detailed in a recent blog article from Microsoft, Yammer community owners can now add “custom cover photos to apply branding to the community and highlight information above the fold.”

Minor branding opportunities are available to group administrators in Yammer now. Administrators can change a narrow strip of the background design of a group banner, they can change the banner color, and they can add a customized group avatar or photo.

Taking advantage of available branding opportunities help, but the way Yammer is designed now, those opportunities are pretty minimal, and the potential extent of their impact is limited.

However, the new Yammer recognizes the importance and resonance of these community branding opportunities by offering a new banner space that is at least twice the height of the old banner. The entire community banner space can be used for branding in addition to the inclusion of an avatar.

This new user and branding interface is rolling out during 2020, and it presents Yammer administrators with both exciting opportunities and challenges.

Now, Yammer communities will be able to connect with users like never before. Beautiful images can be incorporated to set the tone and theme of a community. At a glance, users will know they are in the right place. Beyond images, community administrators will be able to create graphics to include in that space that convey a message, announce an event, and maybe even include a short URL.

But just like as is the case with Yammer now, if we don’t plan for how our community spaces are branded, our users will be greeted with generic imagery. The branding Yammer has created for communities is attractive and engaging, but it is not your branding.

The default image for a community banner suggests conversations, tagging colleagues, liking posts and connecting with others. The image is excellent, but not if it is being used for every community in your network.

Yammer administrators need to take advantage of the branding opportunities being presented to them by taking advantage of this new community banner space.

Following a few simple steps as the new Yammer rolls out will help to keep your users engaged in your network through the changes, and make sure that your imagery and messaging stays on brand as users get used to the new interface.

The new Yammer presents Yammer administrators with a great opportunity to review their current Yammer groups, and consider several factors before those groups in the old Yammer become communities in the new Yammer.

  1. Sometimes, the actual activity of a group changes the stated nature of the group. Does the name of the group still work for how the group is being used now, and how it will be used as a community?
  2. Creative expectations and tastes change. Does your imagery still work for this group that will soon be a community? Make sure you have the rights to use the image you have selected for your community, and that the shape, format and resolution will work.
  3. If your group is public now, should it be a public community in the new Yammer? If the group is private now, are there any reasons the community can’t become public? Public communities mean that others in your Yammer network can see the conversations and information being shared. Your organization becomes more transparent. People are collaborating better together. More work is being done. Public is better.
  4. Yammer groups collect members like flypaper. Some people are engaged users of your group, and some people have never visited the group since they first joined. Consider who should be a member of your community, if they are not yet a member of your group. Also, consider if any group members should no longer belong once the group becomes a community.

Ultimately, user engagement levels will reflect the amount of time and dedication administrators give to their network space. If the Yammer space is left unplanned and mismanaged, colleagues will not recognize the network as important, or worthy of their time

Yammer recognizes the importance of the new community branding opportunities, and they have created a tool to prompt administrators to properly size and position both the group photo avatar and the banner photo as it is being uploaded to your network.

And, while it is incredibly easy to download almost any image from the internet, it is very important to make sure the images being used in your Yammer communities are either owned by your organization, or that licensing fees have been paid for, or that they are royalty free or Creative Commons images. Set the proper tone and expectation for your organization. Do the right thing.

There is a bright future ahead for Yammer, and as the administrator of your Yammer network, the ability to engage users and extend your branding are within easy reach. Spend a little time. Plan accordingly. Lots of good work to do.

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