“But I don’t understand, why isn’t there a tab?”

A user of our Yammer enterprise social network, I’ll call her Janet, was trying to find some information. The information she was looking for was part of a strategic initiative of our organization. If the information was so important to us, this user reasoned, why wasn’t there a tab on our Yammer site to make that information easy to find?

“Because our website is built in Yammer, and Yammer doesn’t provide tab functionality.” Only partially true, but true enough.

I gave a detailed explanation of the functionality of Yammer discussion groups, keyword search and topics, and she replied kindly, she said that she understood, and thanked me for the information.

A few days go by.

“OK, but can you please add a tab so the information is easier to find?” Janet posted.

I referred to my previous post, I offered to help Janet, and I linked her to the exact information she was looking for. She said thank you, and we both went on with our day.

The next day, Janet made yet another post to our Yammer network. “I really appreciate all the help to find the information I am looking for, but is there a reason you can’t add a tab?” Rather than referring to the same information once again, I picked up the phone, and we had a wonderful conversation during which I made her feel more comfortable about the platform and how she can find the exact information she is looking for.

We launched our Yammer network in 2014 for a community of users that had gotten used to communicating over email listservs for about 25 years. Now the 3,000 email subscribers were being invited into an enterprise social network.

“What’s an enterprise social network?” they would ask me. “It’s kinda like Facebook, except it’s for work” I would innocently reply. “Give it a try.” And give it a try they did.

In six years, we went from no Yammer network to a robust, busy online space of 15,000 users. In six years, we went from people asking “What’s Yammer” to saying “Why aren’t you in Yammer?”
In six years, we helped people learn how to communicate in a new way, helping them to embrace generosity and transparency in their work and community. And we learned a lot of lessons along the way.

We learned that network support and moderation is not always about technology. People come to our network feeling like they are too old, or maybe too young. They don’t feel confident with technology, or maybe they feel like they know a better way. Sometimes they are scared, feeling overwhelmed by having to learn something new and need to know it is OK to make a mistake and to learn as we go along. Sometimes, they forget to come back. We are part counselor, part IT specialist, part best friend. We need to always be there.

We learned that online success rarely happens overnight. Everyone involved needs to have patience and determination. Together, we need to realize there are continually new ways to work, and new technologies to embrace (I’m looking at your Project Cortex!). You will be frustrated if you expect engagement and success overnight. It takes time. It takes leadership. It takes patience.

Lead by example. If you are telling users to bring their questions to your Yammer network, you should be the first to post. If you are telling your users to work with more transparency, you should be sharing more about your work. If you are encouraging users to post resources that others might find useful, you should be sharing the first examples. Practice what you preach, and lead the way.

Have fun. If your users get an idea you like the work of moderating your Yammer network, that you are engaged in the work, that you enjoy connecting with them, then they will be more likely to have fun too. And they will be engaged. And more will will get done, and more success will be had. Enjoy!

When in doubt, pick up the phone. Just because we are dealing with technology does not mean that a good, old fashioned phone call won’t do the trick. A nice phone call can help people feel more comfortable, and realize there are real human beings behind all the links, icons and buttons.

Janet has been using our Yammer network since our conversation. I think she needed to hear that human voice, even if it was just mine. She heard that I enjoyed Yammer, and that I thought it worked well. She learned how to share her work in a more open way, and she saw that with her new post, and the way she could now find information would serve as a valuable example for others.

Good work, Janet. On to 20,000!

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