3 Effective Ways to Bring a Smile in Yammer

GIF’s are not a sophisticated means of communication, they are short animated images that many people find annoying, cringe worthy and sometimes seizure inducing. They can be bright, flashy and loud, even though there is no sound.

Enterprise Social Networking platform Yammer recently introduced the ability to include GIF images in posts. In an earlier blog post, I expressed concern that GIF’s would be seen as distracting and silly. They are not directly related to our work, so why would people choose to use them?

However, since introducing GIFs in our Yammer network, we have found them to be a major driver of involvement and engagement. Yes they are bright and flashy, but as a result, eyes are drawn to the post to which the GIF is attached. We have seen that GIF files have a positive effect on how  people interact with the platform.

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This is good. My goal is to get people engaged in our platform. If a silly image of a man standing in a bowl of Ramen soup will drive engagement with the information I am sharing, then I will post that image.

Thankfully, GIFs are not the only way people engage with information, but it is flashy, and sometimes it can be fun, and there are important lessons to learn from how GIFs drive engagement.

  1. Have Fun with Hashtags
    Even with the most serious of business messages, a creative hashtag can offer just the levity needed. Fall short on budget expectations? #MaybeNextYear. The sales trip was not a success? #AtLeastWeHadGoodFood. Forget to submit a report on time? #IWontMakeThisMistakeAgain. Lots that you can do.
  2. Attach a Photo
    So, maybe a GIF, (or even worse) a Meme, is not the message you want to send. Photos now appear in Yammer in a large, beautiful format. William Shakepseare Because+eating+lots+of+food+is+fun+_4761d021bc4b348be0216bfb9b035aa9wrote that a “picture is worth a thousand words.” Amen brother. An image, well  used, can say an awful lot. Trying to get people to go out to lunch? Most likely, no one will be eating a burger this size, but this is certainly an image that will capture their attention.
  3. Use the Praise Tool
    Clicking “Praise” above the comment field will enable you to make a post as praise. Tag the person you want to praise, and pick a fun, maybe silly icon to use. Though there are not dozens to choose from, find something that might bring a smile based on the nature of your post. Personally? I like the monocle and mustache. Capture
    Yammer is all  about business, and rightfully so, but that does not mean we can’t have a little fun along the way, and that does not mean that this fun won’t even improve the work that we do. Have fun in Yammer at work. Give people a reason to smile.

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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Collaboration and Yammer Access

There is no organization, be it a suburban household or a multi-billion dollar international corporation, that does not want to find ways to collaborate more effectively.

1120140483_9509Though collaboration may be a bit simpler in a household (shopping list on the refrigerator, Sunday night planning meeting for the week ahead), most every organization, large or small, is trying to collaborate better. Trying to stay better connected, trying to be more transparent, trying to be more effective.

One key to better collaboration is making sure people have access to information. Yammer, and other enterprise social network (ESN) platforms, provide access through private networks, discussion groups and file libraries. When setting up a Yammer ESN, it is important to understand who can have access, and how information can be shared.

Home Yammer Network: Glickman Telecom (my imaginary billion dollar company) sets up a home Yammer network. All Yammer networks are based on email domains, so our Yammer network would be found at http://www.yammer.com/glickmantelecom.com. Only people with an @glickmantelecom.com email address can get into the home network.

Discussion Groups: In our network, discussion groups can be created. These groups can be either be public to everyone in our private network, or they can be private for a specific team.

Add Extra Domains: We have a sister corporation called Marx Digital. We can go to our Network Administration page in Yammer, and indicate that anyone with a marxdigital.com email address is able to access our network.

yammer-place-o365-groupsCreate an External Group: Users without a glickmantelecom.com or marxdigital.com email address can be invited to our home network by creating an external group. This is a discussion group feature designed for the specific purpose of collaborating with users outside of our organization. Users in these groups, though, must have a work email address. Gmail, Yahoo and  other major ISP addresses will not work in an external group. External group users will only have access to that group, and not to the entire network.

Create an External Network: If there is a need to regularly engage with users outside of the organization, with users who may have a work email address, or a gmail address (for instance), Yammer offers external networks. An external network works exactly like a home network, and users with any kind of email address can be invited in.

Now that your Yammer network has been created, and you have determined which users should be in your network, it is now time Set the Table for Yammer Success by planning your groups, curating information and getting people engaged. Now, the real work begins!

Yammer and the Light Switch Mentality

DCF 1.0The light switch is one of the most simple pieces of technology we use in any given day.

One piece of plastic. There is a clear, embedded display to indicate the status of the light, and changing the lights’ status is as easy as…well…flicking a switch.

We see the tool, and know what to do with the tool, and in almost every case, the tool operates as we believe it should. Over time, we have developed a mentality about the light switch, and what we expect it to do. We see it. We flick it. It works.

This mindset of convenience and functionality, this “light switch mentality,” creeps into other areas of our lives, especially technology. We expect to “flick the switch,” and our technology will work right away. We open the box, peel the plastic off the screen with a delicious satisfaction, press the power button and see the screen light up for the first time. It just works.

To an extent, we have this same mentality with web sites and digital platforms. We click on the icon, or type in the web address, and we (realistically) expect to see the information we want to see, and interact with the people we want to interact with, right away.

Yammer, Microsoft’s Enterprise Social Networks that supports communication and collaboration within an organization, works differently. Though we can easily set up a network and invite users into our online space, further success will take much more than a mere flick of a switch. Yammer network managers will be much more likely to find success if they understand the time involved, and if they understand the changes they are asking users to make.w

“Please, change the way you work.”
Though email is a very poor tool for group communication and collaboration, it is the software platform most of our colleagues have used for decades. Yammer network managers need to understand that users are being asked to abandon a tool they are comfortable with and know how to use, in favor of something they have never used before.

“Please, work transparently.”
Yammer encourages users to work in a way that makes their work processes, challenges and successes visible to their entire organization. When our organizations are more transparent, colleagues are better connected, duplicative efforts are avoided and opportunities for cooperation and connection are found. And yet, Yammer network managers need to understand that transparency represents an incredible leap of faith and habit for most people to make. What was once private is now public. Information once closely guarded by a chosen few is now out in the open for all to see.

“Please, check here regularly.”
We are in the habit of checking email every day. We are in the habit of checking websites for the news, social media and business networking. When a new Yammer network is rolled out, Yammer network managers need to understand that a network represents a new place to check, and therefore a new habit to create.

We can quickly turn the lights off and on. We just need to flick the switch. But, a Yammer overly-complex-light-switch-covers-by-green-tree-jewelry-1network succeeds only after people have developed new habits, after they have learned how to use new tools and after they have learned how to work in new ways.

So, launch your Yammer network, but do so with the clear understanding that just because you have “flicked the switch,” the light will not turn on for everyone right away. Train your users, give them compelling reasons to visit the platform, and help them to realize the benefits of working in a transparent, collaborative platform. Give yourself and your organizational leadership the gift of time, patience and understanding. Change like this does not come easy.

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Yammer and Working Out Loud: A Mobius Strip of Mission and Functionality

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It was probably during a Junior High School algebra class I first learned about the Mobius strip concept, a surface with one side and no boundry. A Mobius strip can easily be created by connecting both ends of a strip of paper together, after giving it a half turn twist. The effect is an object that before had two sides, now has one. An object that before had an end and a beginning, is now endless and eternal.

Through my management of a Yammer network, I came across the concept of Working Out Loud. A Yammer network enables us to bring our work beyond just ourselves, and connect others in our network to our ideas, our challenges and our successes. Additionally, we can now become connected to the work of others by reviewing groups in our Yammer network, and be more informed on what is happening in different teams throughout our organizations.

41I09QksHALWorking Out Loud is a wonderful book by John Stepper that teaches “instead of networking to get something, you lead with generosity. You make your work visible and frame it as a contribution.” In many ways, Yammer and Working Out Loud compliment one another, and I hoped that if I could bring Working Out Loud to my organization, my colleagues would learn new skills, and I would see more adoption of our Yammer network.We brought Working Out Loud circles (a practical application of what is taught in the book) to our organization.

I was thrilled when our Social Media Manager joined the second Working Out Loud circle. I hoped she would find ways to incorporate the teachings of Working Out Loud in her work, and I also hoped that she would become more involved in our Yammer network.

A Working Out Loud circle lasts for 12 weeks, and our circle members use a private Yammer group to stay in touch between meetings and to share files and links. I knew I would not see results immediately…I was in the this for the long haul. Imagine my delight when, during our 3rd week meeting, our Social Media Manager said “I think I finally ‘get’ Yammer. I like it!” She is posting comments in our group, replying to posts and sharing files.

The functionality of Yammer supports and empowers our employees in executing the mission of our organization. Because of Yammer, we bring Working Out Loud to our organization, which provides our employees with new tools and skills…new functionalities, in doing their work.

I don’t think, in the case of our Social Media Manager, that Yammer would have necessarily been adopted without Working Out Loud. And yet, we would not have brought Working Out Loud to our employees had we not first used Yammer. Ideally, more of our staff who experience Working Out Loud will bring more of their work to our Yammer network, which will in turn encourage more people to participate in Working Out Loud.

Just like the Mobius strip, there is no end.

Top 10 ways to go BIG with Yammer

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Yammer users are often looking for ways to find the specific information they are looking for amidst a sea of resources and posts. They are looking for ways to make Yammer feel small…except when they’re not. Sometimes, people look to Yammer to expand beyond their team and what they already know and who they are connected with. Sometimes, Yammer users want to go BIG.

Here are 1o ways to go BIG with Yammer.

home1. Click on the Home icon: Whether it is the first thing you do when you arrive in your Yammer network, or when you get lost in groups and file libraries and need to return somewhere familiar, you can always go home. Click on the home shaped icon in the upper left hand corner of the screen and you will see posts made to all public groups (even groups you don’t belong to), and posts made to all private groups you belong to.
2. Select your newsfeed: Cast a wide net. After you have clicked on the home icon, you can determine the exact newsfeed you will see. There are three options. “Discover” will suggest content you are probably interested in. “All” shows all posts in all groups you have a right to see. “Following” will show you only posts from groups you belong to, and people and resources you follow.

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3. Turn off email notifications: There is no better way to restrict the information that you see in your Yammer network than only reviewing your email notifications. Turn notifications off in your user profile settings, and develop the habit of regularly checking your Yammer newsfeed. Connect with all the great information being shared in your network.
4. Set an example of transparency: Yammer works best when it enables us to connect with the work of other departments and teams throughout our organizations. When you create a group in Yammer, unless confidentiality issues demand privacy, set your group to be public. Enable others to go BIG with Yammer by being having access to your work through transparency as you share conversations and resources with your colleagues.
5. Review group directory: Even when your newsfeed settings are properly set, even when you are not using email notifications, it is easy to forget the wide variety of groups that may exist in your network. Check you group directory from time to time. See what groups are being suggested to you, see what are the largest groups and the smallest groups, remind yourself of what is happening in your network.
6. Follow the leader: Visit other public groups in your networks, and follow colleagues who regularly post in those groups so you can better stay connected to their work. These are the people who understand how to work in a collaborative platform. These are people who want to share, and who want to be transparent. You will learn a lot from them.
7. Be vulnerable: Don’t just use Yammer to report and push information out. Bring your questions and curiosity to Yammer. Have you gotten stuck on a problem? Want to learn more about a project being done in another department? Make those posts. Open yourself on Yammer. Doing so will result in a more robust network with more conversation and activity. Set the example.
capture8. Use a photo in your Yammer profile: This may sound like a strange way to make Yammer a bigger place, but it’s true. Adding a photo to your user profile is a wonderful and easy way to make it easier for people to connect with you. If it is easier to connect with you, more people will connect with you. When more people connect with you, there will be more activity in your network. Go BIG with a profile photo.
9. Use email: Though email does take us out of the network space where we want our communications activities to be happening, email can do a lot of good in actually getting your colleagues to the Yammer network in the first place. Send an email that says “We could really use your input on this conversation happening in our Yammer network. Click on this link to respond.” “Thank you for requesting the form. Click here to find it in our Yammer network.” Yammer networks don’t go BIG on their own, sometimes we have to be strategic get people there in the first place.
10. Think BIG: Your Yammer network can be the place where your organization works. Yammer can be the place where transparency is achieved, greater collaboration is had, and an ongoing legacy of information is created. The more an organization uses its Yammer network, the more money is saved, the more confusion and frustration is avoided and ideas, creativity and enthusiasm can go BIG throughout every team and every department.

All of this is not to say that Yammer, and Yammer alone can save the day. But, if we are open to change, transparency and collaboration, your Yammer network can be a very effective place for these behaviors to take hold and flourish. So, give it a try. Don’t be afraid. Go BIG!

Top 10 ways to go Small with Yammer

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With over 8,000 users, and average engagement rates of 33%, I am very happy with the way people are using our Yammer network. But to many, our network feels too big. They express concerns about the ability to find the information they need, to get to the place they want to be, and to be able to easily monitor the conversations they care about.

But, utilizing a few easy tricks that harness the power of the Yammer platform, we can make this big place feel manageable and small.

  1. imgresHarness the Power of Bookmarks: Rather than having to log in every time you visit a Yammer network, rather than having to search for your group, use your browser bookmarks. Bookmark the homepage newsfeed of your Yammer network, but also bookmark any groups that you want to revisit regularly. When you are at a location in Yammer you want to revisit, just set it as a bookmark.
  2. Search with Quotation Marks: Searching on a phrase, such as Yammer Help, will provide results that match both the word Yammer and Help. But if you add quotation marks to the search,  “Yammer Help” will provide results that only match the entire phrase. Much more specific, much more useful.
  3. Search Only Inside Your Group: Did you know there is an additional, group specific search box, on the right side of the page in every group? For some reason, this functionality seems to escape most peoples’ attention. Made a post in a group but can’t find it? Search in that the group search box and you will find it right away.
  4. Create a Group: People find information in Yammer that they want to save and share with their team. Click on the “Create a new group” in the lower left hand corner of the screen, and set it as a private group for your team. Under the posts and resources that you want to save, click the “SHARE” link, and share it to your private group. You will have a wonderful collection of useful information in no time!
  5. Use the Date and Time stamp: Next to every post in Yammer, you will see the date and time that post was made. That information is actually a link. If you click on that link, you will be brought to a page just for that post. Copy that URL, email that URL out as a link: “Did you see this great post?” Bring people to the specific comment you want them to see.date
  6. Topics: A great way to focus resource collections is through the use of topics (or #hashtags). If you have a Yammer discussion group called Registration Info, and you have a long list of files in that group that provide different registration forms, registration instruction documents and receipt examples, you can attach #RegForms to the forms, #RegInstructions to the instruction documents, and #RegReceipts to the receipt examples. Just like with the date/time stamp, a topic is a link. Clicking on that link does a search for all information to which a particular hashtag is attached. So, if a user clicks on #RegForms, they will only see those documents. A great way to organize and share information collections.capture
  7. Group Info Box: I think this is one of the great underutilized features of Yammer. Use the info box to share information that you really need people to see. More and more, I use the Info Box for links to topic document pages. Again, bringing users directly to information collections (collections that grow as topics are added to more resources) that they need. In my imagined Registration group, the info box would contain direct links for #RegForms, #RegInstructions and #RegReceipts.
  8. Refine Email Notifications: Users often complain about the influx of email notifications the immediately get from Yammer upon activating their account. It doesn’t need to be this way! Edit your notification settings by clicking on the gear wheel in the lower left hand corner of the screen, and select “Edit Settings” from the pop-up menu. Get notifications only from the groups that are most important to you.
  9. Follow in Inbox: It can be difficult to find a conversation you were interested in again if you have left your network. Simply click on the three dots under the first post of the conversation you like, and select “Follow in Inbox” so you get  alerts when there is new conversation activity.capture
  10. Join Fewer Groups!: By clicking on the home icon in the upper left hand corner of the screen, you can see every post in every public group and every private group to which you belong in your network when you scroll through your newsfeed. So, only join those groups that are most important and central to your work. Going into one of those groups will strip everything else in your network away, and your network is now small, it is finite, showing you only the information most important to you.

Give these techniques a try. Control the chaos, reduce the noise, and find specificity and clarity in your Yammer network. Take control, and make your Yammer network work for you.