Creating a clamour for Yammer

We introduced Yammer at Carphone Warehouse a few months ago. If you’re not familiar with Yammer, it’s a bit like Twitter, but open only to people within a certain company – read more what it does here. We’re hoping it will help people in different parts of the business share knowledge and news more easily, and get them to answer each others’ questions when someone gets stuck.

More than 350 people from across the business have now signed up. Most of them work in our contact centres, but there’s also a healthy representation from our stores, operations teams, and senior management. The problem we’ve found is that while getting people to join is easy, getting them to actually log on and chat is more complicated. Ours is not a captive audience, and people are only going to get involved in conversations if they’re sure it will save them time and help solve their problems.

So recently we’ve been trying to demonstrate the usefulness of Yammer and encourage people to take the plunge and get involved. Here’s what we’ve done create a clamour for Yammer so far:

Word of mouth

This has been by far the most effective way of getting users on board. Initially we didn’t communicate the existence of Yammer through official channels at all – we just told a few people and let the message spread organically. No one likes to feel left out of something new, and a small but enthusiastic community was quickly built up.

Answering people’s questions

We’re selling Yammer as a place where people can find an answer quickly, which makes it important that someone responds when people do come on to ask something. Luckily our team (the Knowledge Management team) has good contacts throughout the business who can help provide these answers.

So we’ve made a big effort to have a constant presence on Yammer, pointing people in the right direction and generally keeping the conversation going. Though we don’t want this to be a permanent situation (Yammer is supposed to save time!) it’s been vital in kicking things off and selling the concept to sceptical first-timers.

Promoting the benefits

We’ve introduced a ‘Question (and answer) of the week’ section to the weekly newsletter we send out around the business. This shows people that Yammer can be useful, and encourages them to come on to post their own query. It’s been amazing how many new questions we get just after the newsletter goes out on a Wednesday afternoon!

Out-and-out bribery

Despite having a budget of nothing, we’ve also had success with organising silly competitions to get people involved. Our first competition encouraged people to post ‘interesting’ profile pictures to win an ‘interesting’ prize. Uploading a profile picture forces people to log on and look around, helps give a personality to a lot of faceless names, and removed the pressure for people to join a conversation right away.

Even though the first prize was just a Frisbee I found at the bottom of my desk, lots of people entered and more than 500 voted for their favourite picture. I’m not sure what our next competition will be yet, though the good people at @yammer have agreed to send us a prize. If you’ve got any ideas, please let me know.


6 responses to “Creating a clamour for Yammer

  1. Congratulation Rob to get the Yammer group going. With 350 members in a couple of months, it looks you are on your way to drive to 1000! I admire your hard work to convert so many co workers

  2. Thanks Igo. We’re still a fair way off 1000 at the moment, but getting the 350 actually talking to each other and sharing information would be a good start.

  3. There are lots of reasons why this is difficult:

    Asking a question on a corporate network like Yammer means exposing your ignorance. Answering one is also tricky. Put yourself in the shoes of the newest sales assistant wondering whether to respond to a Yammer from the Finance Director. Will I look like a clever dick? Will I get ignored? Will I say something stupid?

    It’s an equaliser, and businesses can’t cope well with things that undermine the hierarchy. Information from management comes in cascaded memos, and vice versa. On bits of paper or circulated emails.

    People already have their networks for asking and sharing information. If I want to know whether the IT department can install some whizzy HR software, I get on the phone to Pete in IT. This gives me a chance to reconnect with him – I like talking to him, so the call is partly social. Yammer can’t let me do that.

    My suggestion of setting up Yammer sub-groups will look like defeating the purpose. But it would deal with the great obstacle that status poses.

    • Hi Hoover

      I completely agree with your analysis of one of Yammer’s chief ‘problems’. It can definitely cause turmoil to well defined hierarchies and people are often nervous about how to use it.

      However, I’m not sure sub-groups are the solution. Though Yammer’s egalitarian nature does challenge the status quo, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re going to use Yammer properly I don’t think you have much choice but to embrace an open, ‘everyone-sees-everything’ culture.

      If you lock groups down, people in different parts of your business won’t be able to see what each other is doing and Yammer loses its main appeal. If only select groups are using Yammer to talk to each other then it just becomes another communication tool – you might as well use MSN Messenger or email.

      At Carphone we’re trying to encourage everyone to follow everyone so that, in theory, everyone is taking part in one big conversation. We do have some groups so departments can discuss things that would bore everyone else (our IT team being a great example!) but generally we’re tying to keep everything out in the open.

      It would interesting to know what you think.

  4. Hi Rob.

    What I think. I’m a freelance, and I don’t have any clients that are using it, to my knowledge.

    So what I think ain’t worth squat. I tried creating conversations in a big US business, using a sort of crap bulletin board. It was really difficult. Frankly, it didn’t work.

    I’d be interested to see how it goes in CPW, so if you get a chance to post a progress report in a few months, that would be interesting.

    I’d say you have the following on your side:

    1) Your own enthusiasm. Counts for a lot.

    2) Your own position within the company, that I’d guess helps you get buy in from senior management.

    3) Yammer isn’t such a strange idea these days. When I tried all this sort of thing it was before the days of Twitter and so on. If you mentioned social media people looked at you as if you were a sad geek. Which I was, of course.

    4) I’d speculate that Brits will take to it better.

    5) Yammer is designed for this sort of thing. It’s not a crap bulletin board.

    There we go – 5 reasons why it should work.

    Best of luck.

  5. Pingback: Интранет Блог » Blog Archive » Внутрикорпоративные микроблоги – 2

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