Yammer? Really?

ibm-yammer.pngI noticed a bit of an upsurge in followers on Yammer in the past couple of days. Concurrently, I also noticed that there appears to be a campaign on Facebook at the moment reminding folks of the existence of Yammer. It seems as though the campaign is mining my user profile information to identify a company network to advertise at me.

I’m generally an early adopter, as regular readers of my blog will know. I joined Yammer in the initial landrush… but I’ve barely used it, despite a desktop AIR client and an iPhone app being launched to make access and use of the service a lot easier.

What’s the issue? Well, for me, there are two fundamental problems:

  • it’s a service hosted outside of the corporate firewall, and yet encouraging me to write about “what [I’m] working on”. I do realise that some organisations will not have an issue with this, but in our case, I can’t go posting confidential information to servers outside the company. It’s the same reason that we’ve had internal virtual worlds and social computing guidelines for a long time. Ultimately it’s the same reason why we have homegrown internal microblogging options, although we do also use external services like Twitter where confidential information is not at risk (and my preference is to be open by default, and use internal tools only where necessary).
  • it defines a “company” based on email domain. Mine is a country-specific address, so I’ve ended up part of a Yammer community which is only for the UK section of the company. For a worldwide corporation, this defeats the object. Taking a look at Yammer’s pricing options, it looks like they have Silver and Gold paid plans that offer greater control and multiple domains… but I can’t imagine that we’d end up using those options.

I’m not taking potshots at Yammer for the fun of it… I can see that they do have a number of major clients, and when I’ve been to conferences I’ve met some of those who use the service – they’ve seemed happy with it. For me, it’s just not practical. I’m intrigued to note that even with the rush of new sign-ups which I can only assume are driven by the current Facebook advertising campaign, there’s almost no discussion going on in the community, with some people even redirecting folks back to Twitter or our internal tools in their very first posts…

9 thoughts on “Yammer? Really?”

  1. Hi Andy – I agree with your yammer commentary. Largely because within IBM we have options. Yammer becomes much more appealing to people within organizations who don’t have the options we do.

    However…I was visiting a client a few weeks ago and met a woman who told me about her company’s yammer pilot. She said, “I signed up, and I watched it for a few days, but no one was talking about anything I was interested in…so, I stopped.”

    And that is the point of all the social networking sites for companies isn’t it? Business value. There needs to be critical mass (ergo Metcalfe’s Law) as well as topics of interest.

  2. Half-inching a half-remembered phrase from Edward Tufte, perhaps it would help if they didn’t name a product in direct contempt of their user base (Twitter, I’m looking at you here too). I’d rather not be labelled as a Yammerer, whatever other folk might think of my writing. Branding matters, and that one sucks.

  3. While there are could be some challenges with integration of Yammer and deployment to the company’s intranet (depending on your needs) it’s a great product that can improve your internal communications. I work for LADevelopers Inc. (http://www.ladevelopers.com ), California based software development firm and we definitely can help with any kind of Yammer integration. We have an established relationship with Yammer and some very successful Yammer integrations under our belt.

  4. Great post Andy, and I agree with Jennifer Okimoto – if no critical mass, it won’t be used. And Twitter certainly has a critical mass by now, for IBM at least and many other companies.

    Besides, Yammer using IBM’s name to promote Yammer to others seems rather icky – can we formally request they stop this ad?

    1. Interesting thought, Eric. It’s canny stuff, because they are basically just pulling the group that we belong to from Facebook, and (presumably) matching against their list. I guess so, anyway.

    2. 2 things i noted.

      1. IBM is Yammering .. clearly suggests as if IBM is a client for Yammer. and that is what I find thoroughly misleading…

      2. Moreover, I tried to ask my friends in another co. if they were seeing the same ad with their co. name. It happens so that, *some* do.

      So, looks like incorrect implementation

      $(company_name) is Yammering! when at least one person from that co. is using yammer.

  5. What a shame. They provide a reasonably good product, but this is the third time I hear of them using a PR gimmick that upsets their customers by using them. It’s the opposite of good word-of-mouth marketing. And it’s a shame because it leaves a bad taste.

  6. Hi,
    I’m a former IBM-er who went on to found Regroup (at http://www.regroup.com).

    (I was in BCS in the New York office).

    We solve a lot of the problems you mention above by:
    1) getting immediate adoption by integration with your company’s roster – for example, if the head of the London office wanted to create a group for London IBMers, (s)he could
    2) Also gaining immediate traction by reaching out to users where they are – whether via an via email a listserv-like option), SMS, RSS, Facebook, Twitter, and more
    3) Offering an option for you to install it within your firewall / on your own server (although the default is SaaS as it can be instantly put up and most clients prefer it that way).

    If you’re interested check us out at http://www.regroup.com.

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