Spirited Communication

Who Needs Training on Social Media, Anyway? (Part 1)

New Skills Concept.While cleaning out old emails from my work inbox, I reread an exchange with an IT colleague from a couple of years ago. I had purposely left the email unanswered at the time because I wanted to take a fresh look at what the IT colleague had said regarding the introduction of social media within the company.

Quite frankly, his response had floored me, and at the time, I didn’t want my incredibility at his response to cause me to write a harsh reply.

About two years later, my thoughts are the same, so here is what I hope becomes the start of a discussion with you regarding whether the success of a social media implementation requires training and a formal introduction within an organization.

Yammer LogoThe background is that some mid-level members of the company’s IT network area decided to make Yammer available to all employees by unblocking it on the company firewall. Not everyone is familiar with Yammer, so I’ll describe it here as “Facebook for companies.” Only people whose emails end with the company domain name (e.g., ju**********@us********.com) can register to that company’s Yammer site. Once someone registers, the site offers similar features to Facebook:

  • The option to post articles, links, photos and videos that other members of the Yammer group can like, share and use as the starting point of discussions.
  • Capability to see which group members are logged into Yammer at the same time, and the option to send a message just to a single member, in the spirit of instant messaging.
  • The option to save and share files.
  • The option to invite other people from within the company to join the Yammer group.

That last feature caused an unexpected (to IT) situation that led to me “talking” with the IT colleague via email.

The IT colleague decided, without input from me, marketing or company leadership outside of IT, to invite a few people into the company Yammer Group as a “pilot group.” To his credit, the IT colleague thought to include me, the communication guy, at that point.

However, the “pilot” quickly grew out of control, because Yammer wouild send a notice to the newly added group member with the names of several other employees, whom Yammer suggested inviting as well. What began as a small pilot group of 5 to 7 people soon ballooned to more than two hundred—and the number of new members continued to grow. That’s because people would ask their coworkers whether they had seen the new Yammer application. Not wanting to be left out, the coworkers would ask to be invited, and they, in turn, sent invitations to everyone they knew within the company.

Here’s the rub, and the point of my discussion with my IT colleague: The Yammer “pilot” was launched before anyone had discussed or developed:

  • Introductory communications that would ease concerns of employees regarding whether they were “allowed” to use Yammer at work
  • Basic user instructions regarding how to get the most from Yammer
  • Feedback and measurement mechanisms that would allow the Yammer “owners” to evaluate the effectiveness and value of Yammer within the company
  • A plan to promote and encourage Yammer usage throughout the organization and to align it with other communication vehicles already in-place
  • Contact information for employees who needed technical or administrative support

When I saw hundreds of employees who blindly joined the Yammer group without understanding what it was, and who mostly stalled after inviting their coworkers and making a single post of “Hi, I am on Yammer,” I reached out to the IT colleague.

Our interesting “discussion” is the subject of my next post.


  1. Anne O'Connell, APR

    The idea that more (social media, in this case) is not necessarily better comes to mind. There should be parameters, of course, developed on the front end. I suspect employees were joining because they thought there was an expectation to do so, and if they did not join something not clearly defined, employees probably feared not being considered “team players.” So in the end, what has been accomplished?

    • Tom Keefe

      Thanks for the comment, Anne! My sense at the time was that employees just didn’t want to be left out when they neighbors were talking about the new Yammer site. But without clear information regarding the business use of Yammer, most soon stopped visiting the site.

© 2024 Tom Keefe

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑