Archive for the ‘social networking’ category

Drivers of Yammer use in the corporate sector

18 June 2012

Yammer has been quite a success at my workplace. Not off the charts like at Deloitte, yet very much alive and growing.

It warms my heart to see my colleagues asking and answering questions, sharing web articles, crowdsourcing ideas, gathering feedback, praising team mates, comparing notes on where to buy the best coffee, and even whining a little.

Every so often I’m asked by a peer at another company what they can do to increase the use of Yammer in their own organisation. I’m happy to share my opinion with them (borne from my experience), but thus far I have been cognisant of the fact that I haven’t cross-checked my ideas against those of others in the corporate sector.

So I recently invited 14 community managers from around the world to rate the key factors that drive Yammer use in their respective organisations. The results are summarised in the following graph.

Yammer drivers graph

While my sample size is probably too small to infer any significant differences among the factors, observation reveals a tiered arrangement.

The front runner is business champions. These enthusiastic users encourage the use of Yammer with their colleagues across the business. The importance of this factor is unsurprising, given the effectiveness of WOM in the marketing industry. Employees presumably trust their team mates more than they do HR, IT, or whoever “owns” Yammer in the workplace.

The next one down is another no brainer: internal promotion. Typical promotional activities such as newsletters, testimonials and merchandise not only raise awareness among the users, but also act as ongoing reminders. If WOM is the steam train, promotion is the coal that keeps it chugging.

Intrinsic motivation is obvious to anyone who knows the saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. In other words, you can unleash your business champions and push all the promotion you like, but if the individuals who comprise your target audience lack a collaborative attitude, they won’t use Yammer.

Rounding out the top tier is top-down support and participation. Not only is it important for the user’s direct manager to be enthusiastic about Yammer and participate in it him- or herself, but it’s also important for the CEO, CFO, COO, CMO etc to do the same. They must lead by example.

Yammer icon

At the next tier down, informal support resources have some importance. I guess self-paced tutorials, user guides, tip sheets etc are less of an imperative when the system is so damn easy to use. Not to mention that just about everyone knows how to use Facebook or Twitter already, so in that sense they have prior knowledge.

User acknowledgement is also somewhat important. Everyone wants their questions to be answered, and perhaps attract a “like” or two. Otherwise, why would they bother?

The placement of Community Manager at this tier pleasantly surprised me, given the pool of respondents. Nonetheless, some sort of management of the forum is considered important in driving its use.

Integration of Yammer-based discourse into L&D offerings was also placed surprisingly low. I suspect that’s because only intrinsically motivated learners participate in it anyway.

Rounding out this tier, it appears a decent sense of netiquette is the norm in the workplace. You would be a clown to behave otherwise!

Yammer icon

At the lower tiers, we see the factors that are considered less important by the respondents.

I guess a formal usage policy is irrelevant to intrinsically motivated users, while prizes, points and other forms of extrinsic motivation are similarly redundant. Same goes for activities and games such as “fun facts” and trivia quizzes.

And one thing’s for sure: a traditional project management approach characterised by a hard launch and follow-up training misses the mark.

Yammer icon

In summary, then, we see that enterprise social networking is multifaceted. There is no silver bullet.

If your objective is to drive the use of Yammer in your organisation, you would be wise to focus your energy on the factors that offer the greatest return.

In the meantime, bear in mind that social forums grow organically. It takes time for individuals to see what’s in it for them and jump aboard.

Having said that, if the culture of your organisation is bad, it either needs to change or you should shift your efforts to something else.

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The big myth of social networking

16 August 2011

A little while ago, someone tweeted his awe of the fact that over 600 million people are connected to each other on the one platform, ie Facebook.

Facebook friendships visualised

This got me thinking, are all these people really “connected”…?

I’m sure you’re familiar with the Six Degrees of Separation principle. It holds that on average, anyone is only 6 personal relationships away from anyone else. Whether Facebook adds anything to the equation is questionable.

Take Madonna for example.

Madonna has a Facebook page – well, I think it’s her. There’s a problem already. For the sake of this argument, let’s accept it’s her.

I can write a message on her wall and hope she replies, but that’s not really the point. I could also mail her a letter or press the buzzer at her Hollywood mansion.

The point is connectedness. For the theory to hold up, I must be only 6 Facebook users away from the Material Girl, and thereby be able to engineer a personal introduction.

Maybe in theory I can, but while I know who I’m connected to, I don’t really know who they’re connected to, let alone who they are connected to. And that’s only a few degrees in.

Sure, I could ask “Does anyone know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who knows Madonna?”, but that would be a tad silly. No one could possibly know.

Alternatively, I could say “I’m trying to meet Madonna – can you arrange an introduction? Pass it on…”

Again in theory, my message would reach someone who could indeed arrange an introduction, but the probability of that happening is ridiculously low. Human nature dictates that a rapidly diminishing number of people will pass it on, let alone to the extent required to get a hit.

So while 600 million people are technologically connected on Facebook, practically they aren’t because everyone’s effective network only stretches so far.

The best we can do is stretch it as far as possible.

A circular argument

18 July 2011

Much has been said of the “circles” feature in Google+, and rightly so.

Google+ Circles

I really like the idea of targeting my messages to just friends, or just family, or just whomever. It makes sense.

It’s Google’s trump card against the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Slap in the face

The achilles heel of Facebook is that its friending system is binary: either you are my friend or you are not. If you are, I’ll be sharing my family reunion updates with you, and conversely I’ll be sharing my experience of burning a police car during the Canucks riot with my mum.

Clueless Facebook update

Few of us are aware you can “customize” whom you share your updates with, but selecting individuals one by one is hardly user friendly – especially if you want to update 67 people.

Indeed, Facebook has a “friends list” feature which allows you to filter your incoming news feed. You’d think it would allow you to filter your outgoing news feed too. Granted, I’m no Facebook expert, so maybe this can be done. But that’s the point: so much about Facebook is onerous and secretive. I’ve got better things to do.

Bye bye birdie?

Then there’s Twitter. Some commentators have heralded the death of the popular microblog at the hands of Google+ because, unlike its alleged nemesis, its messages are restricted to 140 characters.

Dead Twitter bird

I couldn’t disagree more. The 140 character limit is Twitter’s saving grace, and ultimately its competitive edge. Fellow tweeps, I love you all – but in very small doses. If I want more, I’ll read your blog.

As for targeting messages, Twitter can’t do that. However, it’s easy enough to manage multiple accounts with a client such as HootSuite.

Hammer time

Forget Facebook, forget Twitter. The one who has the most to fear from Google+ is Yammer.

Don’t get me wrong: Yammer has revolutionised social learning in the workplace. (Twitter dropped the ball big time by failing to introduce corporate accounts.)

To me, Yammer is the most similar to Google+. In particular, its “groups” feature allows you to direct your messages to a particular bunch of people. You can also assign people to groups – even if you’re not the group’s admin.

All good for Yammer, right? Wrong.

Yammer logo Google Hammer Mario Version

You see, everyone on the planet has heard of Google, but relatively few have heard of Yammer. And guess who’s shifting their attention to the business sector.

Social media extremism

7 February 2011

Since I wrote my article last week about critical theory, I have been more attuned to the messages being propagated by my peers.

For example, some of them have been blogging and tweeting about the role of social media in driving the pro-democracy protests in Egypt.

I see I’m not alone (here and here) in being a little less inclined.

The truth, I suspect, is that the protests in Egypt have been catalysed by the amassing of the population for prayer.

Good centuries-old social networking.

Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers in Egypt during the 2001 protests

Bloggers and the Twitterati are self-evident social media fans, so it’s to be expected that some of them will adopt an evangelical view of the role of Web 2.0 in world affairs.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to underplay the role of social media in connecting people with each other and with the outside world. It certainly played its part in Tunisia and Iran, for example. Besides, if it wasn’t useful, oppressive governments wouldn’t try to shut it down.

No, my point is that while social media is a significant component of the Egyptian pro-democracy movement, it is one among equally or even more significant components.

Put it this way: the protests would still have happened if the Internet did not exist.

The fact that it does exist means the people have a universal communications tool at their disposal.

Closer to home

Drawing all this down to the less heady world of e-learning, I can certainly see a parallel.

It’s important to recognise the role of social media in facilitating social learning in the workplace. However it’s not a panacea.

Relying on truisms such as “all learning is social” and on altruistic notions such as “collaborative learning” is a cop out.

Your learning architecture needs to include much more, such as on-demand self-paced learning resources (eg wikis, simulations, e-books) and – dare I say it – formal training (eg virtual classes, online courses, assessments).

My point here is that while social media is a significant component of the corporate learning model, it is one among equally or even more significant components.

Put it this way: learning would still happen in the workplace if social media did not exist.

The fact that it does exist means we have an effective learning environment we can leverage.
 

The 4 lessons Kid Fury teaches us

10 October 2010

Today I read about the Twitter misadventure at H&R Block whereby a call centre employee assuming the name “Kid Fury” urged all his followers to phone in and ask for him.

It was his final day of work with that employer, so he thought it a harmless last hurrah. That was until it went viral and H&R Block call centres across the country were jammed with fools asking for Kid Fury.

The incident is kinda funny, kinda shocking, kinda scary.

So what can it teach us?

1. Treat your employees well

Yes, the kid’s stunt was probably an innocent bit of fun, but I wonder if he would have done it had he loved the company? Why was he leaving anyway?

2. Document your policies

I’m not 100% convinced that a formal Social Media Policy is necessary – especially if your Employee Code of Conduct is up to scratch – but in any case, you need to document what your employees can and can’t do on social media. And you need to ensure they know it.

3. Scan the web for mentions of your brand

In this age of Web 2.0, if you don’t scan Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare and other forums for mentions of your brand, you don’t know what your customers (and prospective customers, and employees, and ex-employees) are saying about you. That means you can’t respond.

4. Be careful how you respond

Most cases of negative social media that I am aware of were (or would have been) best dealt with through participating in the conversation. In the case of Kid Fury where the antagonist was an employee, the employer still had to be very careful. I don’t suggest letting anyone off scot free, but how would it look if a multi-national corporation sued a likable young fellow?

So thank you Kid Fury for teaching us those lessons – whether you meant to or not!
 

Business applications of Twitter

4 September 2009

Blue birds

Earlier this week, I attended a Twitter Camp billed Twitter is not for dummies. I had the privilege of facilitating one of the breakout sessions, which focused on the business applications of Twitter.

We discussed a range of issues around this topic, and we generated some really bright ideas that I feel are worth pursuing in the corporate sector. Some of the ideas specifically relate to e-learning, while others may fall more comfortably into other portfolios.

BuildingsIn a nutshell, I see the business applications of Twitter falling into three main categories:

1. External
2. Internal
3. Personal

Allow me to elaborate…

External applications

By “external”, I mean your company playing in the real world, beyond its office walls.

Scanning

With upwards of 20 million Twitter users around the world, companies should at the very least be scanning this massive public forum to keep tabs on what people are saying about them.

I see this kind of activity falling into the Public Affairs portfolio, as it concerns brand management. They need to know if someone is bad mouthing the brand across the Twittersphere, and respond accordingly.

Frustrated customer

But of course, tweet scanning also falls into the Customer Service portfolio. Twitter is used by many as a loudspeaker to vent their displeasure at bad service. Organisations shouldn’t be scared by this; in fact, it presents you with an opportunity: Why not respond to the customer, remedy their issue and turn their loyalty back around? I can tell you that CommSec actually did this for me recently, so it sure does work.

According to Susan Hall, Dell takes tweet scanning one step further: They don’t just look for mentions of Dell, they also look for mentions of their competitors. What an opportunity to win new customers!

Active tweeting

Tweet scanning is one thing, but active tweeting is something else again.

Perhaps your company should be sharing news and conveying other key messages to the Twittersphere. NEC is very active in this space, as is Southwest Airlines in the US: Imagine a raging storm shuts down Dallas airport and all flights are diverted to New Orleans; the Southwest call centre is jammed with thousands of panicked callers. Suddenly Twitter comes into its own as an alternative communications medium.

Businessman typing on keyboardWhat could your company tweet about?

Maybe:

• Its latest financial results.
• The release of a new product.
• The latest warm & fuzzy activity undertaken by its staff for the community.

But you have to be very careful to provide value. If you keep your tweets company-centric, then you won’t be very interesting and no one will want to follow you.

The trick is to keep your tweets customer-centric instead. In fact, according to Spike Jones, you probably shouldn’t even mention the company name at all.

Imagine these tweets from a boring old insurance company:

• Are you paying too much tax? Make sure you submit your Tax File Number to your financial institution.
• Did you know that the average Australian is woefully under insured? Ask your financial planner if you are adequately covered.

Saving money? Suddenly I’m interested.

It’s all about WIIFM.

Happy customer

A two-way street

OK, so you could send messages out to the Twittersphere, so why wouldn’t you also invite them in? Well guess what, ANZ and Telstra are doing just that.

These companies invite their customers (or prospective customers) to ask questions, submit complaints, provide compliments (Heaven forbid!), and most importantly, they have staff at the ready to respond quickly.

So maybe Twitter provides your business with an opportunity to engage with a different demographic of customer. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like robots answering my calls and putting me on hold forever, only to be transferred upteen times. But send a tweet? Yep, I can do that.  

Internal applications

The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, actively encourages his staff to follow him on Twitter. He tweets jokes, inspirational quotes, humorous anecdotes, that kind of thing.

But what if your organisation wanted to tweet behind closed doors, out of sight of the prying public? Well, you can do that with Yammer – a Twitter-like platform that allows you to set up a “group” comprising your employees only.

Imagine interacting with your colleagues across the enterprise, asking questions, collaborating, sharing knowledge. Why spend half an hour running around trying to find someone who can help you, when you can just post it to Yammer and let the crowd post a reply.

This is a classic example of informal learning, and it’s central to the evolution and modernisation of workplace training.

Personal applications

By “personal”, I mean you using Twitter for your own professional purposes.

For example, I use Twitter as an international community of practice. I’m connected to a circle of e‑learning professionals from all over the world; I’ve chosen to follow their tweets, and some of them have chosen to follow mine. I share my knowledge, and I learn a lot more in return.

Digital world

So as a technology, Twitter is really simple. It’s what you do with it that makes it powerful.

Social networking is king

6 July 2009

In my previous article, I explored one of the principles to emerge from the recent AMPLIFY09 festival, namely “Everything big started small”.

AMPLIFY09: Convergence and Emergence

Crown toy, courtesy of brokenarts, stock.xchng.Another principle that resonated with me was, in my own words:

Social networking is king.

This principle featured in many of the sessions I attended, but it was showcased in no uncertain terms by two speakers in particular:

1. Spike Jones, the “Firestarter” at Brains on Fire; and

2. Kate Albright-Hanna, the Director of Video for the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.

The goal posts have moved

Social networking has been around since the dawn of time. However, the exponential growth of online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter has taken it to a whole new stratosphere.

Network

Everyone knows the stats

Facebook has more than 200 million active users, equivalent to being the 5th largest country in the world.

More than 100 million users log on to Facebook at least daily.

The average Facebook user has 120 friends on the site.

But what do these numbers mean? They mean millions of people are connected to millions of other people via Web 2.0 technology.

It’s up to the corporate sector to either ignore this phenomenon, or harness it.

ScissorsJuicing the orange

A wonderful example of the latter was provided by Spike in his session Look who’s talking! What if your customers advertised for you?

Only a few years ago, Fiskars, the manufacturer of those orange-handled scissors, was experiencing low brand loyalty. Online mentions of the brand by name was almost zero.

After all, they make scissors.

Fast forward to today, and Fisk-A-Teers has taken the US scrapbooking community by storm. Over 5000 enthusiastic members chat online, comment on the blog, post messages, upload photos, and keep track of their calendar of events.

Fisk-A-Teers

Why is Fisk-A-Teers so successful? Simple: it’s a social network for people who are interested in scrapbooking and crafts.

The members aren’t obliged to promote the Fiskars brand or its products. Instead, they are encouraged to talk about their hobby, their passion, their work. 

This approach differs from traditional product flog marketing because it focuses on creating “fans”, not customers. As the Brains on Fire website states:

…fans embody loyalty. A fan has a vested interest. They defend passionately. A true fan loves a team, a brand or a band whether they win or lose. Fans don’t just join a movement. They help grow it. Fans have a sense of ownership and shared identity, because your success is their success. And it’s a two-way street. The question isn’t “what can we sell this person?” It’s “what can we do to keep this person and make them even happier?”

So it’s not about “selling”. It’s about building identity, igniting a movement, and generating goodwill.

Technology doesn’t drive this philosophy, but it enables it to flourish.

The priceless brand exposure and word‑of‑mouth marketing follows naturally. 

Yes we can

Kate described a similar approach in her session How was new media a game-changer in the 2008 US elections?

The Obama campaign was unique among its predecessors in its heavy use of online video via YouTube. Like Brains on Fire, Kate and her colleagues focused on igniting a movement.

Most of the video produced by the team depicted everyday Americans rather than Obama himself.

Obama’s message is clear: it’s not about me, it’s about us.

Again, technology doesn’t drive this philosophy, but it enables it to flourish.

The Obama campaigners weren’t merely courting voters, they were empowering communities.

Implications for e-learning

In terms of e-learning, the principle of “Social networking is king” has implications for pedagogy.

Whether a company sanctions it or not, employees are going to use tools like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – whether inside or outside of work hours.

Click Me!, courtesy of wagg66, stock.xchng.

Instead of resisting or ignoring it, why not integrate social networking into your blended learning model? I’d suggest it could support informal and JIT learning, not to mention increasing engagement.

Imagine your colleagues sharing ideas, helping each other out, making each other aware of useful resources, asking questions, exploring, contributing, discussing.

Shift learning in the workplace from a chore to a joy.

Ignite your own movement!