MC Yammer: Can’t Touch This

At work, I’ve been given a new responsibility – Yammer Evangelist. Yes, I know you are thinking, what is Yammer? And what the heck is an evangelist.

In short, Yammer is a text messaging application similar to Twitter or Facebook status updates. I’ve spoken about Yammer previously on this blog. It is geared more towards organisations / corporates because it allows for closed networks. Whereas Twitter is open to the world.

Much like Twitter, it allows you to write a short message and have a profile page. But the advantages of Yammer is that it is a closed group only open to those you invite or on your company’s email domain. For example, our Yammer is only open to Sydney employees of Next Digital. The advantage of Yammer is that you can broadcast to the group and get responses immediately. You can obviously do this over email as well but often there are too many emails flying around and some people are included and some are not. Also, its hard to keep track of conversations. Yammer groups the conversations together, and you can see the replies in a threaded view.

You can call me MC Yammer

You can call me MC Yammer

Yammer kicks ass because it reduces email clutter. It enables conversations to develop and it keeps responses short (KISS principle in full effect). While twitter only allows for 140 characters, Yammer has no limitation. You can also add attachments to Yammer posts, using browse function or you can drag and drop.

Other cool advantages of Yammer:

  • Ability to create subgroups: We have a group for basketball team, and this is where the real action happens. We discuss practice discussions, admin, jerseys, who’s playing, etc..It allows for collaboration and dynamic discussion.
  • Follow and unfollow people: Yammer actually will suggest to you who you should follow. You don’t have to follow everyone in your company’s network. By following certain people, those conversations will be prominent and reduces all the clutter/  spam out there in the Yammesphere. The suggestions from Yammer will get smarter over time, but they are supposedly based on the organisational hierarchy and reporting relationships, and who your colleagues are following.
  • Create a profile: similar to a company intranet, you can fill out your bio like education, career history, who you report to and who you work with. Not many people in my company have filled it out, but hopefully that will change.
  • Desktop app: Yammer is web service (like Twitter or facebook you can login). But those cool cats out there like myself have downloaded the desktop app and I keep it open all day. I guess its similar to Tweetdeck for Twitter or MSN browser. It uses Adobe Air, which is very slick.
  • The conversations are searchable and taggable. If you use a hashtag before a word e.g. #basketball , it will recognise that as a keyword and will tag that conversation. I can choose to follow all conversations that have #basketball. This is quite useful if you have a bunch of people talking about a specific client or an activity. Conversations are easily searchable using Yammer’s search engine.
  • Sync it with google chat in gmail. So if I’m using gmail, and I want to post something, I open the Yammer chat box and post from there.
  • Send posts & recieve posts via SMS – I have set it up but I don’t want to pay for it and I’m not sure if I want work stuff sent to my phone. But the option is there.
  • Creating a more open and collaborative culture within the workplace. People are posting one to many conversation points, and getting more opinions. I think its less inhibiting than sending out a group email. A lot of times, if I’m sending out an email to the whole office, I ‘ll look at it several times, edit and think will this be ok? Whereas a post on Yammer is a microblogging service, 140 characters is not going to kill me. I’m going to get a lot more useful suggestions asking an office of 30 people in the open then a small select group of people.
The Yammer Formula

The Yammer Formula

I believe that Yammer has taken Twitter’s model and corporatised it. It could be one of the few Twitter type services that actually can make money. I don’t see how Twitter itself can make money off the service it provides. But Yammer charges for customisation, secure domain access using https (hypertext transfer protocol over secure socket layer) thus encrypting it like a bank website, full admin access, etc…. It charges something like $1 per user, but larger groups are offered as a discount.

I think Yammer will work effectively in our office because its not that big. We have roughly 25-30 employees and only a 1/3 are active users. Once more people start getting more active, it will be even better. It will be interesting to see how it run in a much larger environment like say our Melbourne office which as 150 people. In general, experiments like this work better on a smaller scale and there is inherently less clutter to begin with and you know everyone on the network relatively well.

The role of the Yammer Evangelist

I’m still yet to get a really good definition of an evangelist that sticks in my mind. But I believe the purpose as described to me, is to encourage adoption of Yammer, become the guru/troubleshooter and answer people’s question, and lead in it use. I also have started sending out posts on how to optimise its use as well and to stay up to date with what’s happening by reading the blog/website/other sources and participating in external discussions.

Bringing the balloon pants into fashion

Bringing the balloon pants into fashion

I’ve actually read everything on the Yammer website as well as all the blog posts, so that part shouldn’t be hard. I’ve also commented on TechCrunch’s article on Yammer’s $5m capital raising as well as an article in the NY Times blog. You get a lot of interesting feedback from other users in external companies. For example, someone said you should encourage staff to post 2-3 times a day, and its a good way to see what everyone is up to. I might see someone working on a particular project which I read about last week, and then if I have a question I will shoot them a yammer post or IM (instant message them).

I’ll post another update in a month or so and discuss further developments.

I’m out like email clutter,

Matthew Ho.

p.s. Yammer also won TechCrunch top prize in 2008

Seven Commerical Uses of Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter for more than a minute now. I signed up around May 08, but didn’t use it much. I posted up a few updates and couldn’t see the value of it. However, I decided to give it another try this week and I’ve been hooked.

I posted previously about Twitter and how my company uses Yammer, a Twitter spin-off. Basically, Twitter allows you to text 140 characters about what you are doing. To be honest with you, when I found this out I thought it had really little value.

However, in the past week I’ve used it for different purposes and this is where I see Twitter as having value:

1. News Service

I decided to follow a couple of news services just to try it out. So I followed @Digg_2000 for stories with more than 2000 diggs and @NYTimes, so I’m getting constant updates about the major news stories. There’s also a couple of other social media gurus out there, like @guykawasaki, @joywayng (Jeremiah Wang of Forrester research & author of Groundswell).  I get to hear their constant thoughts, articles they want to share interesting people & companies that they are meeting (more on this later).

Another pertinent example was highlighted this week. By now, you’ve heard about the plane crash in the Hudson River caused by flock of birds. The first place this was reported was Twitter & the pics were on Twitpic.  Janis Krums, who was on a ferry going to the rescue of the plane wrote:

There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy“.

Twitter was updating furiously with news like this about the Hudson plane crash. I went to the Twitter search engine and looked up “plane crash” and every few seconds someone was saying something about it. It  gives you an ear to the ground.

Due to the availability of the internet on phones, people can immediately micro-blog on their phones and post to the internet via applications like Twitter and post the pics. Twitter allows citizen journalism, for ordinary people to report on stuff straight away and for it to be spread like a viral message.

2. Customer Service

Telecomms

I noticed from reading a couple of blogs, that @Comcastcares was using Twitter to respond to customer complaints. Twitter can be used as a public forum, and if you use it to complain about service or product, and if you have enough followers, you could be quite damaging to their brand.

So in a wise move, companies like @Comcast, @BigPondTeam, etc… are using it to get in touch with people that are bitching about their service. They get in touch with you and DM (direct message) you, to find out how they can help.

Atlassian – Confluence Wiki

I have experienced this from a different angle by praising a product. I posted the following:

inspiredworlds is building a wiki on confluence (Atlassian product). It’s so easy to use!

Then two people posted a response. One of them was @mattnhodges, in their customer service or marketing team, who previously has sent me an autoresponse email about the Wiki when I was evaluating the product and after I purchased it. Through Twitter, I’ve been able to ask questions and get responses and useful links. Another person associated with Atlassian, also posted a response and when they wrote a response to another customer about a sharepoint extender, and I got some useful info there as well.

Docstoc v Slideshare

During the week, I have been evaluating two websites for sharing documents. So I posted a general question: “Docstoc v SlideShare, which is better?“.

To my amazement, the next day when I logged in, @Serena from Docstoc had responded with “docstoc of course. DM me if you want tips about how to optimise your use”. That’s incredible customer service. Admittedly, I decided to go with Slideshare, even though it crashed a few times during the week, but at least I had that option and it made me more curious to check out Docstoc.

Monitoring how brands use it

To monitor this customer service usage, I have decided to follow a number of other brands to see how they will use it, and will post about that experience. I imagine its easier now for customer service, because they are not that many people on Twitter. But imagine if the whole Facebook crowd decided to join twitter, how much noise, clutter and compliants will be on Twitter?

However, I believe that Twitter does attract a certain type of person – someone that wants to be heard, slightly ahead of the adoption curve, tech – savvy, that can influence others. So that is why companies are providing quick responses on Twitter.

3. Brand building / Marketing

A lot of brands are on Twitter. I like that, because I get to follow my favourite brands and apps and find out what’s happening. For example, I’m a huge Chicago bulls fan, and @chicagobulls will post updates during the games and their thoughts:

Duncan is clogging the middle but the Bulls are hitting shots. Hanging in 36-33 in the second.”

I’ve also signed up to hear updates from @Wordpress, @Googlereader, @shareaholic, @yammer_team, @blogger. I like these products and brands, and I want to hear from them. In a sense, I’m giving them permission to enter my world. I don’t just follow anyone, I’m quite picky because otherwise you get too much clutter.

These brands have reciprocated by adding me as their “friend” by following me. So they are interested in what I have to say – perhaps to provide better customer service (as noted above). For example, during the week I posted how “It’s official, I’m a shareaholic“, and in response @shareaholic posted on their tweets:

@inspiredworlds Welcome!

Consequently, I’ve posted in reply that they should add Yammer as one of their new features. And then the @Yammer_team added me. How cool is that? Obviously, these guys are paying attention to what is been said about them.

I believe this is an area where brands can use twitter – to hear what customers are saying about them and to also build up the brand and stay in constant contact with their customers. How cool is that when a brand mentions you in their tweets? Admittedly, the novelty factor does wear off. It’s allowing me to be closer to my favourite brands.

One problem is “twitter squatting”. Some cunning people have snatched up some valuable online real estate. For example @jetstar is not jetstar. I don’t even know if @chicagobulls is even the real thing. So there’s no way to know, just have to look at the page, check their links, number of followers, and make an assessment.

4. Professional Networking

I’m relatively new in digital marketing with only 8 months experience in the industry. So it’s important for me to network with people and meet the who’s who of the industry. I can go through people’s lists and add anyone I would like to know and generally they reciprocate and add me. It’s not as intimate as facebook where they get to see all your personal info and pics. All you are getting in twitter is 140 character updates.

So I’ve added in a couple of the big names in the industry overseas, as well as people locally that I meet.  People also have “tweetups”, where they have real meetings with people in twitter. I mean, even speakers from the Future of Digital forum I attended, I’ve added them in Twitter. You can add someone in twitter and when you meet them, you can say “I know you from twitter!”.

5. Find out trends & buzz

I’ve covered this off above. If you want to hear what people are thinking about, just use twitter search. You will get live updates about what people think about brands, what’s being discussed out there.

6. Thought Leadership

As mentioned above, I’ve tapped into some of the key minds in the industry. And they also share a lot of useful links, which I’ve then read and commented on. They also talk about people they have met in the industry, company meetings they are going to, trends they can see and so on.

7. Microblogging

Twitter is so easy to use and update. This post I am writing now, has taken at least an hour. In between finding the links, going back through my emails and twitter updates. Microblogging is blogging in small lines of text, perhaps one or two lines. You  don’t have to think too much when you twitter because you are concentrating on writing just one line. And you can update it again a few seconds or minutes later.

It could possibly over take blogging. Evhead, the CEO of twitter who previously sold Blogger to Google wrote about it on his blog. Twitter gives you smaller bite sized pieces to snack on and feeds our voracious hunger for constant updates.

Other thoughts on Twitter

I believe that the use of Twitter will continue to grow as it offers a differnet purpose to facebook and has commercial value as noted above.

With the advent of aggregator services like Shareaholic, Fring, Xummi, Friendfeed, it allows you to manage multiple social network services at the same time like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Digg, Delicious. So belonging to multiple networks is possible and will grow in popularity.

Their are also a couple of innovations out there like Brightkit, which allow multiple people to “tweet” under one account, manage multiple accounts and to time your updates. I thought there was no way @guykawasaki could be pumping out so many updates throughout the day, but they must prerecord them and have several people tweeting all the time. Brightkit is free now to manage one account, but charges for multiple accounts.

I’ve also come across Ginx, which Pierre Omidyar the ebay founder has started. It allows you to share links, and then share comments about it, with the twitter page taking up the top part of the page. It’s eerily similar to sharing facebook comments about a shared link, where the option to comment is just above the page or even like Digg.

One of the biggest problems I have with social networking is the multiple logins and passwords you have to remember. Concepts like OpenID (having one identification) for all websites will allow one login for all.

Twitter will not replace Facebook, but it takes one of its most popular features the status updates and builds on that. Status updates combined with tiny URL’s, will allows for greater sharing and social bookmarking. Along with the popularity of internet on mobiles, instant messaging, the time is ripe for Twitter.

I’m out like the era before Twitter,

Matthew Ho.

[Updated: Dave from BrightKit – Thanks very much for including BrighKit in your article.  One thing.  We don’t charge for multiple accounts.  BrightKit is entirely free right now while it’s in public beta.  If you wouldn’t mind changing that, we’d greatly appreciate it.  Thanks!]

Who would you delete from Facebook for a free whopper burger?

The Facebook blog currently reports that 150 million people are using Facebook and in the past year 6.6 billion friend requests were made in 2008. But don’t you feel at times, you have too many friends on your facebook account? People that you rarely know, you met once at a party and never saw again, that “friend” at primary school or university who you never spoke to, but all of a sudden wants to be your friend?

So Burger King has decided to flip the script on this. Delete 10 of your facebook friends and get a free whopper! I like this promotion because its poking fun about how we’re all adding friends and getting a bit overboard with the friend requests ( I mean 6.6 billion – that is a lot you know).

I can’t believe BurgerKing  in the US is actually doing this promotion!

whopper-sac

You install the Burger King sacrifice widget on your facebook page, get rid of ten friends and then get a burger coupon.

Suddenly I feel the urge to clean house. Mathematically speaking, if I delete 40 friends does that mean 4 whoppers? No, because its only one coupon per facebook account. D’oh! Apparently 180k friends have already been “sacrificed”. Are you next?

And I would do anything for a whopper, because I love’em …..so I might start reviewing my list of friends!

I’m out like sacrificing your friends for a free burger,

Matthew Ho.