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How Does Yammer Stay Relevant?

YammerMost people I talk to don’t use Yammer much. The “cool” factor seems to be fading. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was free I wonder how many people would use it at all? As we all know free doesn’t support as business for very long.

Yammer is having a “major launch event” on Thursday 2/25. What will they announce? I don’t know. What I hope they announce?

  • Tools integration for better workflow.
  • Better enterprise pricing.

I like Yammer. I really do. I just hardly ever use it. Here’s a few reasons why I don’t use it:

  • I either have to go to the site or download their own AIR app to use it.
  • I “talk” to most of my coworkers by IM, email and Twitter.

Basically it boils down to workflow. I commented on Twitter last month that I was surprised Yammer didn’t integrate with any of the Twitter apps like TweetDeck and Seesmic. To my surprise @mhat, a “Yammer Generalist” according to his bio, responded to me. He asked what I was hoping for and after a few tweets that was all. We’ll see.

The other complaint I have about Yammer as a corporate employee is their pricing. No not the free part, that’s fine. It’s the $5.00 per person that’s insane. A large company like HP could buy or build a replacement to Yammer cheaper than they could license $5.00 a head. In fact some engineers at HP were building their own version of Yammer that wasn’t as slick (at least not when I saw it a year ago) but it was integrated into the rest of the Intranet so posts showed up in search.This is especially easy for companies to do with open source tools like Status.Net that you could literally host your own internal microblogging service.

Even for a medium sized company like my current employer, Waggener Edstrom, licensing would cost over $4,000 a year ($5 X 800). I’m guessing here but I don’t think we pay 4K a year for the licensing of any single product (excluding bulk licensing like Microsoft Enterprise which covers lots of products and includes support).

I’m also sure they’ll announce a lot of cool tools for better collaboration, knowledge management, etc, etc. But until they solve these two problems I don’t see them being able to continue their early growth.

What would get you to use Yammer more? What would you like to see Yammer announce?

[UPDATE: New post based on Yammer's announcement and the comment feedback. Yammer Helps Your Company Create More Edges and Flows]

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

  • http://twitter.com/wolfemanmatt matt wolfe

    I can't really speak on the pricing - I wasn't aware of the fee, and I don't know if that's the user fee my company (Gannett) pays. All I can really discuss is my use of Yammer - and I love it. For starters, I love that I can instantly connect with colleagues at the 90+ papers and broadcast stations around the world, in addition to our corporate divisions (Gannett Digital, GMTI, etc.) and products (USA Today, Content One, etc.) all on one platform. It's not a listserv , and it surely doesn't contain every little minute detail of their personal lives. FInally we have a stable and effective platform to broadcast project and product updates, collaborate on ideas, share success stories, ask for help. I know we can do that with other platforms, but for me - and based on the use by others that I'm not alone - this seems to be the most effective way of effectively communicating broad topics and issues (this in no way replaces our tech support, this is more for long range project development or discussion of third-party/homegrown usage, etc.). I realize my situation is not the norm - my ability to effectively communicate with that many people over Twitter or IM just won't work to reach such a large but direct audience. The cost, however, does seem steep, if that's what we're paying - I'm interested in finding out the answer for our company's fees.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    I'm glad to hear Garnnett is using Yammer effectively. I do think there's so much potential, I just haven't seen used that well at the two companies I've been at since it launched.

    Just to clarify Yammer is free, it's the premium services (more control) that cost $5 per user. I doubt Gannett pays for the premium service.

  • http://twitter.com/chollis Chris Hollis

    The toughest part about Yammer is that, like you said, we already use Twitter as a means of workplace communication, so why duplicate the effort with something like Yammer? I wasn't aware of the pricing component, but that certainly becomes another point of contention, especially when, as you said, we at Waggener Edstrom are already part of Microsoft licensing for communication tools like Communicator and LiveMeeting, which embrace the collaboration spirit that Yammer is looking to build upon.

    Add to that the complete lack of integration with aggregation apps and it's tough to see how Yammer makes it as a standalone.

  • http://atwelfthmeow.com/ Matt Wolfe

    I can see where you're coming from. It sounds like you're already in direct contact with your peers at Waggener Edstrom.

    For me, and I'm assuming many others, that group of peers is huge, and includes people I don't personally know at all. Plus, I'm not communicating only with peers that perform my exact tasks, but also those that directly and indirectly involve my responsibilities.

    I liken it to a large company's conference, where many times you finally get enough people in the room that do similar things for ideas to start flowing - knowledge is shared, lessons are learned. Yammer allows that experience to happen every single day. I can still communicate directly with the peers within the company that I was already communicating with - via Twitter, IM or email - but sometimes its better to hear from the 400 other people worldwide that all touch the same CMS environment or use an application the same way I do rather than only with the coworkers I always do. In theory, Twitter or IM could work, but now I miss the peers I don't already talk with, and force my followers to see me tweet about things they have no idea about.

    Though, now that I'm typing this out, I'm realizing that the items I use Yammer for are mostly technical issues, not really conceptual conversations, which are normally more direct. That may be the divide.

    As for integration with aggregation apps, I can't defend that. There's no excuse, really.

  • http://twitter.com/chollis Chris Hollis

    I totally agree with the “broader conversation” assessment that you laid out, Matt. It was something that I was kicking around in my head while I was writing, but I figured you covered off on the general concept when you talk about how you utilize within Gannett (which, by the way, is very cool.)

    At the end of the day, it boils down to differentiation. I think Yammer (in concept) is a great idea, but the potential is unfulfilled. As of right now, it's Twitter for work, which, while neat, is only treading water in the grand scheme. Integrate or die seems to be the motto to live by these days.

    However, your point about conceptual conversations is an interesting one to me. Is there a particular reason you don't go to such a large group with something conceptual? I'm guessing it might be the idea that it just gets lost as “noise” on the network, but I don't want to speak for you. :)

  • http://twitter.com/DavidSacks David Sacks

    With respect to pricing: It's free for basic use, and then $3 or $5 per seat per month for the silver or gold level of admin tools. But the website also makes clear that a discounted rate is available for large organizations (e.g. 500 people). It certainly would not be more cost-effective for HP (or any other company) to build and maintain their own Yammer.

    You will continue to see us roll out new features and applications to make Yammer more useful and integrated into your workflow.

  • http://atwelfthmeow.com/ Matt Wolfe

    I agree 100% - I'd actually say it's Facebook for work, because of the way comments flow underneath original posts.

    I really don't get why the integration isn't there. Users can send tweets to Yammer with #yam, we can post via SMS, they have an iPhone app - it's like they're scratching the surface, but they just need to keep pushing.

    There are really two reasons why there really aren't many conceptual conversations, and one of them is exactly what you said. That's tied directly with the second, which is that most of our conceptual conversations happen either on the local level or directly with another market/corporate teams. Honestly, we've learned that no two markets are exactly the same, so each market will strategize accordingly.

    With that said, we pay a lot of attention to what each other are doing, and when we see something appealing, we'll approach them directly for feedback. For something that's brand new, we'll likely seek feedback from corporate. Since there are divisions there that touch almost every part of our operation, we can seek out the right individuals for that concept, bounce it off them, learn any horror stories - and sometimes even learn about something new coming down the pipeline that could address the need we're working on.

    You're right in finding fault in the lack of integration in aggregation apps. That makes it difficult to keep up with. I admit that sometimes I miss conversations because of everything else I'm having to monitor - our website, emails, social networks, and now Yammer. There's no reason why that one network should stand alone, and I shouldn't have to choose between an Air app or SMS for real-time updates.

    Glad I could see thoughts from a different perspective, Chris. I see exactly why the cards could be stacked against Yammer unless they make some real changes.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    Would it be cost effective for a company replicate Yammer completely? No. Would it be more cost effective for a company to build an internal microblogging tool? Yes. So then we get into a cost benefit analysis of the features beyond simple microblogging. That can become sticky (as I'm sure you know better than me).

    I'm excited to hear what further features you'll and workflow applications you'll be rolling out. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://twitter.com/DavidSacks David Sacks

    What's a simple micro-blogging tool? Does it include a desktop app or any phone apps? (Yammer supports iphone, blackberry, android, and windows mobile.) Does it include groups, threaded conversations, and attachments? What about admin tools to control users and data, compliance and e-discovery, and security? What about directory integration and single sign-on? These features are pretty essential for the large enterprises you're talking about.

    Even for the most simplified enterprise-grade version of Yammer, you'd need a pretty large team of talented engineers to build and maintain it. It's just factually inaccurate to claim that this would be cheaper than buying an enterprise license from Yammer.

  • http://twitter.com/socialwok Socialwok

    The main issue with enterprise microblogging application like Yammer is that it is another walled garden businesses need to deal with on top of email. People have too much walled gardens to deal with. Most businesses revolve the processes around email and microblogging is another thing to deal with and manage. Hence, Socialwok was very clear from the start that we do not want to be another “walled garden” like Yammer.

    Socialwok is a business social networking service that is integrated tightly into existing processes of small medium businesses who are increasingly using cloud based office productivity services like Google Apps. Our users use Google Apps account to login into Socialwok, share messages, files and existing Google Docs/Calendar from Gmail. (http://socialwok.com/tour_gapps)

    Google Buzz is a bigger threat in my view for these existing microblogging services freemium or not. Google Buzz has the capability to provide close group microblogging right from Gmail. However, at Socialwok, we are vey excited about Buzz. It extends Socialwok's capabilities even more. Big announcements coming from us on this!! :-) Keep updated from our blog http://blog.socialwok.com

    Disclosure: I am CEO of Socialwok (http://socialwok.com/tour), Business Social Networking for Google Apps. We provide to businesses in general in particular Google Apps users the ability to do microblogging, collaboration using feeds.

  • http://twitter.com/socialwok Socialwok

    Internal microblogging is a collaborative application for enterprises. The problem with all the current microblogging tools eg. Yammer is no workflow integration, which was why Salesforce chatter is quite disruptive in my opinion - connecting business applications + social feeds. Hence, I fully understand your workflow arguments against an internal microblogging tool.

    Socialwok also has major announcements coming up with regards to Google Apps + workflow integration + Social feed :-) in May 2010 at Google IO, see our blog http://blog.socialwok.com

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    In the instance I mentioned HP (as many large tech companies do) already had an internal dev team on staff. At HP they already had a home grown internal social networking solutions in use with a desk top app (no phone app a year ago), search, discovery, security, support, etc, etc. The hundreds of thousands of dollars that HP would have to pay for even the “Silver” licensing agreement would easily pay for an extra dev or two to add microblogging, which they were actually able to do without hiring anyone.

  • http://twitter.com/DavidSacks David Sacks

    It makes about as much sense for companies to create their own business software as it does their own desks, chairs, staplers, coffee makers, phones, etc. Yammer's exclusive focus as a business on creating this software means that customers will get a much better product than they could create themselves and at a lower price.

    I'm sure you understand this, so the real issue is that you think enterprise microblogging is just a simple status update feature that can be bolted onto other platforms. As I've tried to show above, status updates are where this movement may have started, but what “enterprise microblogging” or “microsharing” is is rapidly evolving. We see what we're doing as creating a platform for real-time communication in the enterprise. If that's not clear to everyone yet, it will be over time, as Yammer continues to layer on new features.

    The need of customers to integrate Yammer into existing enterprise products and workflows is absolutely legitimate. That's why Yammer has an open API that thousands of developers and companies have already integrated with. And you will continue to see us open up in new ways and integrate with other products throughout the year.

    This has been an interesting debate, so thank you. But I have to get back to running the company!

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    David, thanks for all your time and comments. It's great to see the passion you have for your product and the space. All debates aside, we agree much more than we disagree on, I think we're just caught up on semantics.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com/yammer-helps-your-company-create-more-edges-and-flows/ Yammer Helps Your Company Create More Edges and Flows

    [...] month I gave Yammer (a product I like) a hard time because it doesn’t integrate with microblogging clients like Seesmic and Tweetdeck and I feel [...]

  • http://twitter.com/andladd Andrew Ladd

    After reading through these comments, I felt compelled to add my .02. Agree that some of your differences are semantic. In my experience Yammer is best used (and internally promoted) as a *knowledge management* tool versus a social networking tool. Yammer's best use is as a way to help people document and log their knowledge work (especially that stuff that happens between their ears) rather than trying to compete as a Twitter or Facebook for work. The growing problem for a lot of companies is that the majority of their assets are intellectual and in many ways intangible. This leads to two problems: 1.) Duplication of work across silos — people thinking about the same problems, issues and processes; and 2.) Organizational hierarchies that hinder sharing, rather than facilitate transparency. Yammer works as a solution to both of these — and if championed internally as a KM solution, NOT as a social network, I think the value is more readily apparent.

    I don't need another social net, but my work absolutely needs a KM tool that can cut across departments, disciplines and vestigial org structures that impede our abilities to react swiftly to competitive demands.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    Great points Andrew, You also hit on another hot topic of mine, corp hierarchies and the org chart, but I'll save that rant for another time. For now I'll recommend my follow up post on Yammer http://www.newcommbiz.com/yammer-helps-your-com...

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