In the last few years, Microsoft have put huge focus on developing the social side of their products. Social Media is not going away, it will only evolve positively to encompass more and more - in life, and in business. Most small business owners are aware of the “Social Media” buzz-phrase, but not all have the time to devote towards devising and applying a social media strategy for marketing purposes. Often, small businesses also lack the spare capital to employ a marketing agency or an individual to take care of social media management.

Despite this, social media for customer and client-facing marketing is now relatively established. But what about utilising social media within businesses as an internal employee tool?

You may have already heard about Yammer, which Microsoft bought in 2012 for $1.2 billion. The price they paid highlighted Microsoft’s commitment to improving the social side of their products, and the value they consider Yammer would hold to their customers and their business. So what exactly does Yammer do? How does an enterprise social network actually work, and what benefits does it bring?

Yammer is an internal social network, only open to those given permission and access by the business they work for. This access is determined by the user’s email domain - a simple and effective way of managing profiles for IT support. Users can create customised profiles, much like other social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

There are many features that make Yammer beneficial to business; in fact, almost too many to list. In a nutshell, at the core of this tool are features that improve employee engagement, such as Trending Files and Popular Content feeds, as well as the Online Now live chat feature. Another major bonus is the ability for users to access it via the web. By utilising cloud technology, it is available from anywhere with an internet connection on a wide range of devices including Apple, Blackberry, Android, and Windows products. The Groups feature is one of the most celebrated, and this can benefit teamwork by allowing users to create groups based on interest, role, or company department. Again, this is similar to other popular social networks, and is a key element of bringing people together.                                                                                       

Social networks aren’t there just for people to waste time, they can be useful tools for collaboration, so Yammer fits in perfectly with Microsoft’s vision for products such as SharePoint - where collaboration and communication is key. Integration with Microsoft’s other products is one feature which makes Yammer such a good business tool, and this is available for SharePoint 2007, SharePoint 2010, and Office 365. According to the Microsoft and Yammer team themselves, 85% of Fortune 500 companies use it as a team communication tool. With this sort of uptake, it’s hard to ignore.

Some tips for using Yammer:

  • Larger businesses should only open up the tool to a few individuals at a time, to prepare for what features work for them best.
  • When using Yammer, remember it is an internal enterprise tool and you should act as appropriately as you would in a professional setting.
  • Test some business ideas by putting them forward to your connections and getting feedback through Yammer.

Ultimately, the most important aspect of utilising Yammer is to maximise buy-in among the team. With a well-designed user interface and smooth design, that shouldn’t be a difficult task. It is a great way of communicating ideas and interests in the workplace, and will form a key element in the development of Microsoft’s tools for business in the future. No doubt, it will evolve as a product over time, but the first year of Microsoft’s ownership of Yammer highlights their passion for bringing the benefits of social to enterprise.

Author bio: 

Marc Defosse is managing director ofRibbonFish Ltd, a London-based IT consultancy specialising in Microsoft technologies. Marc enjoys blogging about the RibbonFish areas of expertise such as CRM, SharePoint and web development, as well as the latest business IT & tech trends.