How to Use Yammer to Drive Innovation

by Stefan Lindegaard

How to Use Yammer to Drive InnovationMany companies use Yammer to drive innovation and especially idea generation / development within their company. They often learn that it is fairly easy to recruit people for the Yammer platform which lets employees share and connect with coworkers in a private, secure enterprise social network.

It is, however, much more difficult to keep the users engaged over time. So what kind of engagement drivers work for innovation initiatives on Yammer? I am wondering and it would be great to hear your take on this. Here you get my starters.

First, I think we need to divide the approach into three key elements: Awareness, Facilitated content and User-generated content.

1. Awareness

Short, focused bursts aimed to build awareness of the Yammer initiative, make existing users more active and recruit new ones. This could be a 2-3 week challenge in which you ask the users for their input on a specific issue.

Imagine a company that wants to innovate how they innovate. Perhaps you can share your thoughts on how to do this.

  • What should they consider when they build a challenge around this on their Yammer platform?
  • How should this challenge be framed? How do you make it specific beyond the very broad “innovate how we innovate” issue?
  • Should you reward people for their engagement and if so what is the best way to reward them?
  • How do you create buzz around such a challenge as well as the Yammer initiative in general?

It would be great if you have some insights on this particular challenge.

Steve Shapiro also shares good insights on challenge-driven innovation here on Innovation Excellence.

2. Facilitated Content

This is about delivering quality content on a frequent basis making users accustomed to getting value for their time spent in the community. This could be weekly posts that give a “how to” perspective and offers further insights (links to relevant articles). Beyond sharing insights, another key element for such content should be that it drives discussions. Facilitated content could also be something as simple as inspiring quotes or fun cartoons. Both have a high viral potential.

A good facilitator is key for making this happen. Unfortunately, many companies do not assign the right person for this task (requires good understanding of corporate innovation process and thus corporate needs / assets / weaknesses / strengths, good writing skills and a good understanding of social media). It could also be that the right person is assigned, but not given the adequate resources (time, training) needed to succeed.

3. User Generated Content

This is where the community begins to become self-sustainable. I would suggest that it is a good sign of success once your community goes above 50% when it comes to user-generated content compared to the action driven by awareness campaigns and facilitated content.

Here you need to be aware of the 100-10-1 rule which states that out of 100 people, only 10 will follow the discussions and only 1 will post or write themselves. This will most likely be better in smaller, focused settings as you have with corporate Yammer initiatives, but it does imply that a certain critical mass is needed.

When it comes to implementation hurdles of Yammer initiatives, two in particular stand out.

  • A general lack of understanding of social media
  • Lack of commitment and engagement from top and middle management

Experimentation and the “small wins” approach is key to overcoming these hurdles.

When it comes to goal-setting on Yammer initiatives, this might give you some inspiration:

  • Short-term: create experiences to allow your company to develop social media competences relevant for innovation
  • Mid-term: engage people on social media services and tools for innovation efforts
  • Long-term: have social media as an important element in external innovation networks

I could go on with other issues, but enough for now. Let me know what you think.

image credit: simplycommunicate


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Stefan LindegaardStefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

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  1. I am reading Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald’s book (they are with Gartner) The Social Organization and it has a lot of insights into the questions that you are posing. Social media is the technology. It must be embedded in a purposeful activity, with a vision for results, that is guided by management so that its value is fully realized. The book shows through case studies and process recommendations how to leverage social media to build collaborative communities that crowd-source solutions, creating a competitive advantage for an organization.

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