The debate about Facebook for Work has begun. A few pioneering organisations are using it as a new social internal comms strategy. But hold those horses, argues one comms person.
by Alex Mills
There’s been plenty of buzz in the commsphere over the last few weeks about Facebook for Work, including this excellent insight from early adopter Dave Thackeray.
But shiny and new doesn’t always mean better in my book and I’d argue that my organisation has already seen some decent results from a similar, albeit more established channel- Yammer.
When comms pros talk about Yammer the conversation normally goes something like this:
“Has anyone tried Yammer for internal communication?”
“Yeah we tried it a few years ago and got some people signed up. But only a couple of people actually posted anything and now no one bothers going on there.”
“Ok, thanks for nothing”
For a good couple of years, I’d have had the same response. I’m a cynic when it comes to most things and I didn’t really understand why we were trying yet another internal comms tool in the first place, particularly one that looked like a rubbish version of Facebook minus the cute cat videos.
But promoting decent internal communication in an organisation like the fire service where a huge proportion of staff aren’t desk based and don’t have regular access to email has always been a challenge.
We now have more than 430 users signed up to our Yammer network and whilst those users still neatly fit the hackneyed 80/20 rule (about 80% of users lurk, compared to about 20% that actually post) there have been plenty of good examples of where ideas have been shared, problems have been addressed and, most importantly of all, rumours have been quashed- all with pretty limited input from the comms team.
Has Yammer had a measurable impact of staff engagement? I’m not sure. We use the free version of Yammer, so detailed analytics aren’t available to us, although we have recorded a general rise in staff satisfaction with internal comms channels.
Has it solved all of our internal communication woes? Definitely not- as all good comms pros know, we see Yammer as just another ‘tool in the box’, not the be all and end all of staff engagement.
But I have been convinced that with a pinch of insight, a cup of encouragement and a heaped tablespoon of patience, Yammer can become an important tool for staff in your organisation.
Here are my top three tips for Yammer success:
Thumbs up- having senior leaders actively using Yammer gives the channel credibility and even a quick ‘like’ of someone’s post can go a long way to staff feeling valued and that their view has been heard
Let it go- yes, some staff will post the odd dodgy comment that the organisation might not be comfortable with, but those conversations are taking place amongst staff anyway, so to clamp down on the negative stuff too quickly just stifles debate. Publishing some house rules is a good way of reminding people what’s acceptable and what’s not
Yammer champions- identifying a few people in your organisation who you know will engage with Yammer and use it effectively is a great way to get conversations going in the early days of setting up your network and helps make sure it doesn’t wither on the vine
Alexander Mills is corporate communication manager at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and chair of FirePRO, the network of fire service communication professionals.
Picture credit: State Library of NSW / Flickr.