Business Software

What the Heck Is Yammer?

What is Heck is Yammer?
Social media professionals have no doubt heard about Yammer, the corporate-friendly social media darling that Microsoft snapped up in June for a cool $1.2 billion in cash. But do you really know what Yammer does, or more importantly, what Yammer promises it can do for your business?

The phrase "Facebook for business" was tossed around when the company was acquired; but in reality, Yammer does much more than Mark Zuckerberg's baby. Here's an overview of what everyone is Yammer-ing about.

A Social Network for Your Business

Yammer is essentially a social network that’s entirely focused on your business. In order to join your business's Yammer network, an applicant must have a working email address from your company's domain. You can also create external networks to allow non-employees, such as suppliers and customers, to communicate with your company.

The Ticker

The similarity between the Yammer and Facebook user interfaces is surely no accident.
As with Facebook, new posts—complete with Likes—appear in Yammer’s primary screen, which is known as the Newsfeed. Icons indicating private messages and other notifications appear in the upper left-hand corner. You can also create groups, which is helpful for segregating talk that's relevant only to specific internal teams. If a group conversation takes a turn that requires assistance from other employees, you can share it with a specific person via instant message or with another group entirely. Sharing a post with specific groups is a breeze thanks to handy-dandy drop-down menus below the Update box (which is similar to Facebook’s Status box).

Hashtags

The overuse of hashtags on Twitter can make your eyes bleed, but they're very useful on Yammer. Yammer's robust search function digs up hashtagged posts lickity-split, so be sure to slap a #2013projections or #KeyCorporateAccount hashtag on the end of your posts for future search posterity. @mentions are also supported.

Contact Coworkers

You can create external networks and invite non-employees (suppliers and clients, for instance) to join them.
The People Directory automatically creates a searchable database of every person enrolled in your Yammer, making it especially easy to find contact information for the people in your company. Even better, profiles have Skills listings that are also searchable in the People Directory. You'll never have to scramble to find the right person for the job again.

Sharing Files

Anyone can attach a file to a post to quickly share information without forcing recipients to slog through clogged inboxes. You can also upload files—including images and videos—to a file repository, where other Yammerers can download and update them. Groups have their own separate file repositories that augment the main one, and employees can receive automatic notifications whenever critical files are updated.

Collaborating

In addition to the previously mentioned file repositories, teams can also collaboratively create Pages (Pages are essentially documents) in a group setting. Admins have the ability to lock down Pages (and all other files) as official or read-only.

Open APIs

Need to integrate Yammer into Sharepoint? SAP? Salesforce.com? Something else that starts with an S? No problem, Yammer plays nice with them all.

Mobile Platforms

Yammer has apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and—of course—Windows Phone.

Less Email

Yammer claims that companies using Yammer generate about 40 percent less email.

Yammer's Future

Microsoft's decision to fold Yammer into Microsoft’s Office Division business unit indicates the company sees social networking as key to the future of its flagship software. In fact, Yammer CEO David Sacks recently told Wired that the company is already exploring how to integrate Yammer with Office 365 (cloud-based productivity), Sharepoint (enterprise collaboration), Dynamics (CRM), and Skype (video conferencing). And back in April, Yammer acquired a company called OneDrum, which offers software that adds synchronized file sharing and real time collaborative document editing directly to Microsoft Office.

So there you have it: a basic overview of everything Yammer offers your business. Interested? The service operates under a freemium model that delivers most of its basic features away for free, but assesses a monthly service fee for access to its advanced group or administrative controls. You’ll find pricing information here.

Have you already tried Yammer, or is your business using it now? Did you find it to be a worthwhile investment in time and resources? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

Brad Chacos is a freelance technology and business writer. His work has appeared in Laptop Magazine, the Intuit Small Business Blog, Maximum PC, and elsewhere.

Note: This story was updated on August 8 to correctly identify the name of Yammer's Newsfeed section.

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