Yammer is not Facebook, it is Twitter

For some time I’ve been trying to understand why Enterprise Social Media hasn’t been cracked in corporate business. At BP we have been saddled with Yammer, and like an unbroken horse, the company has been bucking.

I’m not going into great length on the environmental and cultural challenges to adoption – this blog would turn into a War and Peace – I want to highlight a very important point which isn’t appreciated by many working towards a social business using the same tool.

Yammer is not Facebook it is Twitter.


It is a tool cobbled together from a number of different popular social media platforms. Microsoft identified a gap in the market which played on corporate fear of “Generation Y” coming in and changing everything, and they’ve capitalised magnificently. “80% of Fortune 500 companies” have used Yammer at one time or another is an assertion trumpeted by the Microsoft Yammer representatives. The reality is that this statistic is very misleading, but I know for sure that BP, Shell and Telefonica all have huge global networks – Yammer is the solution for corporate business looking to expand into the internal social space. If you’re not familiar, check out this video introduction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMEoWMJf1uY.

The trouble starts with the design. Yammer looks like Facebook and those offering a cursory glance at the tool often respond with “oh, it’s Facebook for business!”. It’s an understandable parallel to draw, but it’s wrong, and terminal for social business. Facebook is a platform which enables people who have made connections face to face, also know as ‘friends’ and ‘acquaintances’, to stay in touch. The recent downturn in Facebook’s popularity, is in no short part to the introduction of paid advertising which encroaches on a very private, personal space. To say Yammer is “Facebook for business” would only be true if Yammer was a personal space, but it’s not, it’s a space owned by companies.

Yammer is not Facebook it is Twitter.

While Facebook enjoys a user base of more than a billion, Twitter only boasts a fraction of that number, 271 million as of this post. That’s the difference between India and French Polynesia or Barbados. This means firstly, that we cannot expect the majority of people to use or even understand Twitter. The knock on effect for Yammer is that in a meeting with colleagues to explain how to get the most from the tool, talking about Twitter is more likely to alienate the audience than to inspire them.


On the other hand, we can say that Twitter is more prevalent in the mainstream media and is more effectively adopted by big brands who wish to have a dialogue with their customers. Again, from the Yammer point of view you can demonstrate its value and plausible impact by referencing popular TV shows or relevant news stories where a #hastag is being used.

Yammer is not Facebook it is Twitter.

Measurement is as important on Yammer as it is on external social media platforms; I track likes, comments, shares and click throughs. However, my expectations starting out were much higher than they are now I’ve reframed my perception of the tool. On Facebook hundreds of thousands, even millions of likes and comments are possible, on Twitter the numbers are much more modest. Campaigns on Twitter can also be reactive and topical which you can apply to your posts on Yammer.

Finally, in practical terms the focus of activity on Yammer need not be to start conversations, it can be to simply make an impression, a click-through or a like. It also means posts have a relatively short lifespan, you can post more regularly and it may also be better to post from a group admin account rather than as a person who seems to be lonely, bored, have nothing to do or all of the above.

Yammer is not Facebook it is Twitter.

Engagement, conversation and sharing is still very important on Yammer. But the reasons people might use the tool are very different from the reasons proposed by Microsoft themselves. Events, information sharing, personal profile building and customer service are the ways Twitter is used to greatest effect. Collaboration, conversation and building personal networks is the sales pitch that Yammer isn’t able to deliver. In opening I mentioned cultural barriers to Yammer’s adoption, the first barrier however, is probably your own perception and assumption about how the tool should work, and how you’ve been told to use it.

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