Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Use cases for Yammer – how much email can it replace?


Can Yammer (or other enterprise microblogging tools) be used to replace some of the volume of email traffic sent within an organisation?

Why even try to do this?  Email is awesome.

I guess if you think email is awesome, then this isn’t for you.  But if, like I do, you share the opinion that private communication through email misses a HUGE opportunity to engage people, then read on!

Email is a CLOSED communication method.  You choose who should read your thoughts and send them then email.  This is the electronic equivalent of passing notes around at school.  Imagine just how many notes you would have to pass around to keep everyone in the loop.

Microblogging tools can be used to facilitate OPEN communication.  Questions and thoughts previously shared between small groups (unless you’re commonly using the dreaded ALL email) can now be seen by larger communities making connections previously unexplored.

There are other benefits of course:

  • More open communication may actually result in a need for LESS communication generally, the same message is being sent MANY times in the closed world of email
  • It may actually be faster to handle a stream of incoming yammers – they don’t need filing or deleting for example
  • They are faster to write – the informality means no need for subject, no formal signoff etc
  • You can choose what comes your way, by following individuals or subjects
  • There is an open, shared searchable record of communication

So how to use Yammer in this way?

There are so many use cases for Yammer, but I’ll stick to those which replace functionality normally reserved for email.  I’ll also detail how to read yammer as this approach could dramatically increase the amount of yammer activity.

USE CASE 1 – The ‘all’ email

This is an easy one.  Just post your thoughts to Yammer.  If you need to post an attachment which is only relevant to the message (such as a picture) then attach it to the yam.  Else, file the document on SharePoint (or similar) and include a link to the file.


  • You don’t end up with 100’s of emails which need to be processed by your staff.  Imagine it takes 30 seconds to decide what to do with an email.  That’s a lot of wasted time from your team.
  • You don’t clog up the email server
  • You’re creating a searchable repository of knowledge
USE CASE 2 – The simple email (not private)

Possibly the most common form of email – and the primary use case for Yammer.  A very simple request, to one or two people.  For example -

“Dave, have you got any experience with #Fuzzpot software, I need some notes for a proposal”

This is better handled as OPEN communication, and in Yammer this would be represented as:

@Dave - have you got any experience with #Fuzzpot software, I need some notes for a proposal”

This style of message will cause the message to be directed to Dave (by the use of the @ symbol) but will also display the message to anyone following the message author (and in the company feed)


  • There may be many others with experience in this software who would would have not been included in the email – hopefully they see the yam and jump right in with a response
  • Others who see this conversation happening may remember that the company now knows something about Fuzzpot software – this might come up again in a few months
  • A search for #Fuzzpot will now return this conversation, possibly revealing the company experts in the subject
  • Anyone following the #Fuzzpot hashtag will be notified that this conversation is happening immediately
USE CASE 3 – The simple PRIVATE email

Some communication should remain private (probably less than you think) – and of course this can be handled by Yammer.

TO:Dave What are you up to tonight?

Will send a private message to Dave which is not seen by others.


  • Adding communication to your ‘stream’ or ‘feed’ removes the need to file, delete etc which creates a lot of the email burden.
  • The obvious benefit of moving more and more communication to lighter tools which are faster to use


USE CASE 4 – The ‘Distribution List’ email

It’s very common to send an email to teams using distribution groups and of course, these groups can be replicated using Yammer.  You can then send to these groups using both the @ and the to: syntax.


  • Groups are managed by the people using them, not IT – so you can setup any groups immediately for any purpose
  • Email distribution groups provide an easy way to send loads of emails, so finding another way can significantly lighten the load on you email servers

How to read all this new content??

Imagine if everyone in your organisation started using Yammer in this way.  Wouldn’t you have thousands of messages flying around and no time to read it all.

This is easy to handle – Twitter has 100 million users and solves this problem – it can’t be hard within a company.

Firstly you have to accept that Yammer provides a stream of information, it is very conversational in fact.  In every conversation there will be things of interest, others less so – don’t panic if not everything is exactly relevant.

Try these approaches to get what you want…

I want it all.

Easy.  Go into the Yammer web application, follow the link to members and check the FOLLOW ALL box (top right).  Now your feed will contain all posts.  When this gets too much for you, try one of the other approaches.

I trust certain people and only want to hear their thoughts.

Don’t use follow all.  Select the individuals you are interested and follow them only.  You’ll still see messages which are directed at you via @ and to: but will not be overloaded with idle chatter.

I’m also in certain groups

Hey, you can follow groups too (if the group admin allows it)

And I’m interested in specific subjects

You can also follow tags.  For example, following #yammer will alert you when anyone mentions yammer (even someone you are not following)


That should do it for now!  I hope this helps shoulder some of your email burden!