Is Your Business On Yammer?
The recent acquisition of Yammer by Microsoft for $1.2 billion places a value on the concept of social networking in business and puts the marketing weight of MS behind it. As reported on CIO, it will join the Office division in MS and see integration into a wide variety of MS products.
Social Networking in the Office
Yammer is a leader in enterprise social networking (ESN) software, and has been called the Facebook for business. Its viral marketing model lets employees form and register for company networks for free and without formal company input. It claims that about 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies use the service, but this just means that employees of some of these companies have signed up for the free version. Businesses of all sizes have to check whether they already have substantial groups of employees using ESN and whether it makes sense to roll out the service to all employees. However, businesses should be aware that such a service comes with a cost.
Founded in 2008, the company started out as a Twitter-type service, but added collaborative features to become a secure venue for storing, sharing, and exchanging business information and documents. The company has about 5 million users scattered among 200,000 companies in 150 countries. It is adding 250,000 users per month and limits membership to applicants who have a corporate or separate, domain-based e-mail address. Present and CEO David Sacks will stay at the helm of the organization and oversee the development of cloud-based services that include the ESN model.
Cause for Concern
The viral marketing approach that is a key reason for the success of Yammer represents an issue that IT departments have to address. Any employee can sign up for the free service with his corporate e-mail address. The employee then creates a network for that domain. When other employees join, the site recognizes the domain name of their e-mail address and automatically adds them to the company's network. Employees may invite or encourage other employees to join, as well. These network members can collaborate on the company's business, store corporate documents, and develop presentations. The networks are supposed to be completely secure but most companies will want to know more about the security aspects of the service and implement policies regarding its use.
While the employee-created network is usually free, companies that want to take control of such networks have to upgrade to a service level with a fee. The social networking site charges between $5 and $15 per user per month, depending on the service and security level that companies require. For midsize businesses, the annual charges can be substantial. If the business has its own collaboration software, the benefits are questionable. The IT departments of midsize businesses have to be aware of employee use of ESN services, put corresponding policies in place, and decide whether such a service is cost-effective.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.