This post was written by Maria Ogneva, Yammer’s Head of Community
What would you think if you came into work on a Monday to find a sweet potato on your desk? This is exactly what happened to the all employees at the GA Communication Group office in Chicago. Conceived by Jason Dittmer, GA’s Director of Technology and one of the Yammer network admins, these literal yams were a celebration of the Yammer network launch. While most yams we think about in a business setting are internal Yammer status updates or tweets with a #yam hashtag, these particular yams were quite literally sweet potatoes.
A Yam-tastic Accident
Like many good ideas, this one was born out of an accident. Jason was in the process of launching the Yammer network at GA and putting together a policy with Colette Hinckley, the Yammer Customer Success Manager (those are the super-smart folks that make sure that our users are getting the most out of their Yammer experience). The internal community wasn’t supposed to launch until Monday, but invites accidentally went out last Thursday. Jason told me on the phone that he had to quickly scramble to align with the Operations VP, align all group leaders, and to get a mass email in place introducing Yammer. This way, invited users weren’t left in the dark for too long, wondering what this Yammer thing was all about.
Have You Had Your Daily Dose of Yams Yet?
Being part of a very creative agency, Jason knew that he had an opportunity to turn this blooper into something creative and viral. So he decided to create a funny and memorable card highlighting the benefits of using Yammer, without sounding too pedantic. Thankfully, in an agency, there are many creative writers on-hand who excel at great copy. And so the “Have you had your daily dose of Yams yet?” meme was born.
There was just one thing remaining to do — go buy some yams and deliver them to people’s desks. Jason snuck in on Saturday, placing a yam on top of a card on every single desk in the Chicago office. That’s dedication!
On Monday, most GA folks came in and scratched their heads at the sight of these very literal yams on their desks. Of course, the card was there to explain everything. As the day wore on, folks in the office started to trade yams, and some started to collect them.
Some even made faces on top of their yams, decorated their yams, documenting the process via photos and sharing them via Yammer. Someone even created a lyrical throwback to an 80s song “I think I’m turning yammamese”, and the rest of the team chimed in “I really think so!”
And here’s the even awesomer finish to an awesome story: all the yams were collected at the end of the day and sent to a local charity. Now that’s a yam you can feel good about!
Yams Are Good For Business
As fun as Yammer is, the main reason why organizations of all size use their internal Yammer networks is to drive business results. What was the motivation behind GA starting its Yammer network? The GA Yammer network was set up to ensure that the main offices in Chicago and San Diego, and every remote and traveling employee in between, were able to keep in touch, communicate and collaborate effectively.
At the time of this writing and since Yammer launched (officially on Monday, but accidentally last Thursday night), 78% of employees had signed up in just 4 business days (with some people out of the office)! In the same short 4 days, there have been over 400 messages passed across this network. Active usership has been averaging 20-40 yams per day, and most people have filled out their profile, which is no small feat. Major use cases for this network emerged as: posting information on what’s going on in the office, reaching out to others to get stuff done (suggestions, questions, crowdsourcing), and highlighting cool things that clients are doing. What’s even more exciting is GA’s plans to expand this to the main method ofinternal communication. Jason hopes that Yammer will replace the traditional Monday status email updates, to make the process more informative, collaborative and interactive.
Lessons I Learned From Talking to Jason:
- Mistakes happen to all of us, regardless of line of work or industry. Especially with social tools (internal or external), news travels far and fast, and you can’t always “undo” something. Instead, leverage mishaps into opportunities.
- When launching an initiative, let people know what’s in it for them, and why they should care. Give examples of what you want people to do vs. placing too many restrictions on them – Jason clearly outlined the types of Yams that were possible in the Yam card.
- Set guidelines, but be creative. You don’t want to create another boring “to do”. Placing a yam or any other food on people’s desks may or may not translate into your culture, but there’s no reason why you can’t create a colorful guide / usage inforgraphic
- When first setting up a social network like Yammer, virality and initial engagement is key. Jason succeeded in getting 78% of his agency onto the platform (remote and on-site), which is no small feat! Afterwards, sustaining this engagement among current users, as well as getting new users, are also non-trivial tasks, but that’s a topic for another blogpost. I certainly plan to follow up with Jason to see how things are going in the GA Yammer community over time.
This story is a great case study of how any company can jump-start its internal collaboration efforts. A lot of our clients are large globally distributed firms, and placing yams on each other’s desks is simply impractical. However, doing something creative within the context of your organization is within reach for everyone.
How I discovered this story is also a relevant side-note. Jason alerted Collette about the yam initiative, complete with photos, which she posted on our internal Yammer network. Unfortunately, I was in meetings during the time, and was at high risk for missing this yam altogether, if it wasn’t for Yammer’s Jessica Halper, who made sure to @ message me in a comment to make sure I saw it. Of course, I just had to reach out to Jason the very next day, and Collette brokered the introduction. So, you see, I didn’t create this story, or even discover it, but I’m able to bring it to you because of the power of internal and external collaboration. I just love when a good story comes together!