SharePoint for Corporate Communicators Friday Keynote: How Yammer is Taking over Verizon Wireless’ Internal Communications

The final presentation of the show came from Craig Purcell, a Senior Analyst, and Social Media Lead for Verizon Wireless’ Midwest Area (MWA) Employee Communications. His talk, Get Employees to Adopt Yammer: Tips for Success, was a case study about his efforts to establish Yammer as the go-to communication channel within Verizon Wireless.

As with most adoption stories, we heard about starting small and using “wins” along the way to boost participation. Additional proven adoption methods discussed included adaptation and the dispensing of rewards throughout the launch process and into the adoption process (if these are new ideas to you, you clearly need to be reading Bamboo Nation more closely! Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter). These basic principles are pretty well your best bet when launching any kind of new process or policy.

What made Craig’s session different is that he was implementing a new social network, something that is a little different in the details than, say, a SharePoint deployment. Since he was pushing for a new way to directly interact, he himself was in the spotlight. This wasn’t IT saying “The company is moving in this direction”; in his case, Craig was saying “I’m starting this, look at me.” This is his first key to success: put yourself out there. If you are the one rolling out a new social network, then you will be the face of the implementation (does the name Mark Zuckerberg ring a bell?). You need to embrace this fact and use it to your benefit.

Once you get your test group set up and have some content to share (AKA the “wins”) you need to get out and tell those stories. Since this is a personal thing, you need to be personal about it. Highlight people individually when they do something good. Reward the use and success of the tool. Help foster adoption by providing engaging content. Call people out to pull them in (in a nice way, of course). You don’t have to do all of this alone, however. Leverage that group of early adopters; get them to help you. This is a social network, after all. Above all, be positive and authentic. If you are phoning it in, people will realize it and the system will fall apart. Almost as important is the need to have a good social media policy. You need some ground rules for interaction, and people need to know that there are consequences for inappropriate behavior.

Craig went on to talk about how Yammer is a safe place for people to get out of their comfort zones. You can create private groups where people are only interacting virtually with people they regularly interact with
physically. This gives them a chance to figure out the tool without the worry of messing up in front of the whole company.

All of this wisdom came to us through three case studies. The first was the initial launch campaign. Craig and his team worked up the slogan, “There’s no U in Yammer, but there should be!” to encourage people to
sign up. This was launched through several established internal means, as is usually the case, and was rather successful. It did not take long for a significant percentage of the MWA to create accounts on Yammer. Things were going well when Craig and his team got an unexpected benefit. At Verizon Wireless, there is an internal contest among employees called “Rockstar.”

Craig explained how this was a big part of their culture, like American Idol big, and was an actual annual competition revolving around sales and product knowledge. The Yammer boost came when Craig stumbled upon a 500-member group dedicated to Rockstar. This group was set up independently from Craig’s team and was a huge win in the overall Yammer adoption. Here was a group that was created, grown, and maintained solely by end users. Craig was ecstatic. The group then played an important role when the next edition of Rockstar was held. Craig was able to use Yammer and the Rockstar group to set up live feeds and provide video and written commentary across the MWA. There were watch parties and rooting and everyone had a great time (again think people tweeting about American Idol on a company-only scale).

The last case study, and one of the biggest wins, stemmed from the Rockstar event. One division manager loved Yammer so much after seeing it in action that she implemented it as the only way to communicate within her division, no more email at all.

Speaking of emails, Craig was able to eliminate 45,000 daily emails by creating groups in Yammer. Instead of everyone in the MWA (15,000 employees) receiving a daily newsletter, there was simply a Yammer group where the information was posted. The same goes for two other major daily mailings. Needless to say, everyone was happy to see fewer things in their inboxes, leadership included.

Craig wrapped up his session by recapping and telling us about help systems available from Yammer directly, namely their blog and success center.