Inevitably, when explaining Yammer and other enterprise social tools to someone new to the idea, consultants and IT professionals end up saying something like, “Yammer is like a private Facebook for your company.” The analogy brings with it a lot of baggage, however. For every person you find who loves Facebook you’ll find another who hates Facebook and deleted her profile. So we’ll often be met with a response of, “Why on earth would my company want its own private Facebook?”
Well, I think that’s actually a pretty interesting question. As much as we might hate over-sharing, cat pictures, what our sisters-in-law ate last night, and Farmville, you can’t deny that Facebook is very good at what it does. According to the Pew Research Center, 57% of American adults actively use Facebook, and 73% of Americans 12-17 years of age. It is the 2nd most popular website in the world. As of the close of May 1, Facebook shares were trading at $61.28 for a market cap of $154.87 billion.
Why wouldn’t you want your own Facebook?
Well, because your business (probably) isn’t about offering free entertainment to people. Connecting friends and families across the globe has nothing to do with your business model. Posting pictures of small (but really cute) children won’t make your employees more productive. However, Facebook is about these things, and the tools it has developed are really good at it.
And that’s the key. Having a private Facebook for your company is not about empowering your employees to promote their favorite political candidates; it’s about empowering your employees to promote their ideas. It’s not about collecting friends; it’s about collecting influence and then surfacing that influence to managers in a quantifiable manner. It’s not about commenting on glamour pics; it’s about collaborating and offering feedback on your business’s IP.
Facebook uses its toolset to help people connect and share with friends. Yammer uses Facebook’s toolset to collaborate and communicate with colleagues.
So Yammer is not really about having a Facebook for the enterprise. Yammer is about using the powerful and proven tools that Facebook has built to achieve the goals of the enterprise.
I’ll leave you with a video about the power of Yammer collaboration. While it’s perhaps a little unrealistic and cheesy (and the thought of children playing with their smartphones on a camping trip makes me cry), I think it does offer a good idea of what a mature, functioning social network can begin to achieve, and it does show that the purpose of an enterprise social network is very different from the purpose of Facebook.