Yammer launched during its presentation at the TechCrunch conference on Monday. Since then, technology bloggers have been buzzing about it. The company has already signed up 10,000 people from 2000 companies.
So what's Yammer and why does it matter to your company?
Yammer is easiest explained as Twitter for the enterprise. It's a promising new social media tool that, while still untested, could change the way you run your business in the months ahead.
Here's how it works: Yammer creates closed networks for individual companies, requiring registration from a corporate email account. It's the same model as early Facebook -- your email address is your passport into the network.
Network members can post updates on what they're working on. They can see the message stream of their co-workers' activity. They can search their company's message history.
Once you're in the network, you can create channels, make direct replies, follow specific colleagues, and search content. You can get your updates through email, text messages, instant messaging, and the website. They also have apps for Blackberry and iPhone.
Overall, I think this is a killer app because it fills three different needs:
- The holy grail: capturing tacit knowledge . Knowledge management experts have long recognized that there is incredibly valuable knowledge that is transferred between employees in email and instant messaging that is never captured or shared. It takes time to write documentation. Documentation is the first thing to be dropped when you're short on time. Colleagues ask each other questions. The answers to those questions are valuable, and are often reusable. When those answers are in email they are generally lost forever, deleted and unremarked. Dozens of companies have tried to solve this: Lotus/IBM, Microsoft/Groove, eRoom, Abuzz, Autonomy, Tacit, Vignette, AskMe, etc. have tried, but none have won the market. They have been thwarted by difficult interfaces and low adoption rates. Yammer might have the right recipe to successfully capture the thoughts of employees and share those thoughts across the enterprise.
- Persistant chat . Teams thrive on fast-response collaboration that doesn't interrupt the participant. Email is good for this, but even it can be clunky for the back-and-forth. Who wants to wade through 15 reply emails? Instant messaging solves part of the problem. But most of the IM solutions are aimed at one-to-one conversation. Companies like Parlano (now a part of Microsoft) and IBM (the Sametime product) have tried to solve this with persistant chat channels. Campfire, from 37signals, is the leading Web 2.0 entrant. None of them have won the market. Yammer has seen the success of Twitter and Facebook, copied some key features, and applied it to the enterprise. They may have the formula that beats the existing players.
Social media adoption
. Here at HubSpot, we belive that social media is a key driver to your company's inbound marketing success. But for a lot of our customers, social media is new and feels uncomfortable. We think that blogging and micro-blogging are great ways to get your company's message out to your potential customers. We spend a lot of time and energy helping our customers become bloggers. Yammer will be a big help teaching our customers to use social media. Think about email; at first, many marketers preferred regular mail or phone contact with customers. Over time, people have realized the power of email. That understanding only arrived when they started using email every day themselves. Similarly, many marketers don't understand social marketing. When they start using Yammer, they'll understand the power of microblogging and social media. They'll be ready to adopt social media as a marketing channel. The companies that use Yammer will be the companies that succeed at social media marketing.
It remains to be seen if Yammer can make money at this. I think they probably can. They're using the same adoption model as instant messaging. IM was adopted by individuals in companies, and was endorsed by IT departments out of necessity. Yammer doesn't have to sell to IT departments. It can sell itself to employees, and those employees will get the IT department to invest in Yammer's enterprise features.
The question is whether or not Yammer can win the market. Will Twitter release an enterprise version? Will a Yammer/Twitter clone race to the front of the market? This space is wide open, and I can't predict if it will be claimed by the first mover or the best executor.