Ever since Microsoft bought Yammer in June 2012 and announced plans to integrate it with SharePoint, there has been considerable interest in the social network and getting the most out of it. Now GoodData has entered the fray. It researched how companies use Yammer in the enterprise, and offers four suggestions for improvement.

Social Network Use

There are no hard and fast rules on getting the most out of social networks or guides to ensure the best return on investment (ROI).  Instead, Yammer Analytics: Why It’s Time looks at the use of third-party analytics to understand how Yammer is being used in enterprises. That analytics should be brought to play to examine Yammerand other social networks is no surprise. It simply underscores how agile analytics products have now become.

Social networks have become increasingly valuable to enterprises. Not only do they facilitate collaboration and flexible communication, but they also unlock information from restrictive silos, push it around the enterprise and create new business value. In fact, according to a Forrester Forrsight Software Survey , businesses are starting to see social networks as strategic investments and not just useful but non-essential tools.

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Yammer actionable analytics

Investing in Yammer

In fact, the ROI for Yammer is as much as 365 percent if it is used in conjunction with actionable analytics.  There are some basic analytics capabilities in Yammer, GoodData noted, but they are limited by 7-day and 28-day windows. To really understand what is going on in a social network, the analytics application needs to have greater flexibility.

But let’s take a small step to put this in perspective. According to International Data Corporation (IDC) global sales of enterprise social networks will grow by 42 percent annually between now and 2016. In terms of revenue growth this means that between 2011 and 2016,the global market for enterprise socialnetworks will grow from $767.4 million to $4.5 billion.

This growth is being pushed by a fundamental change in the way employees communicate. Telephones (even mobile ones), conference calls and email can't keep employees in the loop as well as a social network.

In fact, citing a McKinsey report on The Social Economy: Unlocking Value And Productivity Through Social Technologies, GoodData estimates that workers using social networks are between 25 percent and 30 percent more productive.

So what's the problem?  Only  3 percent of companies are getting the full benefits from social technologies.

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Yammer engagement

Analytics, GoodData noted , are essential. Before enterprises can improve their ROI they must know which deployments have worked and identify how they have failed. There are four areas in particular that enterprises need to address:

1. Employee Adoption and Engagement

The first thing enterprises need to measure is whether employees are actually using the social network. Clearly, if they are not, everything breaks down right there.  By using  third-party analytics packages, enterprises will be able to overcome the inherent problems around Yammer’s internal analytics and provide Key Performance Indicators (KPI). Useful indicators include the number of employees who are active on Yammer, the number of those that start new threads, those who respond to threads and those that are currently or permanently inactive.

2. Top Performers

Yammer, like other social networks, is more than just individuals. Groups and how groups are used are equally important. Groups work effectively when they have clear business goals, when they have the appropriate membership and when members of those groups receive adequate training. But establishing the appropriate groups is also important. By developing a group adoption and creation strategy all departments across the enterprise can ensure engagement on Yammer and effective communication across the enterprise.

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Learning Opportunities

Some groups are always more effective. The role of administrators is to identify what makes some groups work and others not, and apply successful lessons across the entire enterprise. GoodData suggests the following metrics in evaluating how effective groups are. They are:

  • Number of posts
  • Number of replies
  • The rate of reply: Percentage of threads with a reply)
  • Minutes to first reply: How quickly users reply

3. Increasing User Trust

In companies that have high levels of trust, research has shown that workers are more productive, more likely to share ideas and opinions — and use social networks more often and more constructively. GoodData noted that when users ask questions in Yammer and don’t receive timely responses, they quickly lose trust. Analytics identifies:

  • The number of unanswered questions
  • Average time to reply
  • Number of users who have asked questions, but have not received replies.

By identifying unanswered questions, administrators can identify areas of weakness in the company, or group, and bring in experts who can reply to concerns and questions.

4. Morale and Sentiment

Citing Gallup research, GoodData said 70 percent of US workers are disengagedand costing the economy as much as $550 billion annually. Without doing much research, it is clear that there is a link between productivity and morale.

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Yammer sentiment

Measuring sentiment, however, is difficult and would take weeks to extract from every message that appears on a social network. However, with text and sentiment analysis tools, the thousands of messages generated on Yammer every day can be easily analyzed and work as a gauge for employee morale and sentiment.

There is a lot more included in the report, much of which applies not just to Yammer, but to other social networks as well. The issue of getting the best out ofYammer though is increasingly important as Microsoft pulls it slowly but surely into SharePoint.

Title image by alexskopje (Shutterstock).