Microsoft recently announced its phased approach for integrating Yammer with SharePoint 2013, so it will be much later this year before we see any meaningful work completed to bring the two platforms together. But in the meantime, users can look forward to easier access to Yammer from within Office 365 and SharePoint Online.

Let's take a look at some of the really nice features Yammer offers today, the kind of stuff SharePoint users can start looking forward to. Here are our top five favorite Yammer features right now.

1. Inbox

The Yammer Inbox is a place where you can see all of your messages in one single place. It isn't a separate email service, more a filtered view of all existing conversations but it is a really nice and easy way to focus the mind on your own communications. SharePoint has never really had its own "messaging" system, so the Yammer Inbox fills a real gap.

2. Groups

Groups are lists of users -- so far, so obvious. But Yammer makes it really easy to post to a group, target messages at them, or share files and notes with them. SharePoint users will be thinking "team sites do all that" right now. Well sort of. Groups sit at a lower level, and you could think of multiple groups in an activity feed operating within a SharePoint site.

3. Polls

SharePoint already offers polls, but the Yammer version is a bit different. Firstly they are really quick and easy to create, they also appear in your activity feed (of course, this is Yammer after all), and they make it simple for other users to complete. The SharePoint survey list is a little more heavyweight in comparison. Yammer polls are a nice quick way to ask a question of people in your community, and will add a lot to the sense of community SharePoint is trying to foster.

Learning Opportunities

4. Notifications

SharePoint has its own notifications system, based on lists and sent via email. Yammer notifications are a little different. They highlight activity in your streams, and are available from within the interface as well as via email. Anyone familiar with Facebook notifications will be right at home here.

5. Editing Documents in Office Web Apps

This one is technically a feature of the new, integrated Yammer and SharePoint, and thus isn't yet available. But it is going to be neat when it arrives. In a nutshell it allows documents held in a Yammer feed to be edited in Office web apps. This is a great example of a few of the features SharePoint is bringing to the table to improve Yammer (rather than the other way round).

A More Social SharePoint Future

SharePoint delivery partners are already getting excited about what these new features will mean for the systems they build, and the clients they build them for. Will Saville at BrightStarr, a UK based Microsoft Gold Partner well known in the industry for having the first commercially available SharePoint 2013 website, thinks Yammer integration heralds the start of really social SharePoint Intranets:

SharePoint 2013 has some really nice new social features, but it is clear Microsoft bought Yammer for a good reason. Lots of our clients ask us for social, even ‘Facebook’ style applications. SharePoint Online, integrated fully with Yammer, finally gives us the power to deliver what they want in a usable and intuitive way.”

Editor's Note: To read more by Chris on the potentials of SharePoint, check out 3 Steps to a Great SharePoint Intranet