Choosing your Yammer community manager
Ok, you’ve chosen to launch Yammer and its now time to focus on the next item on your (rather long) list of pre-launch activities in creating a Community. The Yammer community manager role. They’ll be the cornerstone of your investment. An investment in enterprise social, fostering and maintaining an active online community across your business. But where should they sit within your organisation?
Choosing a Yammer community manager is a very important task and role to fill. If the Yammer community manager performs well, they’ll be widely recognised across your company. After all their job is to connect people. Connect people who work in different divisions and departments.
Ultimately, they will develop an understanding of your culture, organisational design and work practices. This performance measurement spans many traditional lenses.
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Being a Yammer Community Manager is a tricky role as it doesn’t typically ‘own’ Yammer. Not as a business tool, process, or technology offering. That lack of ownership comes with its advantages. The Community Manager can rely on others to provide technical support, governance, and (perhaps most importantly) the budget for licences.
The lack of ownership also brings a unique set of challenges. Yammer is part of Office365 and the Community Manager may not even have the ability to change Yammer settings in the Office365 Admin portal. Often they are without a budget, without administrative rights. They may also be without any formal way of compelling people to use Yammer. Yet they are still tasked with the responsibility of making enterprise social flourish as a technology platform.
Choosing a Yammer community manager – Where should they sit in your organisation?
When thinking about choosing a Yammer community manager, one of the things you should consider is where they will sit in your organisation. We have explored four different departments below, that make for a great starting point for discussion. Ultimately deciding on the right channel for where they should sit is important to your community success.
1. Information Technology
This is the natural first choice. After all, this is a technology product, isn’t it? IT owns all the technology products, so the Yammer Community Manager should, therefore, sit within IT.
That logic appears compelling until you recognise that Yammer is a cloud platform hosted by Microsoft. At least from a technical perspective, there isn’t a whole lot of configuration to ensure the platform is available to everyone. And that, at least traditionally, is where IT excelled. Keeping everything humming away in the background.
Community Management takes the next step and actively helps people use collaboration technology for business value. Some more progressive IT departments may have a vision which aligns with that view. A community manager, however, may need to go well beyond the traditional IT remit of providing shared services. If your Community Manager has a strong IT background, they’ve got to be prepared to unlearn many of their traditional ways of working.
2. Human Resources
If Community Management isn’t about technology, then it’s about collaboration. And who better to run a people-centric initiative than the HR department.
However, if the Yammer Community Manager sits outside HR, then they’ll end up working very closely with them anyway. So why not cut the overhead and have them sit within HR, to begin with? For an organisation who has chosen Yammer to be the flagship of a cultural transformation program, sitting within HR is a good option. If nothing else, HR typically has good visibility across business units.
HR can be viewed as a cost centre or is widely perceived as an administrative function, this may not be the best fit for a Community Manager. However, if HR has a reputation for contributing to strategic organisational design decisions, and is at the forefront of the future of work, this is certainly the place to locate the role.
3. Internal Communications
If there’s a healthy sense of community, then Yammer is almost unbeatable as a broadcast communications platform. It’s tempting to hand the Yammer keys to the internal communications team because they have messages they need to convey.
People with an internal communications background may not fully appreciate the way messages propagate on Yammer. They’re used to having control of ‘official’ channels like an intranet front page or an all-company e-mail distribution list. People don’t have to read their e-mail or read the intranet, but these channels allow the comms team to (quite rightly) say they made a good attempt at getting the message out there. Yammer, on the other hand, requires followers and groups to propagate messages, and then some of those followers will share with others. It has greater potential to reach but at the expense of being less reliable.
The other challenge is the health of the community. If it’s already a well-used platform, adding a little internal comms to the mix is ok. However, establishing Yammer purely as another channel for broadcast communication isn’t going to create any sense of community. At the core of every social platform is interaction and dialogue, not a collection of polished broadcasts (with few replies). Community management is less about communications and more about facilitating conversation.
4. Social Media
Finally, you may have a crack team of social media gurus, who can be spotted a mile away with stickers on their laptop. As a social networking platform, Yammer looks deceptively similar to consumer social platforms. And for the most part, people will almost assume that the social media team are ‘champions’ of your Yammer network. But do they make good community managers?
They’re busy people. The internet doesn’t have a concept of working hours and adding another platform for them to manage won’t come without some resistance. However, more importantly, the skills needed for community management aren’t necessarily a natural fit for a social media team.
If we have a look at a typical campaign on consumer social, compared to one on Yammer, there are some fundamental differences. The audience size, for starters. There are billions of people on consumer social, perhaps millions of potential customers, and yet only thousands of employees. That natural limit on how many people you can reach leads to very different strategies and tactics for user engagement. Oh, and there’s no such thing as sponsored content on Yammer.
How to Decide?
The most important factor for which department owns the Community Manager role is how the strategic rationale for Yammer came about. Or more simply, who is pushing the hardest for Yammer to be rolled out?
We’ve seen organisations where Yammer is part of a digital transformation agenda, led by IT. We’ve seen organisations where it is fundamentally a cultural change initiative, led by HR. We’ve seen a single business unit with such a compelling case for Yammer that the entire organisation has to follow suit.
More often than not, the Community Manager should be based in the department that advocates for the technology platform.
Recruiting for the Role
Now you’ve created the role, a harder part is filling it. We’ll explore that challenge in more detail in another blog post. It is worth considering some of the qualities that you may want to look for in candidates.
Bear in mind, the Community Manager will feel like a fish out of water wherever they sit. They’ll be doing a very different job to almost everyone around them. There’s a certain resilience that is required to be able to perform a role with different challenges to those around you.
While the choice of the department may have been influenced by the business rationale for Yammer, the Community Manager’s background will largely reflect the same focus. If you are rolling out Yammer as a cultural change initiative, then it makes sense to have a Community Manager who possesses that skill set.
Lastly, it makes sense to appoint a Community Manager who has a deep understanding of your organisation and is already well-connected broadly across different business units. That suits someone who has worked within different internal departments before or alternatively is a natural networker who can build those relationships quickly.
How to be a good community manager
Here are four tactics to being a great community manager
Communities and Yammer – how it works
Read about one leadership coaches vision and purpose for his community of practice.
Microsoft Yammer Community Manager Forum
This forum offers a great place to interact with others in the Yammer community