100% Engagement on your Yammer site: How is this possible?

In our last blog post we reported that the average engagement score on Yammer platforms was around the 20% mark. Given that many of the organisations in our sample are mature users, how could one possibly hope for 100% engagement? Well we think the answer is simple. And that is to drive Yammer usage to the level that real work gets done; and that is to the Team Level.

In a nutshell, here is the maths….


Ok, it might be easy for us to say just drive Yammer use to the team level, but how do we convince them to make the move? And to date no-one, to our knowledge, has yet to achieve this (other than of course very small enterprises).

To understand this, we need to change the way we think about enterprise social networking systems (ESN). Current thinking places the ESN as the place where staff might go if they need to find out something. Many staff, as we have found, perceive posting on Yammer much like the “Shark Tank” where they really don’t know what reception to expect, if any. We need to start to think about the “Enterprise as a Network of Teams”. This concept is not new, being actively explored now by the agile development movement. And inside teams, using Yammer should not be an optional extra, but a core tool for executing team tasks.

In exploring teams, we are guided by the research on what makes an ideal team size, being 5 to 9 people. In teams of this size there is little or no room for ‘Observers’. Research has shown , and validated by us in some independent research, that the email channel is substantially used by co-located teams. We found that the major proportion of email traffic travels physically less than 6 meters, suggesting that co-located teams are communicating (more likely documenting) activities via email. As Kevin Jones cleverly illustrates, in his excellent video on the inefficiencies of ‘Email trees’ , there is a strong efficiency and effectiveness value proposition for all team members, to move their internal to the team communications from email to Yammer. Sharing with team members, who you might work with every day, is far less confronting than for the vast majority of current Yammer installations. We have learnt from recent research conducted by Google on what makes up the ‘perfect team’. They nominate ‘psychological safety’ as a key attribute of high performing teams. It’s therefore no surprise that the lack of psychological safety in an ESN implementation is holding back broader adoption. Moving from email trees to Yammer is swapping ‘pipes for platforms’; the value we have previously articulated in achieving extreme productivity gains, in our blog post on “Trading Pipes for Platforms”. And once teams are interacting on a platform, rather than via email pipes, the opportunity naturally exists to build an enterprise wide network of teams.

So there should be nothing stopping you from instigating your “Yammer for Teams” program right now. In future posts we will be publishing some results on how our Swoop Personas can be used to help create great teams.



SWOOP Analytics helps organisations drive enterprise wide collaboration and stronger adoption of enterprise social networking platforms, through its unique relationship centred analytics. We value the democratization of analytics, meaning there is value delivered to all staff. We currently draw our insights from Yammer, but soon also, Salesforce Chatter, Atlassian’s Confluence. Contact us for a free trial and benchmarking report at: www.swoopanalytics.com

80% of Enterprise Social Networking System Users are Mostly just Looking…is this a problem?

80% Observer HeaderWe have been comparing organisations using Yammer over the past 6 months. Of the 15 organisations we have compared to date, on average 80% of actual users (not just lurkers) are active on the system less than once every 2 weeks. We kindly classify them as “Observers” . On first blush a typical response is “that’s terrible”. Other more optimistic ones suggest if we measured the lurkers as well, then perhaps it wouldn’t look so bad. But whatever the number, what is a good number? And interestingly enough, some suggest this is what we should expect. Isn’t that what the 90/9/1 rule would predict? Overwhelmingly though, we see community management and the executive want the number to be better; but how much better? 30% engaged and active? 40%?, 60%?, 100%?

Of course the answer is, as always; “it depends”. Some organisations that have many field staff, like retail banks, supermarkets, mining and resources, transport and logistics might argue that these front line staff would not have the time in their day to access the Internet. Therefore having the Yammer system limited to management and functional specialist staff may be understandable, but mobile technology is now changing this situation dramatically. We have observed many ‘front-line’ staff interacting with their colleagues using their mobile devices and apps like WhatsApp or Facebook. Another perspective, which speaks to the 90/9/1 rule, are organisations designing their Yammer installations to be expert driven learning systems, where a selected few (1%) act as the experts who are largely responsible for answering the questions from the 9% who ask, leaving the vast 90% lurkers to benefit from ‘observing’; though we really don’t know, as all lurker measuring systems are questionable. Just because I scrolled over or clicked on some content, doesn’t mean I learnt something. To me this is a ‘safe’ option. Online forums have proved their value long before ‘social’ became fashionable, especially in highly technical areas. But should we be satisfied with a last century online forum, with the addition of some ‘social’ buttons, as our modern enterprise social networking platform?

At the other end of the spectrum are those that are feasting on the Social Business good oil. For these organisations it is not enough to simply dress up the age-old forum as a social networking system. These organisations acknowledge that all non-automated business processes are inherently social. We provided some illustrations of how even 21st century entry-level staff can no longer work alone. If indeed you believe this proposition and that your Yammer platform should support this, then accepting an 80% observer rate is like accepting that 80% of your staff only have to work once every couple of weeks.

Why Yammer? What about the other channels of Email, Chat, Skype etc.. Of course these are all popular collaboration channels. In fact Microsoft, with their acquisition of Volometrics, now have Organalytics which can expose insightful collaboration patterns in email and chat conversations. We believe it’s not an “either-or” situation, but staff need to be on both. Our research on collaboration channels identified that channels like email, chat and voice are substantially restricted to team level communication. Whereas Yammer was the only channel that connected across the enterprise. We see an enterprise ‘fusion’ of channels is optimal, more so than trying to identify particular tools by tasks.

So how do we bridge the huge gap of 80% observers, to everybody onboard and actively collaborating on the platform on a daily basis? Sounds a huge challenge based on where we are today. And it can’t be done through incremental thinking. It does require a whole change in mindset. Here are my recommendations on a mindset that could convert the 80% observers to 100% actively engaged workers:

  1. Do not accept that your ESN is simply a Q&A forum where a selected few ‘experts’ do all the work. Start to think about forming groups for each team and/or all non-automated business process teams. In this way every area of the business should be represented by at least one group. Logically these teams would exist as a layer independent of traditional enterprise level groups, that continue to draw their individual members from teams. Teams
  2. Provide analytics that help everybody and not just the management. Think about making available personal analytics aimed at helping all staff members develop their own personal improvement programs and perhaps share them with other staff; not unlike a personal fitbit for network collaboration. We have written about how analytics can help you “Work Out Loud”. Provide Team level analytics, so that teams can compare and contrast their performances with other peer teams.
  3. Make the assumption that everyone in your organisation is motivated to learn and improve themselves and independently contribute to the organisation without the need for continual management oversight. In fact, along with a belief in your organisations mission, this is precisely what Daniel Pink identified as what 3 motivations drive today’s workforce. Yammer will become the ‘go to’ place for both getting your work done, while improving your own capabilities.
  4. Currently most organisations have installed a few community managers to support the Yammer implementation. They are usually supported by group leader volunteers, who may become Yammer champions. This will not be enough to bridge the gap. We need to transform all your line managers into ‘community managers’. This is where the hierarchy meets the network; as preached by Organisational change guru John Kotter in his award winning book XRL8. We need to force this intersection by making the teams identified in the formal hierarchy, groups in the network; with their leaders acting as key inter-team communication brokers and Team ‘Catalysts’.

Now I hear you saying, well that’s all well and good, but can you show us an organisation that is already doing this? The answer is: not in the organisations for the size included in our benchmark (more than 1,000 staff), but more regularly we see this in smaller more agile organisations. So the essence of the challenge for the larger enterprises is to facilitate agile teams onto the Yammer platform for their day-to-day work. It’s harder to be an “observer” in a team, so the more work teams that move onto Yammer, the more engaged your workforce will be overall.



SWOOP Analytics helps organisations drive enterprise wide collaboration and stronger adoption of enterprise social networking platforms, through its unique relationship centred analytics. We value the democratisation of analytics, meaning there is value delivered to all staff. We currently draw our insights from Yammer, but soon also, Salesforce Chatter. Contact us for a free trial and benchmarking report at: www.swoopanalytics.com

User Engagement – What does this mean to you?

User Engagement sign

The term “User Engagement” has been bandied around the IT industry for decades now. To my knowledge the only other industry that refers to its customers as “Users” is the illegal drug industry. There are some similarities. The users are demanding, can’t get enough of what they want, pay too much and inevitably end up disappointed. Jokes aside however, when it comes to systems designed to facilitate collaboration, like Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) software, it leads to confusion as to what “user engagement” really means. IT heritage thinking would have it mean “how the user engages with the IT system”. Its all about how users enter something into a system and get something back out in return. So when it comes to measuring and monitoring how successful an IT system is, it invariably comes down to usage. How much was the system exercised? How available was it? Did the user get out of it what they wanted?
User Engagement Machine

When we talk about collaboration and collaboration systems, our heritage IT thinking kicks in and we want to measure how many people are using the system as the key measure of success. So we start to measure User Engagement in terms of system utilization. But what about how users engage with each other? Isn’t that what collaboration is all about? Isn’t that the real ultimate measure of user engagement? It’s not that system utilization is irrelevant, its not. But if the focus is on the system utilization we could lose sight of what the real objective is. Think of it like a dating site that measures its success by how many people they sign up or how many profile searches are made, rather than measuring themselves through the true measure of successful matches. It’s unlikely that such a site would have a very long life.

User Engagement PeopleAt SWOOP we focus on relationship centered metrics. We believe that user engagement should be about how people engage with other people in collaborative activities. As part of our ESN comparative analytics framework, we include the following “User Engagement” measures:




Mean 2-Way connections

A two-way connection exists when an activity is reciprocated e.g. You ‘liked’ my post and I ‘replied’ to your post, or similar.

Looks to mimic reciprocity. The higher the score, the more ‘engaged’ users are with each other. Reciprocity is a foundation element of trust, which underpins effective collaboration.

Post/Reply Ratio

Total number of posts divided by total number of replies.

Seen as ‘pump priming’ for the network. A value > 1 may be required to launch a network but should settle below 1 once traction is achieved. See our persona post {Ref}


% of Likes and Mentions.

A ‘Like’ or a ‘Mention’ is a form of recognition, something that should be encouraged in a social system. Recognition promotes user engagement.


% Notifications.

A ‘Notification’ is like a ‘cc’ in an email. Usually it is used to direct attention of the receiver. A common management activity.

Response Rate

% of discussion threads longer than a single post.

In the absence of context, this is the best measure of ‘value’ generated. A high response rate shows that people are benefiting in some way from participation.


% of messages that are public messages, is posted in a group (public or private) or to all.

(Private messages are those that are sent directly between users using the ‘Send message’ feature. It is the same as email).

The objective of an enterprise social network is to promote transparency. Measuring the split between public and private message tells us the extent to which transparency is being achieved. Users are more likely to freely collaborate in open and transparent environments.

We suspect that the above measures might be quite foreign to those used to the traditional systems utilization measures. But just like the dating site, until we start to measure success in human terms, rather than system activity measures, our users will continue to pay too much and still end up disappointed.