Lately, I’ve been obsessed with learning more about Yammer. Yammer is an intra-company/enterprise version of Twitter, designed with the goal of helping companies and organizations evolve into more productive and integrated organizations.

Launched at TechCrunch50 in 2008 (also known as TC50), a conference and tradeshow that showcases the best Web 2.0 start-ups, Yammer won the grand prize, and now claims to have more than 50,000 companies around the globe using the tool. Yammer won’t drop names, but they state that Fortune 500 companies, Hollywood studios and many small to mid-sized companies now Yammer, and the Web site lists Fox, Adobe and Hill and Knowlton as users.

Yammer is the result of founder and CEO David Sacks and engineers at the other company he founded, Geni, wanting an internal communication tool to connect with employees throughout the organization.

How does it work? It all starts with one simple question: “What are you working on?” Co-workers post and share update on their projects. Company news can be sent instantly. People in an organization can send links, ask questions and get help from anyone in the company. Everyone on the network can see who is following who, who is the most followed, and ultimately, who are the movers and shakers in the company.

Yammer also serves as a company directory in which every employee has a profile, and as a knowledge base where past conversations can be easily accessed and referenced.

Basic Yammer service is free, and companies can pay to claim and administer their networks. All communication within the company is completely private and secure – not even Yammer employees can see what is going on within individual organizations. The privacy of each network is ensured by limiting access to those with a valid company email address and information isn’t shared with third parties.

Yammer now has the ability to create groups within a company in order to communicate with different teams inside an organization without broadcasting what is said publicly. Companies can also host Yammer inside their corporate firewall. It is available on iPhone, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and Android.

I think this is cool and this says a lot. I have worked at companies where they utilized internal instant messenger tools and I thought it was the biggest pain in the behind. The main reason was that I didn’t feel it used the way it was supposed to be used. What was supposed to be another tool in your arsenal to be more productive and help others mainly became a method of someone keeping track of when you turned your computer on and off, or firing off twenty-million questions a day when they could just pick up the phone and come over to discuss a project.

Not exactly best practices for workplace productivity.

With the appropriate buy-in from The-Powers-That-Be (Yammer can be started by any employee, but I wouldn’t recommend that unless that employee is THE decision maker and can do what they want), Yammer can help end the dreaded silos that occur in many companies, facilitate efficiency in working across various groups in an organization, and fairly and equally promote exemplary work among employees. Yammer could also serve as a blueprint for new employees entering an organization on how it operates, its culture and how to succeed.

An additional use, particularly for public relations departments in organizations that are reluctant to use social media to communicate to external audiences, is to introduce a tool used internally to showcase how, say, Twitter works, and what is can do. Baby steps are necessary for many in upper-management, and this could be a start to embracing social media.

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