Around this time last year, I was at the Yammer on Tour event, sucking down the Kool Aid and wishing I had a Yammer network to participate in. Now, I’m a member of two Yammer networks—one a collective of volunteers and the other, a thriving corporate network. I’m only new to the former, but it’s been interesting observing the dynamics in the latter.
As a remote contractor, it’s easy to feel on the outer. For one, I’m a contractor, but I think I must also be one of the few people who works solo. The headquarters are in the US, there are a few regional offices around the world, and a few other people working independently around the place. While the corporate Yammer sees a lot of action, what I’ve noticed is the regional and remote people are the ones who really drive the “work out loud” philosophy that’s required to really get the most out of an enterprise social network (ESN).
When I hit the desk of a morning, I essentially punch in with Yammer and Skype. Yammer stays open all day. I might be a 16+ hours flight from the people I work with most often, but I still collaborate on a variety of projects, so it makes sense that I treat Yammer like the virtual office it can be. Here are a few tips on how to approach Yammer as a workplace tool:
1. Be real. I behave on Yammer like I behave on Twitter, Facebook, and in real life. I crack jokes, I observe, and I make mistakes. The water cooler conversation is just as valuable as Serious Business.
2. Be brave. Those mistakes? Just accept that you’ll make them. Yes, I have asked “dumb” questions and I have made unqualified statements. But out of these initially embarrassing exchanges surfaces useful information and knowledge that everyone can learn from. If anything, Yammer is a layer of abstraction from the visible hot-faced embarrassment that should make it easier for you to be bold in your participation.
3. Participate from day one. When you join a Yammer network, it automatically starts a welcome thread for you. Even if colleagues are slow to welcome you, take the opportunity to post a little background info and the things you’re looking forward to contributing to. Welcome the new people who come after you and ‘like’ posts or threads with discerning abandon. (Yes, I know that’s an oxymoron.)
4. Fill out your profile. Yes, even those things about hobbies, pets, and children. These things help to form a sense of your personality even in the absence of your physical form. But don’t forget to add what your areas of expertise are, too. It helps others know to approach you when they have a relevant issue.
5. Join groups. Look for groups that cover your interests, departments you work with, and competencies that overlap with yours. Groups can be created as a formal means for people to collaborate on specific projects, and they can appear and splinter off organically.
6. Embrace working out loud. Use your groups as a place to put your ideas down and involve others in achieving deliverables. Look around at the integrations that make narrating your work day more automatic. People still struggle with this even in a modern “start-up” environment. Read more about working out loud from Bryce Williams.
As time goes by, many more of us will be freelancing and providing services to large organisations. Being proactive in your ESN usage can help you feel connected and involved, so speak up and work out loud.