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So, have you discovered microblogging yet?  Or, perhaps more importantly, have you started using microblogs at work?

If you answered no to the second question, you may want to check out Yammer.  Yammer took the top prize last week at TechCrunch50 (an annual conference showcasing new start-ups hosted by the technology website TechCrunch).  The folks at TechCrunch describe Yammer as “Twitter with a business model.”

If you are not sure what a microblog is, or what Twitter is, here is a brief word of explanation.  Microblogs are social software applications that allow you to broadcast brief text updates (typically 140 characters or less) to anyone who chooses to subscribe or “follow” your updates, or – if you need more security – to a select group of followers chosen by you.  The most popular and famous microblogging tool is Twitter, however there are many others.  Many of the popular social networking sites, including Facebook and LinkedIn also contain microblogging tools called “status updates.”

The basic purpose of a microblog is to inform your followers of your current status – to answer the simple question: What are you doing (right now)?  For an even better explanation, I highly recommend checking out this presentation by the folks over at Common Craft. Although this concept may sound odd or even like a colossal waste of time, an ever increasing number of users are finding real value, even in the business world. 

David Sacks, founder of Geni – a family tree website, also founded Yammer.  The technology behind Yammer was first designed to support internal communications between developers at Geni.  They found it so successful, that Sacks decided to start a separate company around the tool. 

What makes Yammer so impressive, especially to the judges at TechCrunch50, is the company’s specific focus on microblogging between employees and the company’s potentially lucrative business model. 

Twitter is free, and open to the public.  Anyone can follow anyone (unless you specifically choose to limit followers).  In contrast, Yammer is private.  You must supply a corporate email address to sign-up.  And then you can follow or be followed by only others with the same corporate email domain, automatically keeping the conversations within a given company and making it much more likely that a corporate IT department would approve of using such a tool internally.

The question is not: “What are you doing?” but instead, “What are you working on?”  Employees in the same organization can share their current status, post news, or find answers to questions.  That internal focus is also the source of Yammer’s revenue.  Yammer allows any employee with a valid corporate email address to start a free network for a company.  But, if that company wants to claim its name-sake network, it will cost them $1 per month per member.  That fee buys the company administration privileges, including the ability to delete users and messages, and to set password and security rules.

According to TechCrunch, Yammer is definitely on to something.  10,000 people and 2,000 organizations signed up on the first official day of its launch. Has your company already signed up?  Would corporate communications in your organization benefit from a tool that made it easy for employees to keep everyone else updated on their current work status?  Let us know.

By the way, for those of you who answered yes to the questions at the start of this post, especially to the second question, we want to hear your story.  Please comment below.

-David

Dani Johnson

Dani Johnson, Vice President, Learning & Development Research, writes about the evolving L&D function. Specifically, she focuses on the necessary changes in how L&D approaches its responsibilities and allocates its resources (people, time, and money) to have a lasting effect on both organizations and individuals.

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