Right now, if you say “business social” or “social networking for business” most people automatically think of LinkedIn. True, LinkedIn is the biggest social network for professionals, but it’s hardly exclusive or, for that matter, useful when it comes to finding specific people in specific corporations or industries.
For that, you have to go to Yammer, which has about 85% of the Fortune 500 as membership in its 5 million total corporate users. Unlike LinkedIn, Yammer is meant for internal networking more than it is for world-wide networking.
How Yammer Works
Launched in 2008, Yammer allows employees to join a secure, private social network free of charge. In the beginning, these were generally unauthorized networks, but employees found them extremely useful in getting around the red tape common to large companies. Like a membership at the Elks Club or the “right gym” can get things done a lot faster than the “usual channels,” Yammer facilitated easier networking and faster, more personal response.
Soon, corporations saw this and began to adopt Yammer for their own networks, making them legitimate. This was part of Yammer’s business model and it didn’t take long for corporations to take grassroots organizing through Yammer into their strategies for internal cooperation.
Unlike social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., Yammer is secure and has built its reputation on that. This makes it more acceptable to companies worried about corporation espionage or litigation.
Why Microsoft Buying Yammer Is a Big Deal
Microsoft and Yammer announced that they have come to an agreement whereby MS will purchase the social network company for $1.2 billion in cash. Yammer will become part of Microsoft Office. That’s telling in and of itself, but does not give the whole picture.
For all of its near-monopoly on corporate desktops, Microsoft is lacking on two major fronts: mobile and social. Rival Apple is dominating mobile sales and the name “Apple” is synonymous with smart phones and gadgets. Meanwhile, social networking has completely passed by the Redmond giant, who has so far done little or nothing to get involved in the social landscape that is dominating the Web.
Grabbing up Yammer does two things for MS: it boosts their credibility in social networking, something they had none of before, and more importantly, it boosts the credibility (and usefulness) of its Office suite.
That second thing is a big deal. MS Office has been suffering. It’s slowly been losing market share to other options, many of which are cheaper and just as functional. None of them, however, will have Yammer integrated into their offering. Microsoft now has the chance to do that. It probably won’t happen as fast as Office 8 (expected to release shortly after Windows 8), but it could happen very soon.
That could change the corporate office software suite landscape in a big way.