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There’s a reason social media is called that – because it’s a social activity.

Will Foy (pictured right) told IoIC Live 2015 that allowing employees to be social online was key to the successful launch of Yammer at Sovereign housing association.

He was tasked with the launch of a new strategy, new values and a new purpose, while pushing ‘collaboration’, one of the values.

“This was complicated by the fact that Sovereign had recently acquired several other associations and integration was failing with employees still using their previous uniforms and business names,” he explained.

Sovereign runs 40,000 homes for around 90,000 residents and has 1,500 employees spread around 18 premises. A third of employees are not office bound and technology was “a bit retro”.

Following surveys to find out the various audiences and a channel audit, and discovering big gaps, Will decided an employee conference would work, using Yammer as the tool to promote it.

The event at Newbury racecourse was based on TV programmes like Deal or No Deal, Through The Keyhole and news headlines, with senior leaders taking on starring roles.

“Yammer became the foundation on which the whole event worked,” he explained. “It was given a ‘soft launch’ about six months before – we just opened the virtual gates – and take-up was predictably slow.”

However, Will got the leadership team behind it on the basis that it was the epitome of the collaboration value and encouraged ‘influential friends’ to get involved and start spreading the word, with rumours about the upcoming conference.

“I stressed that it was fine to think social and not strategy – if people wanted to post pictures of their cat or their dinner, that was fine because they were learning to use the system,” he said.

“It was also made clear that to participate in the conference – ask questions or make comments – you’d have to use Yammer.”

More participation was encouraged with competitions, like a ‘selfie contest’ on the day under the hashtag #sovselfie.

The results were impressive - there were 416 uploads, more than 2,000 ‘likes’ and a 212% growth in engagement with Yammer as enrolment reached 98%.

Then they kept up the pressure. Will explained: “In the months that followed Yammer was used to create a framework for business use, some comms like the CEO’s blog were moved onto it and smaller networks were created for groups like plumbers and electricians to swap ideas.

“It worked because they felt confident and knew what they were doing on Yammer.”

Tips for smarter collaboration

1) Be the aligner – you’re the person who can connect the dots or pave the way.

2) Focus on your leaders – get them involved and others will follow.

3) Make friends – don’t be scared to ask others to help, nine out of ten will.

4) Make it part of the furniture – don’t bill it as the ‘new social media platform’, just make it the way we do stuff, it’s just what we use.

5) Don’t be scared to be social – it might be scary for leaders to say have some fun and upload pictures of your pets if you want to, but it’s the way to go.

6) And continue to be social – it was suggested that maybe Sovereign's Yammer should stop being social after a while but if you take it down, it will switch people off.
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