When to Use Yammer, Email, or IM for Business Communications

Email, Yammer, and Instant Messages, Oh My! So many choices. When it comes to communication, everyone’s got their preference. But I seriously believe there should be some hard, fast ground rules when it comes to inter-office communications. I work with a team that has successfully adopted Yammer for the majority of our communications. Email is used sparingly and I am thankful for it.

Today I ran across a scenario today where I desperately wished the message was communicated outside of Yammer. An online meeting was cancelled via a reply in a Yammer thread that had nothing to do with our meeting. I sat around waiting for the person to show up on Skype for Business, wondering what was up. The Outlook Invite was still in the calendar… so I started checking the usual suspects (in this order) – phone calls, text messages, instant messages, emails… and eventually gave up.

I later discovered the Yammer reply and realized that I had not clearly stated my expectations for how I expect someone to cancel a meeting. I felt badly as I had been hammering home the need to put “all” the communications in Yammer, and they were simply following what I had asked them to do.

The situation caused me to start to think about communication methods in general, and what a “My Communication Style – Quick Reference Guide” would look like. Here’s my first draft:


If you have a message and it is…

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH OR GREAT URGENCY (i.e. need a response in 1-5 minutes) – get up and talk to me, or if I’m out of the office pick up the phone and call me.

SUPER DUPER TIME SENSITIVE (i.e. need a response within 5-60 minutes) – send me a text or an Instant Message (IM) on Skype for Business. I will respond ASAP.

RATHER TIME SENSITIVE (i.e. need a response within 1-4 hours) – send me an email. I check my inbox after every meeting.

If you choose to forgo email, and Yammer me instead, please follow up when I don’t respond. I try to check Yammer thrice a day, but there are days where 9am and 5pm are the best I can do, so if you don’t see my response – ping me via IM or email with a link to the conversation thread.

SLIGHTLY TIME SENSITIVE (i.e. need a response within 4-8 hours) – send me a direct Private Message in Yammer or @mention me in a Yammer group post. It’ll end up in my Yammer inbox, which should be the first thing you check when you go into Yammer.

NOT REALLY TIME SENSITIVE (i.e. need a response within 24-48+ hours) – write a post without an @mention to me in Yammer. I make time every other days to get caught up on all the unread chit chat and write a thoughtful responses.

NOT TIME SENSITIVE AT ALL (i.e. no response required; purely for future reference) – create a wiki page in your SharePoint site. I turn on email notification alerts to all Wiki Page libraries so I always know when there is something new or modified to review. I’ll get to it when I have time. And I know next time I search for info in the Portal, it will be there for me.


I think the key message is that email is not evil unless you abuse it.

Businesses that take the time to consider the communication options available to them and then define expectations around how they should be used, are implementing a system that will increase focus/productivity, eliminate clutter, and reduce the stress that comes with feeling like you are out of the loop or overwhelmed by all the “noise”.

How do your team communicate? Is Yammer part of that strategy? Are you pro or anti email?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!

One response to “When to Use Yammer, Email, or IM for Business Communications

  1. I’ll admit, I’ve used Yammer about 30 minutes and gave up. It’s probably a good replacement for a water fountain conversation, but definitely too complex/cumbersome/ungainly for focused work. IM rules for me for simple conversations where I need immediate feedback, and email works for long-term needs and gets archived by the company for reference. Yammer just feels like a reason to not be working… 🙂

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