Lessons Learnt from Telefónica’s Yammer Journey

Luz rodrigo martorell telefonica yammer community manager

Luz Rodrigo Martorell

Luz Rodrigo Martorell is the Yammer community manager at one of the world’s largest telcos, Telefónica. She has been involved in cutting edge projects to embed their enterprise social network into the working practices of the whole company – including crowdsourcing corporate strategy through Yammer. Here are her words of advice for people managing internal social media. (It’s a long post – you can download it as a PDF here).

1. The Best Way to Control is… to Forget about Control

When we talk about our Enterprise Social Network (ESN) outside the organization, the first question that comes up is: How do you control or moderate what people say? Obviously, with more than 95,000 registered users, over 600 active groups in the main network and around 200 networks altogether, control would be very difficult (even if we tried). Displaying a usage policy is essential, but for the rest we apply Zen master Shunryu Suzuki’s statement: “To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is the way to control him.” With people, it is exactly the same. Communities regulate themselves without your active monitoring and involvement.

2.  The Best Way to Launch is not Launching

Telefónica’s ESN growth and adoption have been organic. We did not tell people that they had to start collaborating. They started collaborating because they realized that they could get their work done in a more effective way. When there were thousands of them, we made the concept and the tool “official” to make things easier for all. It was their idea, not ours. That is why we always have a user base that is ready to participate without us pushing them to do it.

3. Launch the Imperfect

The sooner you assume it, the better. The situation will never be perfect. You have a work related group and not everybody will register or join. This will lead to inefficiencies. But, go ahead anyway. You will not reach the top if you do not start walking at the bottom. If your aim is to reproduce a business-related success story, you will probably have to start with a very basic, simpler and more imperfect one. In the process, you will learn.

4. From the Internal Communications Department to the Interesting Conversations Department

Communications pro vs community manager
In our latest Internal Communications Manifesto, we declared our goal publicly. Until now, we have been the Internal Communications department. Now we want to become the Interesting Conversations department. It is tough and we do not always succeed, but we have it engraved in our minds. We know it is no longer about us; it is about them, our employees. Whatever we have to communicate, we have to listen first. People are more willing to listen to you if you take the time to listen to them.

5. Learn to Deal with Frustration – It will Become your Closest Friend

As a member of a communications team, you post a message of key strategic importance. Nobody reacts. An employee not working at a communications department posts something, and he gets 30 comments. This happens all the time. Learn to accept it. Put some time aside to gain weight as an influencer in the network. I can assure you it will be worth your while.

6. Find Executive Sponsors, No Matter How Long it Takes

executive sponsor
Most ESN initiatives start at the Internal Communications departments. So let’s put it bluntly: if you do not have top executives on board you will never succeed, because they will start boycotting the tool or they will communicate their doubts and concerns to the people in their teams. No matter how long it takes, try to find at least one executive sponsor. Perhaps you are not as lucky as we are, since our Executive Chairman José María Álvarez-Pallete truly believes in the power of social networks to transform the way we work, he is an avid user and, best of all, we did not have to convince him! Nevertheless, find an executive that would be enthusiastic about starting a group or network for his or her department, and then sell the success to others.


7. Choose your Priorities Carefully, because People will Imitate you

Suppose you think that, what the network needs this year is more virtual meetings (YamJams), and so you decide to organize several of them. You will start receiving calls from people interested in hosting YamJams in their teams. Do you put all your strength and effort into finding an executive sponsor? You will receive dozens of emails from leaders willing to learn about how to become an executive sponsor. Many people in your organisation care about social collaboration. They are willing to do something about it, but they simply do not know how to start and they look for inspiration. Choose good priorities and introduce new elements, because others will imitate you.

8. Do not Be a Lone Ranger. Build an Army to Help you

The best decision we have ever made is to invest time and effort into building a community of ESN ambassadors, even if in our case it is rather small (but growing in numbers and influence). Communities take off, but the resources to sustain them come at a slower pace. If you have taken care of them, ambassadors will be your best allies. And, we swear you will need them!

9. Focus your Training on Community Management Skills

community managers training

This is a beginner’s mistake we made that you can avoid! We have spent a lot of time preparing video tutorials, learning pills, short and long guides. They have helped some people, but many others have not benefited from our efforts at all. We have been focusing more on the use of the tool, on functionalities, rather than on teaching how to manage a group successfully. Community management skills come first. Once people have them, they will learn about the use of a particular tool in an easier way.

10. You Need a Governance Team, and As Little Regulation As Possible

Yammer as little regulation as possible
We have an inter-departmental governance team (IT, HR, IC), but we have established the minimum amount of rules. Think of the ones that may be strategic and important and forget about the others. If you set up too many restrictions or regulations, people start fearing the collaboration platform and perceive it as a “dangerous place”, where they will be “punished if they make mistakes”. The ESN has always been the space for freedom and flexibility at Telefónica. We have to keep it that way.

12. Show People that you Care, Even if you Cannot Help them

Very often, you will not be able to find the right person to solve a problem or you will not be able to guide people to the required information, group or process. Many other times, the solution they require will not be within your powers. If you have the ability to show them that you have tried your best and that you deeply care about their need/concern/situation, this will not have a negative impact on the ESN reputation. Quite the opposite.

13. Cross-cooperation is not a Problem – Different Languages Are

Imagine you need help or feedback and you post your request in a global group. People do not ask if you are based in the same country as them before they start assisting you. They simply help. Cross-cooperation is normally not a problem. Languages are. You can encourage people to use the translation feature if a user posts in a language they do not understand. And it helps to an extent. However, even if you carefully and systematically use several languages in a group to include all the people from different countries, groups tend to specialize thematically and linguistically as well. A real challenge!

14. Give Before you Ask

Here is some very basic advice for newcomers, group and network managers. If, on your first day, you start asking and asking and you do not take the time to contribute or to help others, you will not get very far. If you want to increase your reputation and success in the network, start replying first. Give something before you ask for something back. That is the way it works best.

15. Refuse to Post on Other People’s Behalf Using your Profile

If you start supporting good causes and post about them with your personal profile, people will stop using theirs. It is much better if the person requesting that you do it, starts the conversation and then you @mention a few names to make it viral. Always encourage people to post for themselves. If you let them entice you, even if it is only once, they will try to convince you again and again.

16. Give Users Confidence to Dare

Yammer champions

Imagine you offer a top executive the chance to participate in an open Q&A session. He or she may be thrilled about it, but they could also be worried or afraid. What if employees start asking very difficult questions? What if trolls keep on posting nasty messages? Give them a plan to show them that you are in the position to react to any possible crisis situation and suggest they start with something small, even if it takes longer than expected to organize it. You will only have to do it once. When they see that none of the catastrophes they fear happen in the end, they will be willing to take bigger steps. And sometimes, they even enjoy it and come back to you because they want more and more!

17. Trust People – They Really Deserve it

I do not know what your company is like, but in ours, people are too busy to use the enterprise social network to be nasty. If they participate, even if it is to disagree with the corporate strategy, they are naturally constructive. I can assure you that you will find fewer trolls in a closed, internal environment than anywhere else. Still reluctant to believe it? In an ESN, you can choose whether to participate or not, but anonymity is not possible. You will know who is disrespectful or who is misbehaving.

18. Reward Good Behaviour

We know this from experience. Do not focus on telling people what they do wrong all the time. Even if you are right, it discourages usage and newcomers lose the little confidence they have. When we learnt that, we tried something else: rewarding the behaviour we wanted to see more and more in future. For instance, the top four contributors in our strategic debates were invited to the Executive Conference, although they were not directors or top managers. They had the chance to meet and talk with the top leaders in the organization. Now everybody knows that taking some time to make good contributions and suggestions can be useful for the organization and for themselves.

19. Do Not Talk about Abstract Benefits – Show People Specific Examples

Trying to show people the benefits of ESNs? You can quote hundreds of theoretical reasons to use them. And after you mention two or three of them, people stare at you blankly. Abstract benefits do not resonate with people. When people ask us how social collaboration platforms can help them, we quote real cases and success stories that have taken place here or somewhere else. If we are interested in gamification, we mention the gamification examples we are aware of. If they are worried about customer care, we use examples in this area as well. Spend time identifying success stories and documenting case studies. Eureka moments only happen when you mention these examples.

Download this post as a PDF.


– Luz Rodrigo Martorell
Follow Luz on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn 
She also blogs about enterprise social networks and internal communications (in Spanish)


© 2013 All Rights Reserved. Business Goes Social ®