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9/23/2011
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How Yammer Helps ReachLocal Reach Farther

Web marketing company adopted Yammer's enterprise social networking to hold the organization together during period of rapid growth.

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Web marketing company ReachLocal adopted the Yammer enterprise networking service at a time the company was growing so fast it was in danger of spinning apart.

"We were rapidly growing, opening up one new market every three weeks, and rapidly transforming from a startup company to a publicly traded company with rapid growth," David Glaubke, ReachLocal's director of corporate communications, recalled in an interview. With more small offices opening up everywhere, ReachLocal began to suffer from "a disconnect, not only in communications but corporate culture," meaning that not everyone understood what the organization was about.

ReachLocal adopted Yammer almost three years ago, in the period leading up to its public offering in 2009. The firm helps small businesses advertise to local audiences on the Web and now has more than 1,300 employees operating in more than 45 offices in the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Yammer is used most actively by the sales staff of about 700 people to compare notes and collaborate on making deals, Glaubke said. A sales representative in Tampa can ask a question not just of his peers in that office but of everyone around the world who has had to deal with a particular type of difficult customer or overcome a specific objection. Sales representatives who are rarely in the office have also learned to love Yammer's mobile app.

[ Not comfortable with social media? Read 4 Things IT Can Do To Embrace Social Networking ]

Employees in other departments such as finance use the application occasionally, but not as intensively, he said. Overall, ReachLocal has logged over 100,000 messages through the system.

Meanwhile, Yammer file sharing is important for distributing files worldwide. One of the other problems ReachLocal experienced as it grew internationally was that distributing large files via email didn't always work, and Yammer provided a better answer, he said.

Because Yammer makes a free version of its application available and charges for upgrades, it's known for entering many organizations through the back door and only later (if at all) being recognized as an official corporate tool. That wasn't the way it happened at ReachLocal, Glaubke said. "It wasn't that we joined, and it kind of virally grew. We looked at it, we tested it, and we had a more formal launch of Yammer within the company."

Since ReachLocal is a Salesforce.com shop, Salesforce's Chatter social collaboration application might seem like a more natural match because of its integration with the company's sales applications. Of course, Chatter wasn't available when ReachLocal signed up for Yammer. Also, Yammer recently integrated with Salesforce's APIs to bring updates from Salesforce applications into the Yammer Activity Stream.

In any case, Glaubke said Yammer is so entrenched at his company that he hasn't heard anyone suggest a switch--and it doesn't sound like he'd be very receptive to the idea.

"Yammer has built a very, very sticky platform," Glaubke said. There are plenty of other services he subscribes to for things like press release distribution that he would drop at a moment's notice if another vendor offered him a comparable service for less money, he said. "But part of our ReachLocal lives is entrenched in Yammer, and we have institutional knowledge entrenched in Yammer." The tool is so much a part of the company culture that "yamming something" has become a verb for sharing it, he said.

"We give our own Yammer awards," Glaubke said. "We have a guy known as the Prince of Yammer, and there's also the King of Yammer--high usage people. Some people have made a name for themselves in the company. They've been recognized as someone who offers a lot of great advice or goes out of their way to help somebody. So that's an interesting byproduct of the usage of Yammer--kind of a fun surprise."

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