The SharePoint Social vs. Yammer Battle – Do We Care?

I’m driven to write this post after reading one by  over the weekend called Gartner: Yammer or SharePoint? The choice is still unclear.

The choice indeed may still seem unclear, but I think that the statement addresses the wrong questions.

In my opinion (I’m the only one here – you talkin’ to me?), we should stop talking about the “social” thing as a thing. Christian Buckley (@buckleyplanet) beat me to the punch in his comment on the post:

Part of the problem here is that we are still dealing with a serious learning curve on what social is, exactly, and how it fits into an organization’s culture and business needs. Microsoft needs to both education and evangelize a vision+roadmap that has not yet been articulated. That’s a tough row to hoe.

Rather than saying we should use SharePoint or Yammer for “social”, we should instead be talking about the specific things that we want people in a given population to be doing (or at least capable of doing – getting them to do it is a different challenge).

Once we understand what that might look like – and the goals will vary greatly by organization – we can start to make intelligent decisions about the right technologies for that particular case. Saying we need “social” means basically nothing. Or anything. Or something in between.

The slide that James showed from the Gartner webinar which prompted *his* post (and no, I did not see the webinar) starts to get at that set of questions, but I would say that it is still from the reverse angle. It’s useful, but it isn’t the point.


This sort of tool-driven analysis almost always leads to disappointment in my experience. It’s an easy way out for those who don’t want to do the harder work of understanding what the organization actually needs – and maybe even wants – by saying that this tool or that tool is the better one without clearly understanding the underlying problems in the first place.

Technologies can only support the kind of things that people are lumping under the social sobriquet to a certain degree. The concept of being social covers many things, but note that none of them mention SharePoint or Yammer:

so·cial [soh-shuhl] adjective (from
1. pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations: a social club.
2. seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious.
3. of, pertaining to, connected with, or suited to polite or fashionable society: a social event.
4. living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation: People are social beings.
5. of or pertaining to human society, especially as a body divided into classes according to status: social rank

I’ve already stopped saying “social” as much as I can – which isn’t easy – opting instead to push people to tell me what they want to accomplish. It makes most of them uncomfortable (or they say “You know, *social*), but in the long run these artificial packaging exercises are the wrong way to go.

Decide what you want to do, then decide which tool is the best match to solve that set of problems.