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Social Intranets

Is Your Intranet Social (And Do You Really Want It To Be)?

By now you’ve heard the term “social intranet” brandished around extensively.

What makes an intranet social anyway? What differentiates a social intranet from a traditional intranet? And why would one company intentionally look for a social intranet, while another one avoids it?

I believe the elements that make an intranet social are the same ones that define any social medium, such as social networking sites we’ve all become familiar with.

3 Elements of a “Social” Intranet

1. User-generated content

In a social intranet, users can easily create and publish their own content. Aside from merely uploading documents into the intranet, users can also publish a blog, status update, wiki page. There is little censorship, if at all. Intranet authorship policies guide users on what’s appropriate. However, the community of users eventually self-govern, because of the next feature of a social intranet, which is….

2. Interaction

Users of a social intranet can easily interact and communicate with each other. They can post comments and feedback on each other’s content. This serves as a built-in feedback mechanism, which helps them determine what types of content are relevant, which ones are most appreciated by other users, and which ones get negative responses.

3. Sharing

Finally, a social intranet facilitates the sharing of content. On social networking sites, content is passed around by retweeting (Twitter), sharing (Facebook), pinning (Pinterest), and on and on. In a Noodle intranet, users can easily notify other users about virtually any intranet content.

The Benefits of a Social Intranet

Given these features of a social intranet, it’s easy to see why organizations want to go social.

A social intranet facilitates knowledge sharing. It becomes easy to get answers to your questions, brainstorm ideas, and learn from the experiences of others. As an added benefit, this knowledge can be archived, which then becomes searchable on the intranet. Companies no longer need to lose the wisdom of employees when they leave the organization or retire.

Another benefit of a social intranet is that it increases employee engagement. Studies have shown that employees who are actively engaged are more motivated in their jobs and also tend to become more productive. A social intranet, therefore, makes for a happier, more productive workplace.

The Disadvantages of a Social Intranet

Knowing the advantages of a social intranet, I wonder why some companies don’t want one. It’s true, some of our clients choose to switch off the social features of their Noodle intranets.

My guess is they think these social functionalities are going to be a distraction to staff. Instead of focusing 100% on the job, staff will be giving each other virtual high fives. Socializing on the intranet can also be perceived as time consuming, an activity that doesn’t contribute to the company’s bottom line.

Another concern is that management must relinquish a lot of control in a social intranet. Allowing users to publish content and interact with each other only work if everything doesn’t need to go through three levels of approvals.

These are all valid concerns. Ultimately, each organization must decide whether they want to embrace the social aspects of today’s intranets, or to tread more lightly.

To switch from a traditional to a social intranet requires first a transformation in the company’s management style and culture.

How Social Is Your Intranet?

Which social elements does your intranet have? Are you actively using them? Would it be good for your company to have a more social intranet? Or to tone it down?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.