What do you want people to do on your social intranet?

The features of a modern, collaborative intranet can be daunting, but nobody should spend time working out how to use social features. That’s the wrong way ’round. Rather, start with your business goals and discover what people do in their everyday work, then match the features to the goals.


Click image to embiggen.

It’s not about the social features, it’s about getting stuff done. Don’t tell people about ‘status updates’ and ‘activity walls’, rather, focus on working out loud and helping colleagues.

Brand engagement takes a knocking at #FutureComms14

Click to embiggenI feel ignorant for not knowing that it was Bill Gates who first said content is king back in 96. I know context, needs, and the appropriate channel are crucial, but conversations start with content, so I should have known where this maxim originated.

The Future Comms line-up provided many such insights, but the most striking theme was knocking brand engagement as an unethical intrusion, and a waste of time.

Considering that engagement has been perhaps the hottest topic inside the enterprise and outside in the marketing world, this is jarring.

At Content Formula, we dont see engagement as the end goal its either part of the journey towards happiness and productivity at work, or it’s part of the relationship companies build with customers.

But Tom Foremski felt engagement could be ethically dubious; I think Tom suggested that engagement activities took people away from time with their families! I interpret this as meaning that engagement for the sake of engagement is the criminal here.

Not everyone was so down on engagement, as O2 said:

But for hundreds of examples of engagement for engagements sake, see Condescending Corporate Brand Page on Facebook, which showcases awful uses of social media by companies that should know better. Some are so bad (especially the older ones) that you want to believe theyve been faked. Jon Morter (he who growth-hacked Facebook to make us all get Rage Against the Machine number 1 for Christmas in 2009) created the Page after Persils irrelevant engaging image and instructions, below.


Jon found, through years of feedback from consumers and agencies forced to push out this sort of thing, that people are happy to be sold things in their timelines, and find all this fluffy engagement stuff annoying.


If those were the lessons, here are the actions

If were to build relationships, engagement will always be important. But we should stop thinking of engagement as a result or an activity that we put in front of people.

We, the communicators, change agents, PRs, and marketers need to be engaged in the story, in the relationship, in the process. We must be involved ourselves, as individuals and as organisations. We need to be authentically present, and committed to the purpose of our relationship building recognising the social contract between everyone involved in multi-way communications.

We cant churn content out without meeting a need or want. We have to add value, not just activities and noise, to peoples online lives.

A strategic marketing approach is needed so that we focus on the outcomes, not merely the inputs we create. Tom Foremski said it clearly when he suggested we need to shut up more.

More from the Future Comms conference:

Bringing the internet indoors: socialising your intranet

Most intranets are largely static sites. On its own, an intranet is essentially a shared drive, serving up centrally stored documents alongside internal articles or communications. Some organisations use words such as “communication hubs” to describe them, but for the most part that communication is one-way.

These days, however, an intranet really can be a hub for your company. The intranet portal now closely mirrors employees’ expectations of world wide web functionality. Systems such as Microsoft SharePoint allow users to communicate with each other and collaborate, much as they would using social media tools such as blogging, Facebook and Twitter.

There are a number of capabilities that you can implement relatively easily, with SharePoint in particular making many of them available as standard.

Document sharing

This is the fundamental benefit of a SharePoint intranet and the simplest to set up. Document libraries offer version control features as well as configurable access levels. The Microsoft Office 2007 suite also offers on-the-fly editing of centrally stored documents.

Discussion boards

We’ve all seen discussion boards and forums on the internet, and they can be easily implemented on the corporate intranet. A discussion board can allow a regionally-fragmented team to keep in contact with each other, and to discuss issues or initiatives.

Some discussion boards particularly in larger companies may require moderation, but if a user is forced to participate using their real name, then the board is likely to be at least as polite as the actual office in real life.


We’re not suggesting that you give everyone in the company their own blog, but employees will appreciate reading short and concise announcements from high-level superiors, especially if a less formal tone is used.

Commenting and rating

Add comments or ratings to your features so that users can give their thoughts and discuss ideas online. These are measurable indicators to content editors that offer an idea of what visitors find useful and relevant.


Implement a Twitter-like ‘microblog’ on a department sub-site, such as the HR department, to keep staff updated on events in the company. Like blogging, it allows your department managers to communicate with staff quickly and easily, and the shortened nature of the ‘tweets’ makes for a friendly, informal tone.

Profile pages

A fully-fledged profile for every employee would be a bit much for an intranet site but employees would greatly benefit from a visually appealing ‘Whos Who’ for each department. As well as email addresses and extension numbers, the page might offer employees’ particular skill sets, for example. This would allow for the functionality to search for certain skills or specialties in a group.

And more…

There really is no limit to the functionality you can put on your intranet. Theoretically, if you see it on the world-facing internet, you can build it onto your site. That said, you need to make sure that the functionality you implement is worthwhile: will it improve or add to your business?

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