When we speak to intranet teams about what they want to achieve with a new or existing intranet, they sometimes tell us they want to introduce a social intranet. Although some teams use terms such as modern intranet or even digital workplace which can cover similar ground, social intranet is still a commonly used term.
Generally, a social intranet is regarded as one that includes a high number of social and collaborative features and tools which enable participation from employees, therefore distinguishing it from a more traditional intranet purely focused on internal communications and static content. Many organisations wish to introduce a social intranet to help drive employee engagement and support a less hierarchical organisational culture.
In this post, we’re going to explore in more detail what a social intranet is, what its main features are and the advantages it can bring.
What is a social intranet?
There is no formal definition of a social intranet. However, a social intranet is generally considered to be an intranet where there are a substantial number of social tools and features accessible across it that allow users to publish content, add comments, post contributions and interact with each other. It can also include social networking capabilities such as the ability to follow other employees. A social intranet might additionally integrate external social media, such as a corporate Twitter feed.
These social capabilities are usually visible and well-adopted to a degree where they counter-balance the more formal, top-down elements of an intranet such as corporate news and more static evergreen content. On a social intranet, bottom-up, user-generated content will be highly prevalent, and should make a site more dynamic and livelier with a constant stream of employee contributions from right across the organisation.
The social features of an intranet might be either built into the intranet software you are using, integrated from a separate platform or even both. For example, many social SharePoint Online intranets include a Yammer integration as their main social element.
What are the features of a social intranet?
There are a number of common features of a social intranet, although not every social intranet will include all of these.
Activity streams and feeds
Social intranets tend to have activity streams and feeds from social platforms like Yammer embedded into pages. These may appear on the homepage, which might aggregate feeds from different groups and be personalised, or as a feed relevant to the subject, topic or community on a specific page. These feeds will not only surface conversations, but also be a point from which users can interact and make contributions.
Commenting, sharing and liking on messages
Social intranets tend to allow users to interact with more formal communications such as news and leadership communications by commenting, sharing and liking. This can be an important mechanism for driving dialogue and asking for feedback on initiatives and topics.
Blogs and other user-generated content
Social intranets open up publishing for everybody, ensuring everyone has a voice. Typically, on a social intranet, employees can post blogs, localised items relating to their own team (news), user-generated videos and even photos. The chance of finding a cat video on a social intranet will be much higher than a traditional intranet!
Social networking features
Many social intranets include social networking features such as the ability to follow colleagues, use @mentions and add #hashtags. These can be very useful in utilising social networks for messaging and communications.
Communities, groups and discussions
A core component of a social intranet is support for communities, groups and discussion threads which allow interaction between different employees. Ideally, these should be open for all to view. A social intranet might support professional Communities of Practice, Communities of Interest, user groups for software, Employee Resource Groups and even non-working communities such as sports and hobbies forums.
The employee directory on a social intranet can feel quite different from those typical of a normal intranet, with sections completed by employees to give a more rounded overview of their life both inside and outside work as well as their past experience, providing a profile more like LinkedIn. Their profile might also show their contributions across the intranet.
Polls and surveys
Polls and surveys provide opportunities to solicit the opinions of employees and gather quick feedback on different issues.
Gamification is not always a common feature, but some social intranets include gamification elements such as points, badges and leader boards to encourage contributions and other desired behaviours.
A good social intranet provides comprehensive analytics on content and engagement in order to deliver insights about user behaviour and opinion.
External social media feeds
Some social intranets include external social feeds from platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. These are usually the corporate feeds used externally by the company.
What are the advantages of a social intranet?
A social intranet can prove to be an excellent investment to help organisations and digital workplace teams meet both strategic and tactical goals. By bringing social collaboration to a key channel accessed by all employees like the corporate intranet, general digital workplace adoption can be given a significant boost. Strategic benefits can include:
- Supporting a strong employee experience by ensuring every individual employee has a voice to give opinions and publish stories, thus demonstrating that this is encouraged by enabling it via the intranet
- Supporting a less hierarchical organisational culture by encouraging social interaction and dialogue between all levels
- Driving a one company culture and sense of community by allowing interactions across different locations
- Enabling a listening and more inclusive style of leadership and management
- Facilitating collaboration and a corresponding culture of collaboration
- Supporting Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) within an organisation
- Underpinning employee wellbeing through more social interaction.
More operational and tactical benefits can include:
- Driving adoption and usage of both the intranet and social tools
- Helping to support ROI in social tools like Yammer
- Making individual communications more impactful by presenting commenting and discussion as priorities
- Allowing leadership to get a temperature check of employee sentiment on specific issues
- Making it easier for employees to communicate with each other by presenting options for contact
- Supporting networking and strong connections between individual employees
- Streamlining communications for individuals by aggregating messages across social channels and communities
- Supporting decentralised publishing on the intranet through blogs and local news publishing
- Facilitating a range of communities of practice and interest with benefits relating to specific processes, working practices and initiatives
- Allowing conversations to be presented in context with related content and vice versa, enabling better dissemination of information
- Enabling user support communities to ask questions relating to different IT tools and HR services.
Need help with your social intranet?
Social intranets can be powerful in supporting engagement, adoption and culture. If you have any questions about implementing a social intranet or want to make your SharePoint intranet more social, then get in touch!