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The Modern Social Intranet Is Here to Stay

Don't call it a comeback.

Meeples giving real time feedback

If you’re a veteran user of the intranet, you might believe it’s a relic of a bygone era. Like ‘tubular’ or ‘rad,’ the word itself is a throwback to the days when dial-up sang us the song of its people. When you hear ‘intranet’, you probably think, “Wait, that’s still a thing people say?”

A digital destination, the intranet is designed to be a hub where coworkers can toss around creative ideas, get advice from colleagues, and form bonds over projects and shared interests. The original version, while well-intentioned, was held back by lack of engagement, outdated information, and other obstacles that kept employees from buying in.

It’s not that the intranet never went away; the term just lost its juju.

As the world navigates the era of data overload, the intranet is adapting, becoming a more modern, social place where employees actually want to spend their time. To create your own thriving, collaborative workplace community, it’s important to learn from the pitfalls of the past and embrace all the benefits of a next-gen social intranet.

Business in the front, party in the back

A social intranet is not just a digital warehouse of information rescued from paper files and private online drives. Businesses can use them to create a culture of openness by allowing for total visibility among employees and encouraging users to share ideas. Intranets can strike up collaboration between the unlikeliest of coworkers and ignite connections across all teams and departments.

With a social intranet, it’s all for one and one for all. From the tech-savvy CEO to the fresh new intern, users can share and access exactly what they need to check boxes and hit goals.

So a team walks into an open, collaborative workspace . . .

Meeples communicating as a team

A social intranet doesn’t just connect coworkers to content – it connects people to people.  

Creates positive vibes. Even in the most collaborative companies, there are likely employees who feel sidelined. A modern, social intranet puts everyone on equal footing. Set up correctly (with equal access to conversations and docs regardless of job role or level), your intranet can help people feel good about posting their thoughts on others’ projects and welcoming feedback on their own. With the space to confidently share, employees are more likely to feel connected to their coworkers, team, and the company.   

Breaks down silos. A social intranet allows your employees to connect the dots between their work and what’s top priority for another team or office. Turns out Mike from Content Marketing blew his SEO goal out of the water and would be a great mentor for your project, but you’d never guess that just from exchanging those know-you-but-not-enough-to-talk nods in the hallway.

Builds bridges. As remote culture swings from ‘the hot new craze’ to ‘the ideal way to work,’ it's more important than ever to keep coworkers in the same cultural orbit. Through a social intranet, virtual connections will keep employees talking and sharing ideas across all timezones.

Did your intranet go the way of the Walkman®?

Ask any internal communications team, HR manager, or intranet champion about their biggest challenge, and we’ll bet the house they answer “engagement.” When it comes to company intranets, apathy is more rampant than pop-up ads, and equally hard to get rid of.

To draw employees towards an intranet they’ll use and love, we first need to address what’s driving them away.

Top-down tone. Perched at the top of the food chain, bosses are often out of the loop when it comes to getting employee feedback or hearing a fantastic idea from a lower-level worker. Intranets allow conversation to flow from the bottom up, so even the most novice employees feel comfortable adding their two cents. A more welcoming environment leaves room for discussion and hooks the higher-ups into a direct line of instant feedback.

No quick way to respond. At the speed at which technology is moving, it’s really only a matter of time before even infants have their own smartphones. We communicate freely with our friends and family through emojis, GIFs, and like buttons to acknowledge ideas and fire our thoughts off quickly. Employees who feel bogged down by limited response options are far less likely to engage with their coworkers or contribute to projects.

Too technical. Old-school intranets were originally built for IT teams. Posting content took several tedious steps, and forget about replying with a quick pic. Once the content was finally available, there were those pesky permission walls. If people have to jump through Olympic-level hoops to participate in intranets, they’ll just stick to hallway conversations instead. 

Stale content. When your intranet becomes a “catch-all storage location,” as Forrester calls it, it becomes the scroll that never ends. Users aren’t going to spend their mental currency searching for valuable info like branding guides or company policies only to find the content they need hasn’t been relevant since the last time you sent a fax.

Slow or futile search engine. Present-day search engines have made it possible to get lightning-quick, relevant answers to any question, sometimes faster than you can type it. A search function that takes too long and/or spits out useless information can’t compete. Users want the right info like they want their Amazon Prime packages – in their hands yesterday.

Not mobile friendly. When intranets first came onto the scene 20 years ago, people were still reading print newspapers. Now smartphones have become extensions of our arms. Users won’t slow down to learn an intranet that doesn’t make it easy to post, share, and read on a phone or tablet.

Sketchy analytics. If you and your team are the prime movers and shakers behind the effort to replace or launch a social intranet, you have to know the when, how, and why people are using it. Rather than taking shots in the dark, turn up the focus on finding quality analytics. Knowing the specifics will help you make user-friendly changes and produce more eye-catching content, keep important and relevant content up-to-date, and do away with any content that sees few clicks.

The care and feeding of a successful social intranet

Messaging on white iphone

Keep your intranet thriving by making sure that the software you choose comes equipped with these features and tools.  

Creators from everywhere. Great ideas can come from any brain at any level of an organization and sometimes, from a happy accident. (We’d still be eating ice cream out of bowls if a World's Fair stall hadn’t run out and improvised with a waffle!) Easy authoring tools like ready-made templates empower users from any team to contribute and will help organizations avoid the trickle-down effect in your intranet.

Knowing the folks behind the posts. It’s hard to build bridges when all you know about your colleagues is their name and a generic avatar.  People want to know what their coworkers do, where they fit into the organization, and what they’re working on. A social internet should have places for profiles so employees can see at a glance who does what and where they’re doing it.  

Mobile ready. Raise one hand if you’re reading this article on your phone. With easy on-the-go logins and guaranteed security, the ideal social intranet is a network you can fit into your pocket. Yes, even the pockets on women’s jeans.  

Good-looking content. The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” is heading for retirement. Employees are more likely to engage with content that features eye-catching visuals like images, videos, and GIFs. Content should be as aesthetically satisfying on a phone or tablet as it is on desktop.  

Social-sharing features. “Going viral” on social media networks is the equivalent of winning an online lottery. To achieve the same calibre of sharing in your intranet, you need the ability to pass content along easily. When users can like and comment, follow colleagues, and @mention coworkers with the same ease as firing off memes to their friends, they’ll make the intranet a destination for more share-worthy content.  

Easy access. Lose IT’s number. With social intranets, you can secure access and permissions by departments and users yourself, while letting employees create, edit, and view content with zero roadblocks. This flexibility then frees up IT to focus on deploying and customizing the intranet, while bypassing endless meetings and mountains of work orders.   

Brand-new content. With so many voices contributing and collaborating, your content stream will be so fresh, you could sell it at a farmer’s market. Make sure there’s a simple system to customize and deliver alerts so you can get those outdated pieces out of sight.  

Accurate analytics. The more you know, the better you grow. Look for analytics that tell you what users search for and the content they read and comment on the most. Forrester suggests that organizations “put search front and center” by using analytics to hone in on the how and when users perform searches. You’ll also need to know when those searches “have no results, or too many results to be useful.”

Social intranets create a level playing field

Balance weighing items

Teams are only as strong as the connections between people. You can empower your employees by creating an environment where connections and collaboration can grow organically. Read how you can gain the power to transform your organization with Confluence intranet software.

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