Intranet 2.0: Social media adoption

by Toby Ward - The new, emerging workforce expects their organization to match the pace of technology and deploy social media tools.
Intranet 2.0 and social media for the enterprise have the same meaning: next generation tools best represented by blogs, wikis, RSS, podcasting and social bookmarking. User generated content and self-publishing are the hallmarks of Intranet 2.0, where employees and management are active content producers and sharers in an evolving online dialogue.

Although social media tools have been around for a few years, Web 2.0 only exploded in 2006. Not surprisingly, as the poor cousin of the corporate website, the corporate intranet has been slow to adopt social media tools. A recent CIO survey found that:

  • only 18% of organizations have deployed blogs;
  • only 13% have deployed wikis; and
  • podcasting is present in an even smaller fraction.

However, steam is building and the Intranet 2.0 snowball is beginning to gather speed. More than 40% of the surveyed organizations are testing, piloting or evaluating blog and wiki applications. Just about everyone wants to rollout social media, but not everyone understands how to do so most effectively.

Web 2.0 has exploded in a remarkably short time. Four of the top 8 most trafficked sites on the Internet are social media sites that didn’t exist a few years ago.

  • MySpace
  • Facebook
  • Wikipedia

This dramatic emergence has fuelled an increased interest in Intranet 2.0 and incited remarkable passion from intranet managers.

From cool to mandatory

 Web 2.0 and Intranet 2.0 were once very cool and nice to have. However, it's no longer an option, but a must-have. I’ve been saying for two years that most corporations and intranet managers have bigger things to worry about (namely search, governance, information architecture, and content management) and fix before adopting Intranet 2.0.

You’ve had a couple of years of respite to fix intranet 1.0, and sit and ponder social media…time is up. Employees are not demanding Intranet 2.0, they are expecting it.

Social media tools are becoming a point of differentiation and competitive advantage as the next generation of potential employees enter the workforce and employers violently scrap to overcome the biggest talent crunch the world has ever seen. Potential employees want to work for progressive leaders who know and understand their way of thinking and working that is best exemplified by the new social media. The vast majority of new employees have Facebook or other social sites and have been using social media before it went mainstream. They don’t want to work for a tired old suit that can’t even figure out email; they want to work for progressive, dynamic individuals who blog and innovate.

A large social media study of over 2,000 companies by Melcrum found that “60% of organizations will have some form of social media in place” by 2008.

Search is critical

One of the challenges of social media is the massive explosion in content that has resulted. Our ability to create content far outpaces our ability to organize and retrieve the most important and relevant information in a vastly expanding universe.

If Intranet 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 is to be truly effective in your organization, you require a strong search strategy of which the search engine is only one component. Employees must be trained to categorize (tag) and store content properly, and they must be guided by the appropriate rules (e.g. taxonomy) and processes (e.g. content management and document management) to ensure search retrieval is effective. On the intranet, search is only one part technology, it is also people and process.

Planning Intranet 2.0

If and when you are ready to roll-out Intranet 2.0 at your organization, here is your to-do list of considerations:

  1. Planning is an essential requisite for success. Develop a plan that is based on a thorough assessment of your employees needs and expectations, as well as those of management.
  2. Leadership must set the tone. Your executives must lead the dialogue and control the message. Sanitized corporate speak from PR hacks posing as an executive voice does not impress employees who want honest, direct, and simple messages.
  3. Policies are necessary. What can and can’t be done needs to be defined and anonymous postings should not be allowed (everyone needs to own their contribution).
  4. Everything is about conversation and dialogue. Everyone gets to have their say. Actively encourage employee comments and contributions to blogs and wikis (don’t limit the conversation unless it contradicts the Policy or the Code of Conduct).
  5. Social media content has to be relevant and up-to-date. Don’t do a blog once a month and think it's serving a purpose. Don’t start a wiki and just leave it, hoping it will take off.
  6. Understand the ingredients of a successful social media tool. Benchmark and cherry-pick from the leaders (e.g. Boing Boing,, etc.).
  7. Keep pace with the trends and best practices, technological advancements and latest developments. Subscribe to newsletters from leaders such as CNET, eMarketer and Prescient Digital Media.

The Melcrum study also offers 10 suggestions:

  1. Assess your organization’s cultural readiness.
  2. Focus on the people, not the technology.
  3. Think about the business purpose of the tools.
  4. Make sure you grasp the difference between traditional and social media.
  5. Prepare to relinquish control and share the process.
  6. Be experimental and involve employees.
  7. Clarify what employees can and cannot do.
  8. Take a hands-off approach to marketing the tools.
  9. Work with what you’ve got and integrate new tools.
  10. Don’t obsess about the numbers.

Marketing Intranet 2.0

I’d have to agree with all of these except for 8: “Take a hands-off approach to marketing the tools.” You cannot build it and expect them to come. The intranet is a different animal than the Internet – employees have jobs and limited time. Employees need to be informed and educated on new tools and provided some coaching and limited, careful marketing (including email, home page promotions, contests, and executive announcements). That does not mean a new wiki requires a big marketing plan or budget. It does mean that it requires some attention and careful grassroots promotion.

A successful intranet requires a lot of well-documented and executed components – from strategy and governance, to search and content management. These components are absolutely mission-critical. While the new social media tools of Intranet 2.0 are not yet critical, they are mandatory for any organization that needs a competitive advantage and wants to be an employer of choice to a younger, faster workforce.

If you're looking to move to Intranet 2.0, but don't know exactly how, then have a look at our Intranet 2.0 Blueprint service, or call us directly at 416.926.8800.

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