Social Intranet Governance

by Toby Ward - I’m quite certain that no one has outstripped my voracious capacity to write about intranet governance, but at the risk of repeating myself, here’s another recommendation: social intranets need governance too.


Actually, if you already have a governance model in place, and a social media policy, then your work is likely done. If you are one of these trail blazer organizations (and those intranets with both a governance model and social media policy are part of a significant minority), then pat yourself on the back.

Governance model

An intranet governance model details the ownership and management structure, roles and responsibilities of those involved with the intranet. Specifically:

  • Ownership structure (organization chart)
  • Roles and responsibilities of owners, direct reports, content and application owners
  • Decision making process and procedures
  • Policies and standards

Sadly, far too many organizations lack a governance model. Fewer have a policy that includes user generated content and/or social media. In fact, the Intranet 2.0 Global Survey (525 respondents, now closed; final report due June 16, 2010) reveals that only about half (57%) of all organizations (small, medium and large) have user content policies and standards. That means that nearly half of all organizations don’t have any user content policy. Given the survey has revealed that 87% of organizations have at least one social media tool on their intranet, there are a lot of intranet 2.0 tools that still operate in the “wild west” (with no rules whatsoever).

Social intranet governance

Every intranet requires the governance outlined above – every intranet. Those that don’t are, generally speaking, quite awful with many problems including:

  • Lack of budget
  • Lack of control
  • Little or no standards
  • Out of date, irrelevant content
  • Terrible search (often it’s not the engine itself that’s the problem, but the content)
  • Politics (infighting, competing priorities, apathy)

A social intranet (see The Social Intranet white paper for a formal definition) is no different; in fact, its governance model should adopt the structure and policies of the traditional intranet. The only difference between the traditional intranet and a social intranet policy are rules or standards for employees that contribute content in the form of:

  • Blog posts
  • Wiki entries
  • Podcasts
  • User comments
  • Tags
  • Status updates
  • Etc.

In fact, most intranet policies worth their salt, should cover employee generated content. After all, content is content. But not all policies are created equal, and I’ve seen some piss-poor policies. Of those policies that every intranet should have are:

  • Editorial Policy (content types, formatting, roles & responsibilities)
  • Standardization Policy (Style Guide, design standards, the process for creating pages / sites)
  • Terms of Use (dos and don'ts for using the intranet)
  • Privacy Policy
  • Taxonomy (classification set; your Dewey Decimal System for classifying (tagging) content)

Employee generated content

Where every organization should include specifics for social media use, if your organization does not have a separate, superfluous social media policy (that’s right, a social media policy is largely superfluous if you have proper governance and content / editorial policies in place. Someone will make a point of arguing this with me and I will wipe the floor with them), there are specific rules in the Terms of Use that spell out the dos and don’ts for contributing content. Additionally, these rules should also be covered, if not already, in your Employee Handbook or Employee Conduct Manual, that all employees agree to at the time of employment (if your organization is responsible enough to have one).

The details governing social media contributions, employee generated content, should include:

  • Inappropriate disclosure (what should never be disclosed)
  • Appropriate language
  • Legal and copywrite
  • Tips and tricks (encouraged, but not mandatory)

Again, every organization should already have policies and standards in place that cover all of these subjects. If you don’t, then someone isn’t doing their job and social media will vastly exacerbate your organization’s culpability and liability.

Should your organization already have these policies in place, and the requisite change management that should accompany any intranet 2.0 tool and social intranet (see Intranet 2.0 requires change management), then your organization is likely already reaping the rewards.

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Beating back the political challenge of intranets
The Politics of Intranet Ownership
Collaborative Governance (Intranet Politics Part II)
Intranet Governance: Ownership, Management & Policy

Toby Ward is the founder and CEO of Prescient Digital Media, an intranet consulting firm that has worked on more than 100 intranets (including many Fortune 500s). Download his Social Intranet white paper or read hundreds of his intranet columns at or visit