Social media behind the firewall powers Intranet 2.0

Posted on November 23, 2011

CALGARY, AB, Nov. 20, 2011/ Troy Media – Most companies think publicity when they think social media. Usually their thoughts go straight to Facebook or Twitter, and the focus is on external audiences. Which begs the question, why ignore those closest to you – your employees?

In my experience, the “internal social” discussion generally begins when everyone agrees the intranet is a disaster. Many companies default to the path of least resistance, Microsoft SharePoint. According to intranet consultancy Prescient Digital Media, this may be a mistake. From their blog:

SharePoint is a fantastically powerful and complex solution that offers more features and bells & whistles than almost any technology platform on the planet. However, it cannot be all things to all people all the time . . . it works well for some things like team and document collaboration, and less well for personalization and enterprise content management.”

Take a look at single-purpose software

social intranet


As Prescient’s Jed Cawthorne writes: ”(SharePoint) might be the product for you, but how do you know unless you analyze your requirements?”

Sometimes a better choice is single-purpose software. It will do the one thing you want done really well. Such tools are usually free or cheap.

Take blogging for example. Just this week I helped a client set up an internal blog. Their intranet is overflowing and cluttered; navigating the maze is no longer satisfying, so users avoid it. Email just clogs inboxes. Yet a recent employee survey specifically said people wanted to hear more from the CEO. Enter the internal blog.

We set up WordPress, the gold standard of blogging software, which is free. The IT department made a small cheap Linux server available. I guided the client to a site that sells premium WordPress themes ( where you can purchase pre-designed templates for under $200. The client will spend a little money to have a graphic designer create a custom masthead for the blog, and presto – they’ll be in the publishing business! More importantly, employees will get what they want, regular updates from the CEO (assuming he keeps up with the publishing).

I had one client a couple years ago that required employees to blog internally for six months before being permitted to blog externally – a blogging farm team! What a great way to learn those skills in comfort and safety.

My first experience with this sort of “internal social” concept was when a former employer of mine adopted Yammer, a sort of internal Twitter, for its sales team. Reps across the country helped each other out, solved problems, and offered encouragement. Yammer helped us build a better sales team.

You’ll need a plan

Prescient Digital Media recently released preliminary findings from their 2011 Social Intranet Study. The report clearly shows intranets and social are in a state of flux. For example, while “Social media tools such as blogs, wikis and other vehicles are present on most corporate intranets” and “Most organizations spend little or nothing on their enterprise social media tools” unfortunately “Executives and employees alike are less than thrilled with their enterprise social media”.

The Prescient report goes on to note:

Without a proper plan and business case, many organizations will fail to properly implement Intranet 2.0 technologies”

Even the best tools can fall victim to lousy planning and publishing. Content is still king, even inside the firewall.

Doug Lacombe is president of Calgary social media agency communicatto. He is currently looking for that document on the intranet and swears it was here last week.

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