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Are social intranets more “lovable?”

Social intranets are more lovable than your average, run-of-the-mill variety. But only sometimes... when done correctly.

Therein lays the problem: few are doing a social intranet ‘correctly’. Most intranets are... well garbage. They’re embarrassingly poor... which is good news for consultants like myself who make a living of redesigning and rebuilding crappy intranets, but it’s bad for the organization.

How bad is it? Let’s put it this way: how good can it be when your organization spends 50, or 100, or 200 times the budget on the external website?

Pathetic isn’t it? I know organizations who will only spend $50,000 on the intranet, but $5 million on the website. Notwithstanding the lack of performance and effectiveness, what kind of the message does that convey to employees?! Is each customer worth 100 times the amount of each employee?

Not all of you have terrible intranets; some have terrific intranets, but they’re exceptions to the rule. It’s no secret: you get what you pay for. Again, some exceptions to the rule, but let’s look at the hard, empirical evidence.

Results from The Social Intranet Study (1401 respondents from across the globe; conducted by Prescient Digital Media in association with the IABC Research Foundation in June 2011) reveal that a small majority of employees and executives rate their intranet social media as ‘good’ or better. In fact, only 28% of employees rate their internal social media as good or very good; a greater number rate these tools as poor or very poor (31% combined). Executives deliver a more damning, failing grade: only 28% of executives rate their internal social media as good or very good; 35% rate these tools as poor or very poor.


The social intranet at Prescient Digital Media

If your executives aren’t happy, and your users aren’t happy, your social media efforts are not only falling several emotions short of ‘loveable’, they’ve crashed and are about to burn.

“People are infatuated with social but are still so caught up in the hype that they forget that it needs to solve a business problem,” says Cheryl Lesser, Online Events Producer for the Intranet Benchmarking Forum. “Otherwise it’s just the newest, shiniest thing. But if you manage to make someone’s life easier, they will love you (well, maybe not love, but strongly appreciate).”

Poor effort and planning breeds dissatisfaction; a social intranet is no different than an intranet or website in its requisite need for a thorough plan, and supporting change management. Too many organizations are relying on out-of-the-box SharePoint and free, open source solutions, with little thought or execution on the needs and requirements of the organization and its users. And technology is only one-third of the equation; a successful intranet, as depicted in the Social Intranet Infographic below, requires two-thirds people and process (in fact, technology is really only an enabler, but when it’s poorly deployed, it works poorly for all).


See the full Social Intranet Infographic


True intranet success isn’t easy to come by: it requires a lot of planning, process, useful content, and usable tools that improve the day-to-day lives of employees. Truth be told, a successful social intranet is remarkably similar to an intranet. Not unlike like the high-performance sports car to the family car, a high-performance social intranet resembles the corporate, family intranet at first glance… but only when it’s not performing to expectations. A flourishing social intranet needs many of the requisites of a regular, run-of-the-mill intranet: well-defined governance and process(es), highly engaged people, and highly functional technology.

Among the key ingredients and steps required, is the initial planning and engagement steps: engaging executives, managers and employees to determine and document their specific needs, and requirements, and to develop a plan that accommodates these needs, requirements, as well as recognized best practices.


A complete intranet plan should accommodate and account for all of the internal organizational requirements, and address the high-level strategic priorities, as well as the detailed tactical requisites such as the site wireframes, information architecture, and design.

Change management is also an often overlooked ingredient that is critical to success: social intranets will only work when properly deployed with the requisite education, communications, and promotion. It is not enough to merely build it and hope “they will come.” It’s not enough to ‘go social’ and expect that users will automatically fall in love with your intranet. It’s not unlike dating or marriage… you get what you put in; you have to give the love to get the love.


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