10 tips on how to build a social intranet

  1. Every decision has to aim to improve two things 1) Connectivity between users 2) Quality and relevancy of content
  2. Don’t plan on your own – use focus groups and online research tools to find out what the USERS want and HOW they want it
  3. Don’t plan as an Editor – plan as a facilitator
  4. Employ an external consultant to add to the development/steering team. You need an objective sounding board and someone who does not have an internal agenda to be involved from the start. Plus, there is always someone who knows more than you
  5. Identify influencers and key users early. These are not always the same as the users you spoke to in the focus groups
  6. Communicate frequently with the intended users…and invite feedback at every stage
  7. Create a plethora of guides and information on the What, Why’s and How’s of the tool – from everything from uploading content to all the relevant personnel behind the tool
  8. Get the leadership team involved in the online discussions early (if that’s key to your objective)
  9. Reward and offer incentives for early users
  10. Ensure search, taxonomies and measurement tools are relevant and well maintained.
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The Homogenic Issue

Let me get this straight this isn’t a piece with an agenda against women in internal communication roles, this is a post detailing my fear for the quality of internal communications within some organisations if the roles are continually filled with young women with similar backgrounds and experiences.

Call it a bit disruptive if you must but it’s something which has been on my mind for a while now and something i wanted to share with you. Again, this isn’t an anti-women post more of an anti status quo post.

I have worked in the communications industry for a few years now and I can’t help but notice that the amount of female IC practitioners far out-number the amount of male practitioners.  I can’t help but thinking perhaps this is a bad thing for organisations and the industry to let continue.

I mean, and I’m not stereo typing here, but if you allow a group any group with similar interests and background to dominate a large degree of information flowing through an organisation, that information is going to be perceived, digested and presented in a very different way to if it was digested by a mixed group from mixed backgrounds and experiences.

I’ve seen it myself – huge organisations employing a communications team which fits into certain ‘grouping’ yet the other 95% of the employees (the audience) come from completely different backgrounds with different ideal and a probably have a completely different view of the organisation.

I’m sure if there was a increased in the variety of backgrounds of the internal communications team then results, however you may measure them ROI, engagement, participation will improve because the communications will have had input from different perspectives from people with varied experiences.

I’m not sure why IC is so heavily populated with a certain type of ‘group’ but I’ll run through a couple of the most popular clichés and look at them both.

1)      Women are better communicators. Eh? Perhaps they are (I don’t have any evidence either way) but I’m pretty sure a good percentage of the experts in external communications are male especially in the field of new media. This makes me think that males are drawn to the higher profile external jobs, thus confirming the belief that internal comms is secondary in image and prestige to external comms. If this is the case internal comms must, simply must improve its positioning with organisations and as a career option.

2)      Internal comms is closely tied to the HR department. I think this is particularly relevant but also highly dangerous. Again I’m not stereo typing but I have met more females involved in HR roles than males. I don’t know why, and I’m not going to say it’s because it’s more of a female role. It’s not, and I’m not that dumb. The danger here is that when someone fancies ‘doing’ internal comms and moves from the HR department without any real understanding or training then the communications of an organisation is in the hands of an untrained professional. That wouldn’t happen in any other field.

The crux of this post isn’t about women it’s about homogenic groups dominating one of the most important functions of an organisation (in my eyes). If it was young men this post would be about them (but there is probably enough written about the ‘group’ the  city boys and their deficiencies as a functional group already).

As a Director of internal comms I’d ensure the team came from a variety of backgrounds; some from large organisations, some from agencies and some from other parts of the existing organisation. I’d try to encourage the mix and the cross fertilisation of experience and thinking. Debate would be encouraged as would an open forum to question every decision the team make in their goal for communication excellence.

Once the team lose touch with their colleagues then that is the end of any meaningful communications team. Keep the team relevant, keep them diverse and keep them debating.

Online personalisation and engagement

How I want to interact with my online services

Right, lets just say, I am working in a large corporation and the building I work in is a miracle of modern architecture all glass, metal and angles. The reception area is a welcoming atrium full of light and plasma screens and maybe there’s a franchised coffee outlet.

So far I am enjoying my experience and I feel proud of the aesthetics of my workplace. This pleasure continues when I get to my desk. The lack of paper and clutter makes me feel organized, the flat monitors and the other technologies reassure me that my employers are not a back-street operation and the personalised items around the desks are important to me, very important. They let me imprint a little of my identity on my work area – be it the photo of my girlfriend, a snowboard calendar, or the Chelsea FC pictures. It’s a little bit of me in a corporate environment.

Personalisation. That’s what I’m talking about. My generation has grown up with the desire to personalise our environment. You will see this everywhere. Look at snowboards – covered in stickers, look at Nike id (where I can go in and order a unique trainer, complete with my initials), go to a web 2.0 conference and the exterior of our laptops are covered with designs and stickers, which make us stand out – I’m not talking about choosing a red cover on a Dell laptop here. I’m talking about a deeper connection with delivery of content.

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But as communicators we should enable the action within the laptop to be just as individual and as easy to personalize. Imagine launching an intranet or another internal platform and letting the audience choose how they receive the information, the page layout, the colours, the tools. Do you think you would have a more engaged audience?

I do.

I want to aggregate my information; if I want to receive information that’s important to me I want to be able to set the service so it suits my needs. The BBC understood the change in how people work with web services when it re-launched its website. Yes, it’s for external audiences but it’s a great example of how you can change the way you behave online.

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The BBC ‘get it’ look how you can change the layout so the news featured is relevant – self organisation is one way of calling it. Basic design changes affect the audience’s enjoyment  – check out the differing colours and positioning on the BBC site – it took me a minute to personalise it.

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Any webservice worth its salt will now offer you the ability to change what you see; they know interaction and personalisation will create a starting level of engagement and aesthetic pleasure in a new webservice. Internal solutions providers should not let this shift in behavior pass them by. My generation expects this now; the next generation will demand even more .

Generation Y – How we are working

They are always on Facebook, they are always questioning our decisions and they want to listen to their MP3s whilst they work – welcome to the working world of Generation Y – and you’d better pay attention!

Generation Y has burst onto the business scene and boy, are they making a racket. Gen Y (born 1974-1990) has emerged as the most exciting generation, for well, generations. There is a perfect storm brewing, all thanks to the development of Web 2.0, faster bandwidth speeds and a refreshing attitude towards the technology.

The question is how, as professional communicators, do you harness this and speak to this generation? Well to answer that, question; firstly, we need to look at the how this generation is communicating within itself.

This generat….actually I’m going to write as myself now as I’m part of this generation and I’m a professional communicator, so I’m best placed to do that. The most important thing for me is share my life with the people I’m connected to, this means when I’m at work and I open my browser I have four tabs that open automatically – facebook, delicious, googlemail/reader and Digg. These aren’t open because I want to waste time; they are open because I need to feel connected in my life. Through these sites I’ll get the latest news on the enterprise 2.0 conference, mixed in with a post about my friend’s thoughts on Obama’s inauguration and photos of my friend’s birthday.

This is how my generation swings. We can handle multiple actions and we handle information being fed to us constantly through many different channels. It’s not a problem for me; digital burnout simply doesn’t affect me – why? Because, I’ve grown up surrounded by it and I know how to aggregate it effectively.

I don’t mind sharing my ideas and I don’t mind sharing information. I’m not dumb enough to share all of my information, especially work information. But I want to share my experience (s) and share ideas as I don’t feel threatened by being open. In fact, I expect to get more from life if I share rather than hide myself away. I expect openness from others in my life as well – this is what creates opportunity.

I’ve just touched on the two main things that set my generation apart from the others Gen X, baby boomers etc but I’ll explain how this affects how I want to be communicated with at work. (Please note the use of WITH not TO)

What I want: The truth, a two way conversation. I want current information; I don’t care about a conference two months ago. I want to chat about the little things at work with my peers. I want to be tagged, I want to tag, I want the option to bookmark articles for the team, I want to be informed.

To me, an informed employee is a productive employee – regardless of generation.