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Maximising ROI from a Social Intranet

Date Posted: Thursday, 31 January 2013 23:41
Posted By: Kerry Butters

The use of social intranets has exploded across organizational intranets over the course of the past few years. The rise of social networking in itself has been phenomenal and enough time has now passed for experts to begin to really measure the impact that social has.

Social Intranet ROI

For some years, it was thought impossible to track ROI on social, whether it was used by an enterprise for marketing, internally or both. However, a number of recent studies have managed to overcome this, as social has now been around for long enough for its effects to be measurable.

On a psychological level, studies have shown that social depends on emotional responses as to how successful it is, and that largely depends on how the network is set up, as well as how it’s used and managed within an organization.

What’s the difference between public and private social?

Fairly obviously, popular public social networks include Facebook, which has over a billion users worldwide, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest, amongst others. Private social networks are unique to a specific organization, and are only accessible to people who have been set up and given permission to access the network.

Of course, on public social networks, a person can be contacted by anyone else who is on the platform in the world, whether they know them or not. A social intranet only allows approved members of an organization to contact each other, internally.

This is nothing new, for many years organizations have been using intranet chat mechanisms and bulletin boards to communicate in this way. However, these days social can be much more powerful than it was before and allows for increased functionality.

In the past, adoption of social tools within the workplace has been relatively low. However, this has changed quickly recently as collaborative tools become more important in enterprise, telecommuting more common and CMS much more powerful and internet technology continues to forge ahead.

Why adopt enterprise social?

There are a number of benefits to social intranets which create a positive environment within an organization. As discussed in a previous blog post, social intranets improve employee productivity as it gives them a voice within the company and makes them feel that they are really engaging and therefore more useful.

ROI will not be immediately apparent upon installation of an enterprise social intranet, but takes time to kick in. In order to ensure that the best ROI is gained, there are a few considerations an organization needs to take into account.

  • Integration: if possible, social should be as fully integrated into the intranet and accessible from the ‘front page’ once a user is signed in. Modern CMS allow for social to be embedded into an intranet and fully branded with the company colours, logos and ethos.
  • Personal: social works even better within an organization if employees are given the opportunity to interact on a personal level, as well as professional. Bearing this in mind, it’s useful to have an area where people can make posts that are non-professional in nature. This gives the employees the feeling that they are part of a family, where their opinions carry some weight.
  • Time: In order to begin getting a ROI for a social intranet, it’s important for organizations to remember that the process of changing how workers and bosses interact takes time. There’s no overnight solution to a lack of engagement with the social aspects to the intranet and, on average, it takes at least a year for social to propagate around the company and in many case, two or three. Like most areas in business, there’s no immediate ROI, it’s not a gamble, but an investment.
  • Collaborative and social tools: it’s important to remember that a social intranet is there for a reason and as such, integrated tools should be simple to learn and use. This will encourage workers to adopt and use social in their everyday routine and collaborate with others easily – this equals real power within an organization to become much more streamlined and efficient.
  • CEOs and CIOs should get involved in the first instance, as soon as the social tools are added to the intranet and CMS. This of course encourages other company employees to become involved, especially since they can now interact with senior personnel within the organization, again improving their sense of worth.
  • Positivity: this is an important part of a social platform as recent studies have found that users of public networks react on an emotional level to posts. Content that makes people laugh or provokes a positive emotion is much more likely to be engaged with and shared. A separate study showed that people also remember what is posted naturally by another (for example, a status update using natural language), making it easier to remember than more official or negative company communications.

It’s all about getting over hierarchies and interacting on a more personal, emotional level, than the traditional, stuffy corporate approach. Bob Buckman of the Applied Knowledge Group points out that: "If the greatest database in the company is housed in the individual minds of the associates of the organization, then that is where the power of the organization resides”.

"These individual knowledge bases are continually changing and adapting to the real world in front of them. We have to connect these individual knowledge bases together so that they can do whatever they do best in the shortest possible time."

This really sums up the power of a social intranet to an organization. The use of collaboration in the first instance, and the fact that the most can be gained from employees by recognizing the potential they hold on a personal level and when encouraged to work with others.

Getting it right means gaining significant ROI over time and it’s worth bearing all of the above in mind when adding social to a CMS. Just like social media marketing and the public platforms, it’s imperative that enterprises realize the potential when implementing social tools and remembering that if this isn’t possible, it’s better to do without than do it badly, as a poorly implemented and managed social intranet will be more likely to harm a company than anything. However, once its ‘bedded in’, a social intranet can and does vastly improve productivity and ROI.

After all, to coin an old cliché, knowledge is power – therefore the knowledge of the many can make up a powerful whole.

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