This one goes out to all the trolls.
There’s a lot of talk about social intranets these days. It even threatens to overtake the blogosphere’s current obsession with gamification.
But what exactly is a social intranet…?
Everyone seems to have a different opinion, from a human-centred platform, to the intersection between portals, team sites and social sites, to a system that ties the business’s processes and data to the employee’s social behaviour.
Which one is correct? They all are.
You see, a “social intranet” is simply an intranet with social media elements that allow the users to interact with the content and with each other.
While everyone’s definition covers this functionality more or less, what is different is the degree of the functionality.
So, to introduce a common language and some standardisation to our discourse, I propose the “Social Intranet Index” (SII) – a metric that denotes the degree of social functionality afforded by an enterprise’s intranet.
From 1 through 10, the SII represents an increasing level of sociability…
An intranet with an SII of 1 is the traditional, old-fashioned broadcast medium. Its content is published by a select few (usually members of the Communications team) and remains read-only for the target audience.
An intranet with an SII of 2 accommodates special account holders outside of the golden circle. These are typically highly motivated individuals, because the backend is clunky and illogical.
Unfortunately these individuals tend to find themselves in the unenviable position of publishing content for other people, because said people are either too dumb or too lazy to learn how to do it themselves. Strangely, though, they all know how to use Facebook.
An intranet with an SII of 3 introduces a star rating or a “like” facility. The target audience can interact (albeit minimally) with the content by judging its quality and relevance.
An intranet with an SII of 4 introduces a commenting facility. Beyond a reductionist score, the target audience can now post free-form comments in response to the content.
An intranet with an SII of 5 bolts on third-party social applications such as Yammer, Compendium and Confluence. While these apps aren’t components of the enterprise’s intranet proper, they’re accessible from there and thus form part of the network. The target audience is empowered to generate their own content within these ringfenced zones.
An intranet with an SII of 6 integrates social media elements such as a discussion forum, blogs and wikis into a single sign-on solution. The user experience is seamless.
An intranet with an SII of 7 maintains a bank of user profiles that includes everyone in the organisation and is accessible by anyone in the organisation. The profiles are rich (including photos, contact details and subject matter expertise) and integrate with the other components of the intranet (eg the discussion forum) to facilitate social networking.
An intranet with an SII of 8 enables the users to personalise the interface. This typically involves the selection and arrangement of social widgets (eg a particular blog, a discussion sub-forum), a filterable activity stream, plus external functionality such as a customisable RSS feed.
An intranet with an SII of 9 empowers anyone in the organisation to publish and edit “regular” informational content beyond the aforementioned social media elements, though still within certain ringfenced zones. For example, a team site may host user-generated content pertinent to that team.
An intranet with an SII of 10 is the poster boy of heterarchy. All content is easily publishable and editable by everyone in the organisation. Devoid of ringfences, the platform effectively becomes a giant wiki. The corporate community pitches in to produce and maintain organic knowledge.
Outlandish and unworkable, or innovative and game changing? At the very least, I say an SII of 10 is aspirational.
From 1 to 10, the Social Intranet Index represents a series of concurrent trends.
Most radically, the direction of publishing shifts from one-way to two-way to multi-way. This is typically associated with an increasing ease of use, which in turn encourages an increasing number of content producers.
Knowledge contained in silos is increasingly shared, and a broader community blossoms. As governance loosens, the organisation puts more trust in its own employees. Effectively, its hierarchy flattens.
As more control is relinquished by the company to its people, however, the risk of something going wrong increases. The content that is generated by the users might be flawed, and in extreme cases an individual might abuse their privileges and do something malicious.
On the other side of the coin, though, loose governance does not mean no governance. Sensitive content may still be locked, while an approval process and a reversion facility can prevent disaster.
Moreover, it may be argued that the shifting paradigm places an increasing obligation on the SME not only to share their knowledge with the wider organisation, but also to maintain its currency and relevance. Those who can’t or won’t will soon get found out.
Clearly, a “social intranet” is not just about the technology; it’s about the culture of the organisation. Just because sophisticated functionality is available does not necessarily mean it will be used!
Notwithstanding this truism, I submit that culturally speaking, an SII of 1 is poles apart from an SII of 10. The former is characteristic of a restrictive, distrustful, clunky organisation, while the latter is characteristic of an open, empowering, nimble one.
Which organisation do you think will be more collaborative?
Which one is more adaptable to change?
Which one will ultimately perform better in the market?
Closer to home, what is the SII of your organisation’s intranet…?
Yammer has been quite a success at my workplace. Not off the charts like at Deloitte, yet very much alive and growing.
It warms my heart to see my colleagues asking and answering questions, sharing web articles, crowdsourcing ideas, gathering feedback, praising team mates, comparing notes on where to buy the best coffee, and even whining a little.
Every so often I’m asked by a peer at another company what they can do to increase the use of Yammer in their own organisation. I’m happy to share my opinion with them (borne from my experience), but thus far I have been cognisant of the fact that I haven’t cross-checked my ideas against those of others in the corporate sector.
So I recently invited 14 community managers from around the world to rate the key factors that drive Yammer use in their respective organisations. The results are summarised in the following graph.
While my sample size is probably too small to infer any significant differences among the factors, observation reveals a tiered arrangement.
The front runner is business champions. These enthusiastic users encourage the use of Yammer with their colleagues across the business. The importance of this factor is unsurprising, given the effectiveness of WOM in the marketing industry. Employees presumably trust their team mates more than they do HR, IT, or whoever “owns” Yammer in the workplace.
The next one down is another no brainer: internal promotion. Typical promotional activities such as newsletters, testimonials and merchandise not only raise awareness among the users, but also act as ongoing reminders. If WOM is the steam train, promotion is the coal that keeps it chugging.
Intrinsic motivation is obvious to anyone who knows the saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. In other words, you can unleash your business champions and push all the promotion you like, but if the individuals who comprise your target audience lack a collaborative attitude, they won’t use Yammer.
Rounding out the top tier is top-down support and participation. Not only is it important for the user’s direct manager to be enthusiastic about Yammer and participate in it him- or herself, but it’s also important for the CEO, CFO, COO, CMO etc to do the same. They must lead by example.
At the next tier down, informal support resources have some importance. I guess self-paced tutorials, user guides, tip sheets etc are less of an imperative when the system is so damn easy to use. Not to mention that just about everyone knows how to use Facebook or Twitter already, so in that sense they have prior knowledge.
User acknowledgement is also somewhat important. Everyone wants their questions to be answered, and perhaps attract a “like” or two. Otherwise, why would they bother?
The placement of Community Manager at this tier pleasantly surprised me, given the pool of respondents. Nonetheless, some sort of management of the forum is considered important in driving its use.
Integration of Yammer-based discourse into L&D offerings was also placed surprisingly low. I suspect that’s because only intrinsically motivated learners participate in it anyway.
Rounding out this tier, it appears a decent sense of netiquette is the norm in the workplace. You would be a clown to behave otherwise!
At the lower tiers, we see the factors that are considered less important by the respondents.
I guess a formal usage policy is irrelevant to intrinsically motivated users, while prizes, points and other forms of extrinsic motivation are similarly redundant. Same goes for activities and games such as “fun facts” and trivia quizzes.
And one thing’s for sure: a traditional project management approach characterised by a hard launch and follow-up training misses the mark.
In summary, then, we see that enterprise social networking is multifaceted. There is no silver bullet.
If your objective is to drive the use of Yammer in your organisation, you would be wise to focus your energy on the factors that offer the greatest return.
In the meantime, bear in mind that social forums grow organically. It takes time for individuals to see what’s in it for them and jump aboard.
Having said that, if the culture of your organisation is bad, it either needs to change or you should shift your efforts to something else.
A little while ago, someone tweeted his awe of the fact that over 600 million people are connected to each other on the one platform, ie Facebook.
This got me thinking, are all these people really “connected”…?
I’m sure you’re familiar with the Six Degrees of Separation principle. It holds that on average, anyone is only 6 personal relationships away from anyone else. Whether Facebook adds anything to the equation is questionable.
Take Madonna for example.
Madonna has a Facebook page – well, I think it’s her. There’s a problem already. For the sake of this argument, let’s accept it’s her.
I can write a message on her wall and hope she replies, but that’s not really the point. I could also mail her a letter or press the buzzer at her Hollywood mansion.
The point is connectedness. For the theory to hold up, I must be only 6 Facebook users away from the Material Girl, and thereby be able to engineer a personal introduction.
Maybe in theory I can, but while I know who I’m connected to, I don’t really know who they’re connected to, let alone who they are connected to. And that’s only a few degrees in.
Sure, I could ask “Does anyone know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who knows Madonna?”, but that would be a tad silly. No one could possibly know.
Alternatively, I could say “I’m trying to meet Madonna – can you arrange an introduction? Pass it on…”
Again in theory, my message would reach someone who could indeed arrange an introduction, but the probability of that happening is ridiculously low. Human nature dictates that a rapidly diminishing number of people will pass it on, let alone to the extent required to get a hit.
So while 600 million people are technologically connected on Facebook, practically they aren’t because everyone’s effective network only stretches so far.
The best we can do is stretch it as far as possible.
Much has been said of the “circles” feature in Google+, and rightly so.
I really like the idea of targeting my messages to just friends, or just family, or just whomever. It makes sense.
It’s Google’s trump card against the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
Slap in the face
The achilles heel of Facebook is that its friending system is binary: either you are my friend or you are not. If you are, I’ll be sharing my family reunion updates with you, and conversely I’ll be sharing my experience of burning a police car during the Canucks riot with my mum.
Few of us are aware you can “customize” whom you share your updates with, but selecting individuals one by one is hardly user friendly – especially if you want to update 67 people.
Indeed, Facebook has a “friends list” feature which allows you to filter your incoming news feed. You’d think it would allow you to filter your outgoing news feed too. Granted, I’m no Facebook expert, so maybe this can be done. But that’s the point: so much about Facebook is onerous and secretive. I’ve got better things to do.
Bye bye birdie?
Then there’s Twitter. Some commentators have heralded the death of the popular microblog at the hands of Google+ because, unlike its alleged nemesis, its messages are restricted to 140 characters.
I couldn’t disagree more. The 140 character limit is Twitter’s saving grace, and ultimately its competitive edge. Fellow tweeps, I love you all – but in very small doses. If I want more, I’ll read your blog.
As for targeting messages, Twitter can’t do that. However, it’s easy enough to manage multiple accounts with a client such as HootSuite.
Forget Facebook, forget Twitter. The one who has the most to fear from Google+ is Yammer.
Don’t get me wrong: Yammer has revolutionised social learning in the workplace. (Twitter dropped the ball big time by failing to introduce corporate accounts.)
To me, Yammer is the most similar to Google+. In particular, its “groups” feature allows you to direct your messages to a particular bunch of people. You can also assign people to groups – even if you’re not the group’s admin.
All good for Yammer, right? Wrong.
You see, everyone on the planet has heard of Google, but relatively few have heard of Yammer. And guess who’s shifting their attention to the business sector.