We’ve been using our truly social intranet now for more than a year. Even though it’s quite a short period, it is surprisingly hard to remember how life was before.
The hardest thing about moving to a more social internal communication is learning to let go. You just can’t control everything. If you are even slightly considering adopting a social intranet, I suggest a mind game: What would happen if the corporate communications department wasn’t on the top of all the communication happening in your company?
In a social environment everybody can publish
Internal comms may not have the slightest idea of what’s being discussed and where. The topics arise from work, work communities and employees. In a social intranet every employee is a communicator and each and every one also has a responsibility for communication. If in the old world the comms department was sitting on top of all the communication, in the new this will change completely.
Whether this is a threat or an opportunity, depends entirely on the company and its culture. In a social intranet it’s the employees who create the living, active content and information. You just can’t have a social intranet if corporate comms wants to control communications or if the company expects them to do so.
On the other hand the responsibility for communication can be a huge challenge for employees, especially those who find communicating a troublesome task and not a natural part of one's work.
Best practices and encouragement - the communicator becomes the consultant
Social intranets keep comms departments busy in quite a different way than a traditional intranet would. The role of the corporate communicator becomes decidedly more consultative. Employees need help with the new communication tools, as well as encouragement, advice, recommendations and best practices. At the same time comms have to fully understand what possibilities a new social way of communicating opens up. Here, experience gathered in social media comes in especially handy.
Often the management also needs communications consulting. Leaders should willingly take part in discussions where everyone participates with their own name and face. Social intranets obligate management as well as regular employees – the one who owns the subject is also responsible for communicating it. Management should take part in discussions relating to their own responsibilities. It would feel really weird if management messages came through the comms department!
The biggest thing everyone should realize is that communication is an essential part of everyday work, not something extra to do on top of everything else.
It all begins with open communication culture
There’s not a single company where the communications department is responsible for all the (internal) communications within the organization. Social intranets make the on-going communication visible and easy. However if there’s no culture for openness and discussion to begin with, then there’s no intranet in the world that could create one.
An open and discussive organization is also multi-voiced, and often critical. If you wish to really be open, you must allow hard and awkward discussions and questions. They also need answers – you can’t silence tough subjects. As learned from social media, deleting or editing posts is hardly ever smart. On internal social media it’s the best way to destruct the company's atmosphere.
Social intranet cheatsheet
What if someone writes or shares something unfortunate or unpleasant? Keep objective and businesslike, afterall you are all here to do your work. If you truly worry about this, you either don’t know your employees very well or there’s a real problem with your organization's culture and you should focus on that first. Again, that’s not something a social intranet can solve.
What if something confidential is leaked or shared to the wrong people? Think of sending an e-mail – you cannot unsend it. On the other hand if you publish something, you can always unpublish it. Much easier. At the end of the day you can’t prevent people from copy-pasting or taking screenshots, even with a traditional intranet.
What if someone accidentally shares something outside the company? Easy – unshare.
What to share, and where to share it? Have a clear and simple concept and communicate it. Keep your community managers informed and well prepared, they'll help you with this.
Do I have to be online outside my working hours? No, if there’s not anything special going on. We’re all here to work and everyone understands that.