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Enhance your intranet using social media

Designer and developer Rob Bagley argues that corporate intranets should open up and embrace the social media revolution

The use of social media tools in the workplace is becoming a more relevant form of communication than could ever have been imagined in the early days when teenagers across the globe first started “liking it” on Facebook, the Arctic Monkeys gatecrashed MySpace or even earlier when firstly friends, then foes were Reunited.

People began sharing knowledge on Wikipedia; blogs were expanding as sources of information, opinion, fact and fiction on all manner of subjects from music to technology to gardening. Now the information is arriving even faster with 140 character tweets being rattled off like light artillery by celebs, journo and the bloke down the pub who always has something to say to anyone who will listen. Hey, even flash mobs that began as nothing more than organised fun have become vehicles for advertising and web campaigns. So how does this all fit in with the corporate intranet?

Removing restrictions

The traditional view of a corporate intranet is of restrictions, gates and boundaries designed to prevent rather than empower the user. In fact the term even sounds ominous, like some sort of Secret ICT Police force watching your every move from the division in some dark recess of head office. This is a polar opposite to the internet, which allows freedom of expression and movement.

However, if you take a step back and compare the two, they are not so different and you can boil them down to one simple philosophy, “sharing information”.

Sure, intranets need their restrictions and boundaries, because businesses hold a lot of sensitive information within their depths, but an intranet can now be so much more thanks to social media. Intranets are evolving and with the right resources and good people with knowledge and imagination behind them, social media tools such as blogs, wikis, quick notes and more can be plugged into a well implemented intranet quickly and efficiently by your friendly system administrator faster than you can type a 140-character monologue.

Social tools

The average user of a corporate intranet will look at the websites using social media tools such as status updates and tweets and think “Hey, why can’t we have something like that in the workplace? When I have just met up with a business client and want to update the rest or the team, I don’t want to have to search, find, navigate to the right tab, clicked edit, type, and finally click save, that’s nonsense! I just want a list of my clients, select the one I want and type a quick note (tweet, chirp, bleet or blart, depending on your company’s latest buzzword [delete where applicable]).

Now here’s the good bit, if you think your idea can fly, then it probably can (metaphorically speaking).

In the fast paced environment that is doing business in 2011 (or 2012 if you are working really fast), if a business person has info that they want to save after a meeting for others in their team, they don’t want to have to wait until they are back in the office to post it. They want to rattle it off from their smartphone or tablet instantly and have it appear on a wall on their intranet where it can be read straight away. They will also want to be able lookup information from their intranet wikis and blogs to prepare them ahead of their next meeting.

No problem: this can be done with a relevant nod in the direction of ICT security and plenty of thoughtful planning. However to quote the immortal words of Aunt May (Spiderman -2002), “With great power comes great responsibility”.

PR disasters

Companies are also putting themselves out there in the public arena on Facebook and Twitter, which gives them accessibility to the consumer base like never before. However they would do well to take stick to a few guidelines and advice to steer clear of any PR disasters. With this in mind an international business can maintain 24/7 exposure as the baton is passed from time zone to time zone with uninterrupted coverage/service to their “fans” and “followers”.

Companies have begun embracing online tools such as “Yammer” for sharing information on private and public communities, and these tools can be integrated into an existing intranet with a click, and a drag and drop from your friendly neighbourhood system administrator that will keep your intranet evolving.

The days when an intranet was simply a place to save staff expenses or display dull corporate news on animated yellow tickers that is only updated every few months is no more. The corporate intranet is now a community intranet and it can be whatever you want it to be…

Viva la Evolution!

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