Social intranet marketing & change management

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Social media tools (intranet 2.0) are so simple and inexpensive to deploy that it is incredibly easy to be lulled into complacency until your initiative begins to fail.

Often, failure is simply a lack of use or adoption by users, sometimes its misuse of the tools, particularly blogs, discussion forums, and user comments. Just like the real-life relationship killer, the biggest reason for social intranet failure is apathy.

Last year’s Social Intranet Study reveals low satisfaction levels with social media on the intranet:

  • Only 29% of organizations rate the tool functionality as good or very good; 24% rate them as poor or very poor
  • Satisfaction rates with executives is dangerously low: only 23% of executives rate the 2.0 tools as good or very good; 38% rate them as poor or very poor


There are two primary reasons for the low satisfaction levels:

  • Vanilla or free / open source solutions with poor functionality (e.g. SharePoint 2010 or MediaWiki)
  • Little or no change management / communications planning


Ironically, the success of intranet 2.0 has more to do with the latter, change management (not technology). If you build it they will not come (necessarily). Most employees haven’t heard of a wiki so why would they use one? Employees need to be educated, sold, and cajoled to use these tools initially until they become a repetitive action that is part of the culture.

Here are 5 steps for social intranet change management planning:

  1. Intranet governance (explicit, documented governance model detailing ownership, management and decision-making).
  2. Social media policy (who can do what, when, how, and the rules for doing so).
  3. Executive sponsorship (ensure you have a senior executive in your corner to help promote your new tools).
  4. Communications plan (promote these tools by email, newsletter, the intranet home page, and buzz marketing activities).
  5. Active conversations (lead and promote the conversation with topical posts (e.g. new blog post or wiki) that are well targeted and promoted to potential subject matter experts and keeners).
  6. Training plan should detail who learns what, and when, and how.

Social intranet tools require careful thought and planning; yes they’re easy to deploy, but they’re not easily adopted without the requisite change management.

To learn from other *great intranets*, read the Cisco Systems intranet case study article from the Great Intranet series: Great Intranets Part II: Cisco Systems