How Social Intranets Evolve the Role of Internal Communications

By Simpplr Marketing

Social intranets provide exciting opportunities for internal communicators. This highly participative channel can deliver messages in a more meaningful, engaging and ultimately more impactful way. Corporate communication can now be a truly two-way process, rather than a mainly one-directional and top-down activity.

Of course there is still a need for more traditional formats for corporate content such as company news; however, social intranets are resulting in new roles and activities for internal communications professionals.

Here are seven ways social intranets are evolving and can expand the capabilities of the internal communications team.

1. Be social intranet champions

As the internal communications team often finds themselves the owners of a social intranet, they may well feel they need to be champions, ambassadors and experts to support employees and drive adoption.  Everybody in the IC function will need to know the ins and outs of the social intranet, how to set things up and why it brings value.

Sometimes not all team members may know their hashtags from their @ symbols, or fully understand the nuances of communicating over a social intranet.  It’s time to get up to speed so as to be convincing. Internal communications professionals will  need to be able to demonstrate best practices and also active use of the social intranet.

2. Be a communications consultant

A social intranet is more likely to have a devolved publishing model, with some communications functions now effectively in the hands of non-internal communications folk for the first time. There’s also a growing blur between more traditional formats such as articles and news, and social formats like blogs. Which format should be used and when?

This is a great opportunity for internal communications professionals to share their expertise and become internal consultants. In practice, many IC teams are already regarded as the go-to people for advice on campaigns and messaging; the social intranet will only increase the need for their expertise. Being a communications consultant means not only giving structured advice but also providing resources to help others make the right decisions.

3. Coach senior leaders

Social intranets provide an excellent opportunity for a new style of leadership communications. Senior managers can be themselves and engage in meaningful dialogue right across the organization. However, leaders are often uncomfortable and unsure how to interact on a social intranet because it’s so new.

Internal communicators can play a pivotal role in getting senior management comfortable, by acting as coaches, encouraging use of the tools offered, demonstrating benefits and showing them best practices.

4. Champion a new mindset on moderation

In organizations where internal communications have been previously tightly controlled or more centrally driven, a social intranet where content is posted directly by employees can feel very different. Content might not be written in such a structured or professional way, or be as ‘on message’.

Moreover, if approval was previously needed for content to be published, in a social intranet it might be that checks are now made retrospectively rather than as part of the workflow for publication, or perhaps not at all.

Some central teams may find themselves with an approach to moderation that’s very new and that needs a different mindset where there is far less central control.

5. Curate content

With a social intranet everybody is a publisher! This means there are some exciting stories that get reported in employee blogs, within departmental sites or inside communities. Some of this content would be excellent to share with a wider audience, so internal communicators often find themselves acting as curators, keeping an eye on activities and content across the social intranet.

When they spot a good story, the curation kicks in, either by reposting it as a news story, sharing via a  company-wide feed or even constructing a whole new article.  

6. Adjust the tone of intranet content

Social intranets invariably mean that employees are commenting on news, so items that were previously more top-down in nature are now opportunities for dialogue. Additionally, employees are creating their own content and stories.

User-generated content can fundamentally change the tone of formal content, making it more informal and authentic. Some pieces also need to be geared towards stimulating debate rather than just broadcasting information. IC professionals may need to adjust to writing content in a style suitable for a thoroughly social channel.

7. Become community managers

A core skill for running social intranets is community management, which is all about helping drive engagement, loyalty and sense of community. This in turn drives adoption and participation.

Community management not only occurs throughout the organization, but also within specific groups or teams. The community management team has lots of traits and skills, some of which are inherent in the points made above.

It’s also possible that internal communicators will become community managers to a group of community managers! This means they must support the activities of a wider group of individuals responsible for different communities.

A new era for internal communications?

A social intranet is a new channel with amazing potential to drive communication forward in organizations in more engaging ways.

We’re already seeing many internal communication teams seize those opportunities and explore the possibilities of the social intranet.  As social software within the enterprise becomes the norm, internal communications will also continue to evolve as something more naturalistic, participative and ultimately more impactful.

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