Building A Community – Make Your Intranet Social

3/22/2010

Building an effective community around your intranet can actually help employees work smarter. Blogs, forums, videos, calendars, wikis, and other social networking tools are being used right now in many global corporations to help distributed teams collaborate in real time and work together more effectively. Here are 5 steps to help you get started on the road to a clearly defined and well-managed intranet community.

Step 1 – Establish clear and realistic goals

Building an intranet community requires clearly focused goals. Sit down with your team and determine why you want a community in the first place. Is it to increase collaboration, communication, and trust within the organization? Is it all of the above or something else? How will you know when you’ve achieved it? Envision the outcome and how you will measure success.

Step 2 – Give people a reason to participate

Will anyone care about the new community? You need to give them reasons to participate besides a mandate from the top brass. What’s in it for them? Will it really make their lives easier? How? Think of all the reasons an intranet community will benefit your employees.

Examples of successful communities in action include employees blogging about new tools they are using for specific projects, discussions about how a sales rep closed a major deal, and how-to videos to supplement corporate training efforts. People will participate in your community if it helps them both personally and professionally.

Step 3 – Carefully choose the tools you will use to achieve your community goals

As social media becomes more prevalent across the web, corporate workers are expecting similar tools from their company intranets. To effectively use social networking on your intranet, it’s critical to get beyond the “cool” factor desired by employees and make sure corporate social networking tools properly address a business need. The tools also need to provide a solid user experience, since buggy software will alienate participants.

Step 4  – Create a community communications plan

You need to get the word out. And this begins with establishing a community manager to plant the seed. Since some areas of the intranet will tend to be more social than others, the community manager can prompt lurkers to communicate more openly and actively promote mission-critical information across the company as it becomes available.

An editorial calendar is useful for planning ongoing content updates and assigning content ownership responsibilities. Discussion forums and other open communications channels need to be monitored to ensure corporate standards are enforced within the community. This way the community has an opportunity to flourish without the distractions of disgruntled employees or heavy-handed corporate rebuttals.

Step 5 – Implement, review and respond

The best way to test your community building plan is to roll it out to your real-world corporate community. As you make it available, constantly ask for feedback and respond quickly to user comments. Over time the community will take on a life of its own, so proper care and feeding is a must to help it grow into a valuable organizational asset.

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