How to Transform Your Intranet Using SharePoint’s Social Media Tools

Linda Dulye's picture
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If you’re a corporate communicator you’ve probably heard about SharePoint’s panoply of social media tools and tricks designed to transform the way employee teams collaborate across the enterprise while driving employee engagement on a new scale.

Generally touted for its document management capabilities, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server technology (MOSS) often enters the enterprise as an IT-led technology deployment with little or no input from employee communication—the very people on the hook to bring this transformation into existence. Tall order.

Other organizations, recognizing the wisdom of employee communication input, may reach out to consultants to put a strategy together with the goal of finding a return on their intranet technology investment. While admirable, this approach may also fall short of the mark if the communication strategy is not the right one; namely, if it’s one that aims to change a corporate culture from risk-averse to transparent by setting up a few blogs for senior leaders or the CEO, or simply encouraging employees to populate their My Site employee profile with personal information in the hope that this will somehow mushroom into a Facebook-like usability craze among employees.

The challenge and the opportunity is this: we absolutely see the value of fostering collaboration and driving engagement in the enterprise. But, how does social media fit into the equation?

No one’s asking you to eliminate town halls or face-to-face communication. These should continue to be a vital part of your communication strategy. And, they should be counterbalanced with some social media practices that connect and engage a diverse and rapidly changing workforce. A workforce that increasingly wants flexibility in their work hours, work arrangements and work-life balance, especially Gen-Xers and Millennials. (As depicted in Time magazine’s front-page article on May 25, 2009: "Throw away your briefcase; you’re not going to the office. We’ll see a more flexible, more freelance, more collaborative and far less secure work world.”)

Social media is a golden opportunity for communicators to deliver a consensus-driven decision-making model—it provides the tools to help senior leaders lead with transparency in the style of President Barack Obama. The ability to deliver data that reflects a consensus among employees is something tangible communicators can bring to the table. Senior leaders need a pulse check from their front-line—and they need it more frequently than an annual employee engagement survey. This presents an opportunity for communicators using Sharepoint with social media.

Communicators can deliver value to the enterprise with SharePoint’s RSS feed capability, for example, which kicks out an e-mail to notify you of blog updates—a blog in which you specifically expressed interest and to which you willingly subscribed to receive updates. That’s different than the top-down, cascaded corporate messaging pattern of old—this is targeted messaging and a reduction in unwanted e-mail. Every blog also invites opportunities for two-way communication on posts, leading to a lively two-way or multi-layered conversation thread among many participants.

Social polling invites blog readers to comment on a post in a number of different ways, some of which are non-threatening, leading to greater collaboration. Workgroups can "follow" other team members to boost collaboration (with their permission, of course), receiving updates on team or individual progress on activities, work assignments or projects. Whole teams can easily create and edit a document—a 401(k) Summary Plan Description, for example, or a set of intranet governance rules—with version updates made clearly visible in a collaborative wiki workspace. Micro-blogging applications like Twitter and Yammer (not part of the SharePoint) have been used effectively by CEOs and corporate marketers as immediate sounding boards and feedback mechanisms for products and ideas, and have proven to be very useful platforms for real-time updates (Tweets) during a crisis.

SharePoint and social media offer previously unknown possibilities to gather unfiltered feedback and facilitate the right conversation and collaboration among employees. We can point you in the right direction. Visit our site to learn more about Dulye & Company’s Spectator-Free Workplace™ solutions for SharePoint environments. Subscribe to our blog updates to stay connected with us and join the conversation on emerging trends in corporate communication.

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