How to launch a social intranet

Culture building. Knowledge sharing. Collaboration and innovation. The benefits of a social intranet, where everyone from frontline to head office has a voice, are clear. But how does a global enterprise go about launching a social intranet?

Man working in social environment on laptop with headphones using social intranet

What makes an intranet social?

Thanks to the internet and social media, technology has advanced to the point where we can connect with more people around the world than our ancestors may have met in a lifetime, and there’s no reason for an enterprise intranet not to offer these same advantages.

A social intranet is a platform that takes the networking opportunities and familiar features from social media and places them within an organization’s private network. Social intranets boost engagement, encourage collaboration, and drive efficiency by giving employees a voice and the chance to use it, helping to drive valuable conversations and connect people to knowledge, communications, and each other.

The difference between intranets and social intranets

What differentiates an intranet from a social intranet are the same capabilities we’re used to with consumer technology: social feeds that let employees post and make their voice heard; commenting and @tagging that bring others into the conversation to add their insight; #hashtags that create topics others can easily search across and find; even rich media and native video that bring feeds to life and engage more than text ever can.

These features make it easy to build a community of equals and offer channels for your people to share knowledge, locate expertise, connect with colleagues, and collaborate seamlessly. But, best practice reveals key differences that must be considered when launching a socially enabled employee experience platform.

Social conversations

4 benefits of a social intranet

Before delving into the ‘how?’, it’s important to briefly cover the ‘why?’. Social intranets offer a host of benefits to employees and enterprises alike, with many of these advantages already a strategic focus for C-suite executives as we move into a hybrid future of work.

Connected enterprises

Social networks are built on the core principle of bringing people together. Every feature, feed, and post is made with the idea that users will come together to enjoy content, discuss a topic, bring their insight, and help each other.

KPMG and Forrester Research’s survey of over 2k CEOs found that 79% are prioritizing cross-functional alignment in a way their predecessors were not. This reflects an increasing demand for even the largest and most complex enterprises to connect their workforces, from frontline to head office, to ensure that everyone is aligned towards your business objectives.

Connected enterprises benefit from this alignment through a more engaged workforce, more channels to reach and communicate with their people, and more opportunities to hear from the voices that make up your organization.


When you give people the tools to connect with each other at will, you open up valuable channels for collaboration and innovation. Collaboration allows businesses to make use of the talent and expertise of their employees, encouraging colleagues to help each other to produce work greater than the sum of its parts.

What has become clear as businesses have embraced hybrid working is that we now rely almost entirely on technology to collaborate. As a necessity of modern work, Gartner has predicted that the market for workplace social software and collaboration tools is expected to almost double from an estimated $2.7 billion in 2018 to $4.8 billion by 2023, which has pushed vendors and enterprises alike to pursue employee experience platforms armed with social features to empower their people.

Knowledge sharing

Another consequence of hybrid work is the increased importance of knowledge management. Without the convenience of having everyone present in the physical workplace, employees can no longer rely on verbal interactions or in-person meetings to ask questions and gain knowledge. At the same time, Deloitte recently revealed that 55% of enterprise data and knowledge goes unused.


Maximizing enterprise knowledge

In episode 5 of the Unily podcast, Paul Seda, Kaitlin Auriemma, Kaz Hassan, and Alex Gabelli return to discuss the importance of your enterprise’s greatest asset: knowledge. Tapping into their own experience and expertise, the team offer nuggets of wisdom for maximizing the success and value of knowledge management.

Watch now

Again, enterprises have turned to the intranet to fill this need. Social feeds make for an excellent open forum to simulate these lost interactions while also keeping a searchable record of this knowledge exchange for everyone to benefit from, breaking down silos that are formed when knowledge is shared face-to-face or over email. Users can simply reach out to experts within your organization, or ask open questions for others to offer their insight, and that knowledge can be recorded and stored for future use.


Social intranets have been shown to drive engagement across global workforces and, on the flip side, give enterprises more ways of accurately measuring and analyzing employee engagement. Additionally, research by the McKinsey Global Institute found that using social tools to boost communications can raise employee productivity by 20 to 25 percent.

By giving users a voice on your intranet, and a platform to make it heard, employees engage better with the platform, with communications, and with each other. With social channels, your employees can build communities themselves and, in turn, become active participants that build upon your culture.

5 keys to launching a social intranet

With all the advantages a social intranet promises, the question now turns to how an enterprise launches a social intranet. Below are the five keys to launching and maintaining thriving social channels to ensure they continue to add value and bring people together.

#1. Communication drives adoption

Social channels live and die by the people using them. If your users are completely inactive, your social channel will be lifeless. On the other hand, if your users are highly engaged and post frequently to social channels, your entire workforce can enjoy the benefits listed above.

To drive adoption of enterprise social tools and ensure users understand the value of a social intranet, communication is key. Prior to launch enterprises should take every opportunity to communicate clearly with employees and make them aware of what they can expect from your social platform, and how they can best use these channels to their advantage.

#2. Create channels for every conversation

Another step enterprises need to take before launching a social intranet is to plan and map out the various social channels employees can use to connect with colleagues.

Unily social channels

For instance, you can elect to build channels for various departments to sync up and collaborate, or you could create a private channel for leadership to securely share sensitive information. Enterprises can build product Q&A channels for employees to seek expertise, or you could even create channels for topics entirely unrelated to business that encourage people to simply socialize and learn more about their colleagues.

Creating public and private channels within a social intranet helps to guide conversations and keep users focused on the topic at hand. They also help to build micro-communities within your business that drive engagement, as, for example, avid cyclists can find like-minded colleagues within a dedicated channel.

#3. Accurately analyze engagement

One of the greatest drivers of engagement a social intranet offers is its ability to provide more accurate ways of measuring engagement. With new channels for communication and features like @tagging, commenting, #hashtagging, and bespoke likes and reactions, your enterprise gains new metrics to provide insight into your people’s engagement with content and posts.

Unily social analytics

In the lead-up to launch, your internal communications should take advantage of these new features and plan upcoming communications and campaigns with them in mind. This could take the form of open Q&As or opinion pieces that invite employees to offer their take in the comments.

When measuring the success of this content, you can now measure beyond the standard view counts and dwell times to see a clearer picture of how people interact with and react to your communications. Your enterprise can then use this insight to make more informed strategic decisions and better adapt to the interests of your audiences.

#4. Let users personalize their experience

Personalization is highly effective at engaging users and driving adoption of a social intranet. Enterprise social channels, much like social media, allow users to tweak their feeds to show posts from the topics, groups, and other people that most interest them. Putting the power in the hands of users to craft and define their own digital experiences inherently makes those experiences more unique, engaging, and relevant to the user.

Following notification settings

Any enterprise social intranet needs to offer this kind of personalization to be successful, and so prior to launch enterprises need to ensure that their platform allows users to follow social channels, feeds, and other users to stay on top of the latest conversations. You can take this a step further by using push notifications to update users when people or groups they follow post relevant insights on their mobile device.

#5. Use rich media to bring feeds to life

A social feed that is entirely text-based is fundamentally less engaging than one that employs rich media, like images and video. This is why platforms like Twitter shifted early on to allow native video and image posting, and why almost all social media platforms are pivoting strategies to now focus more on short-form video content, which has been found to engage users far more than any other type of content.

A social intranet is no different. Engaging your employees with social features relies upon the content posted being useful and relevant, but also eye-catching and entertaining, and the best way to ensure that is the case is by using native video and rich media.

Want to turn your corporate intranet into a social hub?

If your enterprise is interested in the benefits of a social intranet and wants to know more about best practice when it comes to platform launch, get in touch with an expert today.

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Reinvent your intranet for the employee experience era.

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