What is intranet 2.0 and why do you need it?

Intranet 2.0 promised to make the traditional corporate intranet social and connect sprawling workforces. Today, social technology is more relevant than ever as hybrid work keeps workforces separate. Is intranet 2.0 the answer we already had? Does it still offer value to global enterprises? Find out the truth in this deep dive into enterprise social platforms.

Light ring representing Intranet 2.0

What is intranet 2.0?

Simply put, intranet 2.0 is an industry term for the introduction of social networking features to the traditional corporate intranet. Intranet 2.0 is often called the ‘social intranet’ and these terms can be used interchangeably.

Well, what exactly is a social intranet? These are platforms that take the social functionality we are now so familiar with thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter and bring these features into the digital workplace.

You can think of a social intranet as a platform that performs the same functions as social media applications, just within the enterprise space. This can be through a complete social platform or by integrating with third-party social tools like Yammer. Rather than communicating with millions of users over the internet, social intranets enable employees to interact with content and connect with colleagues across the globe.

Unily social intranet available across devices including iPad

Social intranets encourage knowledge sharing and make it easy for team members to collaborate towards shared goals. Typically, social intranets will leverage some of the below key features, with the best platforms incorporating all of them to some degree:

  • Commenting: Users can comment on blog content, leadership updates, and news items to share their thoughts and ask relevant questions
  • Reacting: Authentic social reactions empower users to express their enthusiasm and share their feelings regarding content posted on their intranet
  • Following: Employees can make sure they never miss an important update by choosing social channels, feeds, and people that they wish to follow. Users can then receive push notifications that tell them when the topics and people they follow post relevant insights
  • User profiles: Employees can craft their own digital identities by filling out their skills, experiences, and interests on user profiles
  • People directories: Encourage knowledge sharing with a searchable people directory that enables users to find internal experts and filter by department, location, experience, skills, and more
  • User-generated content: Every user can publish their stories, upload videos, and share images with intuitive blogging features and front-end content creation
  • Recognition: Users can thank their colleagues for a job well done by awarding team members with Kudos points or badges as part of their enterprise’s employee recognition scheme
  • Analytics: Measure success and learn what your employees care about with real-time analytics reporting. Read the room whenever you want and leverage insights to underpin the ongoing evolution of your platform
  • Employee directories: Connect people and encourage knowledge-sharing collaboration with Unily’s searchable people directory. Find the right experts and filter by department, location, experience and skills, and more
  • Integrations: Plug-and-play integrations with 3rd party apps unite every conversation happening throughout the digital workplace. Instantly share news and insights across Yammer, Slack, and Teams so no one misses a beat
  • Gamification: Inspire friendly competition with kudos leaderboards that spotlight your top performers based on colleague perceptions. Let your people select their own champions from around the business and discover who your people champions really are

The evolution of intranet 2.0

In today’s workplace, one of the key reasons enterprises have intranets is to connect people to the wider business and to each other. With social tools playing such a large part in the digital employee experience, particularly in a world of hybrid work, it’s hard to imagine that platforms ever existed without this functionality.

However, back in the early 2000s, users couldn’t comment on or like any posts on their corporate intranet, nor could they @mention colleagues or react to content–and #hashtags didn’t even exist!

The social media age pushes intranet 2.0 further

It wasn’t until the next decade that social intranets as we know them started to break onto the scene. As we all became more familiar with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, enterprises realized the potential of recreating social networks within intranet software. Early social media integrations gave way to blogging and forums as the term ‘Intranet 2.0’ first emerged.

Unily social channels available on iPhone

In the 2020s, social intranets have arrived in full force. Social intranets now allow users to build their own identities with user profiles, stay updated via activity feeds, and comment and react to the content they see on their intranet. Now, enterprises can connect global workforces with consumer-grade social experiences that rival the experiences we’re accustomed to with Facebook and Twitter.

Do you need a social intranet?

Enterprise technology has come a long way since intranet 2.0 first came onto the scene, and with the rise of hybrid working creating a greater reliance on collaboration technology, the demand for a digital social hub has only grown.

Only in the past few years have enterprises truly embraced social intranets. Prior to that, enterprises were reluctant to unleash the power of social for fear of adding complexity to the digital landscape or bringing what some perceived to be a distraction to the intranet. Today, though, those concerns have well and truly been put to bed as the benefits of enterprises' social networks have become clear for all to see:

What are the benefits of a social intranet?

Knowing all the features that a social intranet offers doesn’t necessarily paint a clear picture as to how they combine to improve employee experience and benefit your enterprise.

So, to help demonstrate the value of intranet 2.0 in the age of hybrid work, below are the five main benefits of a social intranet:

#1. Facilitate collaboration

In a survey of over 2k CEOs, Forrester Research and KPMG found that 79% are prioritizing cross-functional alignment in a way their predecessors were not. However, encouraging collaboration in the hybrid age presents its own set of challenges.

If employees don’t have colleagues to turn to, how can leaders expect them to come together to get work done?

Social intranets make it possible for colleagues to collaborate whether they’re sat across the hall or on the other side of the world. Collaborators can create dedicated channels for specific teams or projects and keep everyone up to date with frequent posts. Users can comment on project updates, tag relevant team members, and find internal experts for support through people directories and user profiles.

Unily social people directory on iPad

#2. Combat isolation

Microsoft’s review of post-pandemic workforce trends showed that employee networks shrank and teams became more siloed than ever. Gallup found that one in five employees working remotely struggle with loneliness and that loneliness undermines the mental wellbeing of people and teams.

Enterprises now face the challenge of meaningfully connecting people despite hybrid work seeing workforces physically separated, widening employees’ networks, and breaking down business silos that have formed between teams.

Overcoming remote disconnect and promoting culture in a disjointed hybrid workforce will mean finding ways to reintroduce social connection digitally.

Social platforms connect people and combat remote work isolation, helping employees build stronger connections with their peers around the world. Social channels based on specific interests and causes give colleagues a place to come together and build communities around shared passions while commenting offers an easy way to add your voice into the conversation and get to know others.

Nielsen Norman Group best intranet winner Commonwealth Care Alliance's use of social channels for their 'cabin fever' initiative serves as a great example of the power social tools have in bringing people together. The casual conversation channel aims to emulate the water-cooler style chat with colleagues that remote workers miss out on when working from home, encouraging users to share their experiences of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CCA social channels on iPad

#3. Drive engagement

Most leaders understand that an engaged workforce is a key competitive advantage. What’s often less clear is what enterprises can do to boost employee engagement and enhance the workplace experience.

Creating an internal social experience is a step in the right direction. An HBR study found that the more employees use internal social media, the more they feel engaged and the more transparent they perceive their workplace to be. A social intranet also gives every employee a chance to raise their voice, which contributes to a stronger sense of belonging, an inclusive culture, and has even been linked with significant performance benefits.

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#4. Improve retention

Talent is set to be an extremely valuable commodity in the future of work, as hybrid work widens enterprise’s available talent pool and people’s options for employment in tandem. A Cisco survey of C-suite executives found that 85% believe the ability to attract, retain, and develop talent will be critical in the all-digital workplace.

Employers can take advantage of social networking to ensure every team member feels recognized for their efforts and has a platform to make themselves heard. Peer-to-peer recognition schemes also allow employees to award their colleagues with Kudos and express their gratitude for a job well done, building a stronger sense of community and culture among your workforce.

Unily awarding kudos to colleagues on iPad

Deloitte found a 20% increase in employee satisfaction and a corresponding 87% increase in employee retention in organizations that implemented social intranets in this way. This impact makes sense, given that 63% of employees who feel seen at work are very unlikely to look for a new job, per Gallup.

#5. Boost productivity

For many, when we think of social networks at work we may first think of distractions, even more so given the viral style of short-form content on platforms like TikTok.

So, some may believe that social intranets could similarly inhibit productivity, however, this is demonstrably untrue. Research by the McKinsey Global Institute has found that using social tools to boost communications can raise employee productivity by as much as 25%.

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Shell powers employee experience with a Unily intranet

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Employees need to check in with one another, find quick project updates, and ask for help whenever needed. Where better place for this than your social feeds? With a social intranet, users can efficiently identify the best contacts to reach out to for assistance and easily collaborate with team members, so everyone knows what kind of progress they’re making together.

#6. Connect frontline users

Frontline employees remain one of the hardest demographics for enterprises to reach and engage, and with frontline workers out in the field, collaboration can be tricky at the best of times. They have to potential to offer unique insight on your business and customer interactions, so connecting the frontline and giving them a platform to make their voice heard should be a strategic imperative.

Empower your mobile users to carve out a digital identity for themselves with dynamic user profiles that can be populated with their skills, experience, and interests so that colleagues may search for expertise and collaborate. Inviting frontline users to share insight with front-end content creation and bringing them into the discussion with dedicated channels and @mentioning helps to bridge the gap between HQ and frontline.

Best practices for your social intranet

So, you understand the merits of launching a social intranet to improve the hybrid employee experience, but what can you do to take it to the next level? Below are five tips to ensure employees are taking full advantage of your internal social experience:

#1. Integrate with collaboration tools

Social sharing works best when users can seamlessly share content across channels and platforms. If they see something useful on the homepage and want to share it to their Slack chats or Teams groups, one button is all it should take.

Meet people where they work with social integrations that allow users to bring in channels from collaboration tools like Slack, Teams, and Yammer. This spreads the reach of your content and social activity while uniting channels for a single pane of glass experience.

#2. Create training resources

Every employee brings their own set of skills to the table, including their own level of digital dexterity. Rather than assuming everyone will figure your social tools out, go the extra mile to ensure your social experience is intuitive and accessible to all.

Include training resources on your intranet, ideally available from a central location like your homepage. Make sure to add learning content specifically for social functionality, such as explainer pieces that walk users through the basics of liking, commenting, and sharing.

#3. Create channels for shared interests

What’s the easiest way to get people talking? Ask them about their interests and passions. While you likely don’t have the time to poll every user on their hobbies, creating dedicated social channels around issues that is a great start to bringing people together.

With channels specifically created for talking about topics like environmental sustainability and diversity and inclusion, even users who may be hesitant to post publicly can be inspired to weigh in on the subjects that matter to them.

#4. Encourage everyone to raise their voice

Some employees will dominate the comments section, while others might prefer a more subdued approach. Regardless of an individual’s preferences, you should look to encourage everyone to contribute to your social experience. Introduce gamification features like completeness gauges and activity leaderboards to incentivize users to fill out their profiles, tag colleagues who might be interested in relevant content, and create a Kudos tracker for a little friendly competition.

#5. Don’t forget mobile

If you want to give everyone a voice, you need to make sure your social intranet is accessible to all. Mobile functionality is crucial for engaging deskless team members, such as those working on the shop floors or colleagues who may be on the road. Ensure that your social intranet is mobile accessible and that your deskless users can easily comment and react to the same content that their desk-bound colleagues see. Mobile push notifications are also a must to keep users updated when they’re on the go.

Learn more about mobile intranet solutions.

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

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Intranet 3.0 and the future of employee experience

As we move into a hybrid future of work, employee experience platforms are developing further to incorporate more features and capabilities into the digital workplace. Hybrid work has driven a greater demand for the technology enterprises use to connect global workforces and facilitate collaboration when work no longer relies on physical workspaces.

This accelerated development has led us into an era of ‘intranet 3.0’, with marketing-grade automated campaigns, AI, seamless integrations, and countless more innovations bringing the social aspect of the workplace into the digital employee experience. In this era, employee experience platforms sit at the cutting edge of enterprise technology, leading businesses into a brighter future of work.

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Want to get your workforce talking?

If you’re interested in implementing a social intranet for your enterprise, or your feeds have fallen silent and you want to drive more value from social tools, speak to an expert today.

Get started. Get your free demo.

Reinvent your intranet for the employee experience era.

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