The evolution of the social intranet

Given the crucial role that social functionality plays in many modern intranet experiences, it might be hard to believe that platforms ever existed without it. However, back in the early 2000s, users couldn’t comment or like anything they saw on their corporate intranet. Solutions were starting to evolve beyond simple, static webpages, with some including task management tools and calendars, but social functionality was nowhere to be found.

It wasn’t until the next decade that social intranets started to break onto the scene. As society became more familiar with consumer social channels, enterprises began to envision recreating a similar networking experience within their own workplace. Early social media integrations gave way to blogging and discussion forums, with more sophisticated social experiences added in the years that followed.

In the 2020s, social intranets have arrived in full force. Modern platforms still offer blogging and discussion forums, in addition to a host of new capabilities. Social intranets now allow users to build their own identities through their user profiles, stay updated via news feeds and activity streams, and comment and react to the content they see on their intranet. Superior platforms offer a social experience that parallels what users have grown accustomed to through personal usage of apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as the promise of further evolutions to come.

Social Intranet

Connect your people, foster community, and fuel idea-exchange with powerful social features that give every employee a voice within your enterprise.

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Social intranet capabilities

Social intranets now have the capabilities needed to empower users to build meaningful relationships with their colleagues across the globe. Social functionality will be particularly crucial in the hybrid era, since many employees may not have a chance to interact with their colleagues face to face.

How exactly does a social intranet recreate the water cooler experience virtually? Modern employee experience platforms come with a host of powerful networking capabilities that cultivate connectivity, including:

  • 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 their 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: With intuitive blogging features and front-end content creation, every user can share their stories and even upload videos and images to enrich their content
  • 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

Discover more social intranet features your employees know and love.


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Social integrations

Integrations with third-party apps like Slack and Teams help to bring all channels into one place, uniting every conversation happening across the enterprise. Microsoft in particular is a staple of the modern workplace, with their COO claiming that 4 out of 5 Fortune 500 companies use Microsoft 365 in some way. A large part of this demographic will leverage one or more of Azure AD, SharePoint, Teams, and Yammer to connect their employees and make it easy for people to collaborate remotely.

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By meeting users where they already work, social intranets that seamlessly integrate and interact with the Microsoft Suite and other collaboration tools are more likely to generate adoption and engagement.

"The effectiveness of social networks is directly correlated to the integration into the user’s normal day-to-day flow."

David Thodey - Telstra’s Former CEO at Microsoft Ignite 2016


Social intranets are valuable tools for connecting people, encouraging open conversations, supporting collaboration and knowledge sharing, and boosting employee engagement. One of the less immediately obvious capabilities of a social intranet, though, is its ability to give you a clearer picture of your people.

Features like commenting, #hashtagging, and bespoke reactions are a double-edged sword. Not only do they give users more ways of interacting with content and colleagues, but they also give enterprises more accurate and consistent ways of measuring engagement. Going beyond what surveys and forms can provide, social engagement analytics give you an image of employee engagement on a daily basis, creating more data to shed insight on trends happening across workforces.

Intranet Analytics

Gain insight into your users, your content, and your digital workplace. Custom and pre-configured dashboards let you drill down into the things that matter to you and benchmark your success against other enterprises.

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Benefits of a social intranet

It’s evident that a social intranet can help build camaraderie amongst employees, but what are the big-picture benefits that stakeholders can expect? A social intranet provides many payoffs, including:

#1. Streamline collaboration

Collaboration in the hybrid age can feel a bit more challenging. 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 easier than ever to collaborate with team members, whether they’re sitting down the hall or located across the world. Users can comment on project updates, tag relevant collaborators, and even pinpoint the best contact for a specific question by leveraging their people directory.

#2. Eliminate isolation

With the rise in remote working comes an uptick in loneliness. Over half of all employees experience some sense of isolation when working from home.

Social networking functionality can reduce these sentiments and help 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 bond over shared passions, while commenting is an easy way to ask a question or get to know someone.

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#3. Boost 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. A recent 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 further enhances engagement and is even linked with significant performance benefits.

#4. Improve retention

Given the high costs associated with turnover, employee retention is at the top of every enterprise’s priority list.

Employee recognition can have a powerful impact on turnover reduction, given that 63% of employees who feel seen at work believe it is very unlikely that they will look for a new job. Employers can take advantage of social networking to ensure every team member feels seen. Launch a peer-to-peer recognition scheme that allows employees to award their colleagues with Kudos and express their gratitude for a job well done.

#5. Better productivity

Some might think that social intranets could be distracting and inhibit productivity, however that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Employees need to be able to check in with one another, receive quick project updates, and ask for help when needed. With a social intranet, users can efficiently identify the best contacts to reach out to for assistance and even tag team members, so everyone knows what kind of progress they’re making.


Employee productivity in the remote work era

In the second episode of our all-new podcast, our host Paul Seda invites Unily’s Kaitlin Auriemma, Kaz Hassan, and Matthew Boyd to the show to tackle the issue of employee productivity in the remote work era. Grab your headphones and get down to the details of employee productivity with the latest episode of the Unily podcast.

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Best practices for your social intranet

While simply launching a social intranet is a step in the right direction for improving employee experience, what can you do to take it to the next level? There are several tips to ensure employees are taking full advantage of your internal social experience, including:

#1. Create training resources

Each of your employees has their own digital comfort levels and varying degrees of experience with social media. Rather than assuming everyone will figure it out, go the extra mile to ensure your social experience is intuitive and accessible to all. Include training resources on your intranet, ideally in 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.

#2. Develop channels for shared interests

What’s the easiest way to get people talking? Ask them about their interests and passions. While you might not be able to poll every user on their hobbies, create dedicated social channels around issues that are likely to bring people together, such as environmental sustainability and diversity and inclusion. Even users who may be hesitant to post on your main social feed will be inspired to weigh in on the topics that matter most to them.

Business social network consultants in a meeting


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#3. 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 user’s preferences, encourage everyone to contribute to your social experience. Introduce completeness gauges to incentivize users to fill out their profiles, tag colleagues who might be interested in relevant content, and create a Kudos leaderboard for a little friendly competition.

#4. Keep it fresh

Your social intranet should reflect all of the unique voices and interests’ employees have across your organization. Rather than sticking to top-down comms, encourage everyone to add their insights via user generated content. Employees can share their stories and even include videos and images for a richer experience. In addition to giving everyone a platform, content from multiple users will prevent your comms from feeling one-note and make your platform more engaging.

#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.

'Discover the power of a mobile intranet' - Unily guide flat pages


Discover the power of a mobile intranet

2.7 billion people work away from a desk. That’s 80% of the global working population. These employees need more from their organizations, from their technology, and from the employee experience. This in-depth guide details everything your enterprise needs to deliver a consumer-grade mobile experience that connects and engages everyone from head office to frontline.

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What to avoid with your social intranet

Between enhancing employee engagement and boosting productivity, social intranets can accomplish a lot of good. However, there are a few intranet “don'ts” that leaders should keep in mind to ensure their enterprise’s social experience is as positive as possible. Mistakes to avoid include:

#1. Zero moderation

Of course, you want to everyone to feel comfortable raising their voice, but you also need to make sure social content reflects your organization’s culture and core values. Social moderation and prohibited language makes it easy to keep conversations on track and enables leaders to take a light-touch approach so that everyone can share their insights.

#2. Leadership stays quiet

If your leaders aren’t active on your social intranet, the rest of your workforce is likely to follow suit. To drive participation and spark new conversations, encourage your C-suite to leverage social functionality and set the tone for your entire enterprise.

#3. Negative notes

Your social intranet isn’t a place to call out mistakes, air grievances, or turn up the rumor mill. Instead of telling employees what they can and can’t post, encourage everyone to take advantage of your social functionality to recognize deserving colleagues, build stronger bonds, and put your corporate values into practice.

Bring your social intranet vision to life

A social intranet will keep employees connected, engaged, and inspired in the new world of work. If you’re looking to launch a platform that will build camaraderie amongst your hybrid workforce, get in touch with our digital workplace experts to begin your intranet journey:

Get started. Get your free demo.

Reinvent your intranet for the employee experience era.

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