Signs of social business are readily found on the internet today. But when considering social business inside the enterprise, the evidence isn't always as clear.

A social business (referring to the common definition associated with enterprise technology, akin to enterprise 2.0, and not to be confused with the similar label used to describe socially "conscious" and community minded organizations) is one that actively uses and weaves social media technology into many or most aspects of content consumption by the target audience -- outside and inside the business.

Consumer generated content (CGC) and enterprise 2.0 are older, less fashionable labels synonymous with "social business," but no longer as commonly employed by the tech pundits and self-described social media gurus.

Internally, employee focused social business is often a greater curiosity and focus for corporate research by communicators and IT professionals, often because it’s not easily learned, dissected and viewed on the external Internet.

At the hub of this internal social business is the intranet. Sadly, the current state of the company intranet today is somewhere between poor and terrible. Although some innovation is creeping in, in the form of social media in particular, truth be told, most organizations are not adequately funding the intranet.

Many organizations employ a corporate website budget that is 50, 100 or 200 times that of the corporate intranet. It’s very common to find an organization which has a website annual budget that is in the millions of dollars, and the poor intranet is forced to subsist on $50,000 per year. It’s a simple fact that most organizations don’t afford the same level of respect for employees as they do customers and the general public.

However, socializing your internal business (socializing your intranet) need not be expensive, but it does require careful thought, planning and change management. Here are five simple tips for doing so:

#1. User Comments

Allow employee readers the opportunity to post a comment to a news article or content page. Encourage conversation, and respond to comments. The ultimate goal is to increase employee engagement.

Engagement is best signified by employees who actively care about the company’s performance, and proactively perform in ways to add to and build upon that performance. When you encourage user comments and dialogue -- whether by encouraging commenting on content such as news or via wikis -- when done correctly, you are indicating that the company wants and is interested in employee opinions, and wants to promote dialogue, instead of merely just pushing corporate PR.

When employees are heard, and believe the company cares, employee engagement increases rapidly. User commenting is now present on nearly half of all large to medium size intranets in the Western World (source: Social Intranet Study).

#2. Wikis

Create the corporate version of Wikipedia. Create wikis on industry jargon, acronyms, competitors, etc. Encourage employees to create their own.

When employees are encouraged to contribute to wikis, in their own words, the company indicates a willingness and interest in employee opinions, collaboration and wants to promote dialogue, instead of merely just pushing the same corporate drivel. Wikis are empowering, and are controlled by the bottom-up -- the end user, the frontline employee, not the top down (the company’s executive suite).

#3. Executive Blog

Create a single shared blog for the entire executive team, and encourage each to contribute one posting per month on “what’s top of mind” or a “pressing priority.” Encourage employees to respond with their comments.

#4. Team Sites

Allow employees / teams the ability to create their own project or team sites for sharing and collaborating (sharing documents, joint calendars, wikis, discussion forums, etc).

#5. Improve the Search Engine

It’s been said that "search" is the glue that makes social media work. I agree… but, the number one complaint of intranet users is: the search engine sucks. Unfortunately, it’s rarely the search engine’s fault. It’s usually the fault of the collective publishing/authoring audience -- those creating and publishing content.

As such, authors and publishers need to be trained to write effective titles, page headers, keywords and summaries, and to effectively tag their content (which needs to be standardized within the content management system e.g SharePoint or Oracle). As the content improves, the search improves, and the entire intranet improves and becomes more engaging.

Despite the prematurely predicted death of the intranet (check out some of SocialText Ross Mayfield’s quotes from the past 10 years), the corporate intranet has never been more relevant, and is the engine behind internal social media. While the sum total state of the intranet is still poor, it is improving and has improved by small steps in the past 10 years.

But more investment and diligence, particularly with content, is needed. Social intranets are more lively and necessary -- and the younger generation demands it. People under 45-years-old now live and breathe social media in their day-to-day lives; they expect that their workplace should be similar, and actively seek to work for social businesses.

Title image courtesy of Petr Vaclavek (Shutterstock).

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