Going social - word of mouse

No mice were harmed in the writing of this blog post

Earlier this week I listened to a recording of a very good webinar from the team at Interact Intranet and specifically Nigel Williams and Sara Burgess.I haven't linked to the webinar here because I don't believe it's publicly available unless you registered to attend the webinar.

The title of the webinar "Going social - word of mouse" is as you will no doubt have noticed a play on the phrase "word of mouth" and a reference to a soon to be published book by Marc Ostrofsky called "Word of mouse" Word of mouse looks at how we're all immersed in technology but are "sleepwalking" through it's impact. So for an intranet manager this might be that they have a fantastic tool at their disposal but they need to find ways to make their users aware of it's existence and how valuable it is rather then just let them sleepwalk their way through their use of it! This is especially true with social intranets, which aim to engage people more and encourage users to add content and collaborate with other users. So what are some of the things intranet managers can do to encourage these behaviours?

So the first thing Nigel and Sara reminded us was that going social isn't just about deploying a technology and expecting individuals to use it.  If you're planning on going social then you need to think carefully about individuals behaviour and what it is they might want to get out of a social intranet. So it might be that you're trying to:

  • Connect people with content
  • Connect people who have created content with similar content
  • Connect people based on similar needs

Unfortunately a lot of intranets don't fulfill their potential to connect people with content. So the question is how can intranet managers encourage users to visit the intranet and improve their intranet experience. There followed 10 useful tips from Nigel and Sara for intranet managers and intranet editors.

  1. Only upload a document if you really have to. Intranet managers need to encourage their editors to create flat HTML pages that mean their users stay in the intranet rather then open Word, PDF or Excel documents.
  2. It's also important to remind intranet editors that their content should be constantly evolving. It's great that individuals are prepared to publish content to the intranet. But it needs to evolve as do the conversations about it.
  3. People buy from people. Show faces and include a photo of authors on a page.
  4. Intranet page titles should where possible be short and sweet. This is important as you don't want to tell users the whole story in the title. You also don't want to be amibguous, between 2 and 9 words is ideal.
  5. Page summaries should never repeat the title. These should add more detail and tell people what the document is about.
  6. A key point is that plain text is not engaging. Instead use videos and pictures to make the intranet page more engaging and interesting.
  7. Avoid using jargon. This is very important as jargon will kill your intranet. If you have to include jargon then do so in a glossary or abbreviation list.
  8. Making your content searchable is very important. In practice this means making your metadata great. So keywords and a the summary should always be indexed by your search engine.
  9. Knowing what technology your audience is using is an important factor. As difference tecnologies will potentially take lonnger to download pages and content. It's also important to consider remote workers and those individuals who might not have access to a PC.

This is useful advice and there are of course inherent dangers in not making your content and useful and as easy to read and understand as possible. The biggest danger being that users don't use your intranet or don't value what is in it. The old saying goes that if you put rubbish in (the rubbish being intranet pages)

Having great content within a great tool will help get your business talking, which can only be a good thing.  Overall this was a really interesting webinar, if you get the chance to attend a Interact Intranet webinar or event then based on this webinar it will be very worthwhile.
[Photo credit - Cat & Mouse from Flickr]