Search and Ye Shall Find: Tips for a More Powerful Social Intranet Search

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Let's face it. Technology has conditioned us to expect instant gratification. We visit Google, enter a search term and within a matter of milliseconds, we have thousands of results at our fingertips.

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We expect the same from our internal searches, too, whether they're on our individual computers or shared social intranets. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to locate what we need exactly when we need it. And when you realize that workers can spend up to 16% of their time simply looking for information, being able to find things on-demand becomes even more critical.

Converting some of that search time to more productive exploits can be as simple as using a social intranet with a powerful search engine. At Incentive, we describe this benefit of social collaboration as the ability to "Google your own company." Searching for information, files and data within an enterprise social collaboration platform should always be this easy and fast - and produce nearly as many relevant results.

Incentive is not a search engine, however. It's a place where all your knowledge is collected in a single repository. When everyone in your organization works within the same platform - on documents, blogs, wikis, tasks, meeting notes or chat rooms - you end up with a database that would take days to go through manually.

Most social collaboration platforms are embedded with powerful search engines that are supposed to deliver great search results - and fast. Because we've worked within the social knowledge space for several years, we've discovered a few simple tricks that make your searches even more powerful.

Together, these things comprise a solid search engine for your social collaboration platform - and separate good search engines from the great ones.

  • Relevance is more important than chronology or any other sorting feature. Sometimes people may want to find something they read "a week ago" or something that "starts with the letter 'B,'" therefore they want a search engine that returns results in chronological or alphabetical order. While answers might look nice in chronological or alphabetical order, it's more important to give relevant answers first. Once you've nailed the relevancy of your searches, no one will ask for chronological or alphabetical search results ever again.
  • Multiple words are better than one. Encourage your users to type in several search terms, not just one word. This makes it much easier to narrow down the search and return a better result faster.
  • Highlight the search terms in the text. People are able to see their searches instantly and separate irrelevant ones much faster.
  • List a short description of each result - type, author, when and where it resides. This also helps the user in a matter of seconds to find stuff easier.
  • Present hashtags in the search result. Hashtags are useful and should be presented in the results to encourage more people to use them.
  • Weigh some items as more important than others. New entries may be weighed higher than older ones. More liked items can be weighed higher than those few read.
  • Give the user a chance to keep fine-tuning the search. Enable them to take a result and filter a second and third time to really narrow it down.
  • Prioritize various items in your database differently. Documents should have higher priority than feed results, for example. Comments should have lower priority than blog articles.
  • Create special advanced syntaxes for experienced users. For example, let them type commands (f.x. blog:) that will let them search in certain apps only, for people, for hash tags, spaces or even time limits.

While all of the above tips might not be applicable to all platforms or databases, they are all worth discussing. After all, a social collaboration platform in which no one is able to find what they want will not be long lived - no matter how great the rest of the solution may be.

Search and ye shall find. See how powerful Incentive's search function is with a free trial.

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