So, What IS a Social Intranet (And Why Is Everyone Talking About It)?

The term “intranet” has been around for quite a few years now. It conjures up different images for different people, depending on when you entered the workforce.

For most workers, the words “clunky” and “cumbersome” might come to mind. This company intranet is an information graveyard where people log on and ‘participate’ reluctantly.

That was intranet 1.0.

Today’s intranet 2.0 – the social intranet – better integrates into company workflows and culture to change the way things get done for the better. In fact, two thirds of modern company intranets have some social features. 


The Evolution of the Intranet

Intranet 1.0 was lacking in a lot of areas. No one liked to use it because it was very one-directional (of no relation to the popular boy brand) and lacked ways for employees to engage with each other.

Company intranets in the 1990s consisted of little more than a welcome page with important company information. From there, it slowly evolved to a bulletin board with company communications, and then on to a company newsletter and finally all the way up to an enterprise portal. It is somewhere in between this point and intranet 2.0 that most companies find themselves.

But Seriously. What is it?

All this talk of evolving intranets is great, but it doesn’t explain what a social intranet exactly is. A social intranet is an internal corporate communications platform with social features and elements that replicate functions of well-used social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


According to a Towers Watson survey, the most frequently used social function in social intranets is instant messaging  (73%), following by blogs (55%) and employee profiles (54%). These social intranet features are what make it a highly collaborative, fluid way of working, which in turn increase productivity.

The True Power of Social Intranets

Some say that a social intranet is not a “technology, or a specific set of features or functionality. Instead, they represent an emerging view of how organizations should work, and how staff can interact.”


The most powerful aspect of a social intranet is that it’s changing the way companies and employees collaborate, work, interact and innovate. Where intranet 1.0 was a one-way communication channel, the social intranet encourages two-way communication among employees and company leadership. It facilitates a dialogue and engagement instead of just disseminating information to fall on dead (or at least unengaged) ears. 

Another strength of a social intranet is that it harnesses the benefits and power of social functionalities that employees are already used to using in their personal lives. It brings this familiarity to the work place, enabling workers to like, share, comment on and post information, files and photos just like they do with other social platforms. Users can also tag one another and highlight keywords with hashtags, mimicking the user experience of those platforms. And we all know that if you can implement a tool that people actually like to use, you’ll have a much higher rate of adoption and success.

Social intranets are the hot new topic among organizations that are looking to improve collaboration and productivity. Their potential to revolutionize the way people work by reducing email overload, simplifying workflows and making collaboration easier is rooted in a shift in mindset. Are you participating in the future way of working, or are you stuck in the past, still clinging to an outdated intranet 1.0?

Find out if your organization is ready to test the social intranet waters with our Social Readiness Checklist.

Know you want to take the plunge? Take Incentive for a test drive with a free 45-day trial.