Internal Communities Have An Image Problem


Share on LinkedIn

Internal knowledge networks or online communities within a company intranet often suffer from an image problem that drastically undermines their wide-scale adoption.  Too many of us of a “certain age” remember the knowledge repositories of yesteryear. Intranets were those awful, clunky intranets that managers forced employees to upload content to during the bubble so that they could “knowledge capture” during a time when employees where fleeing fast to the many start-up companies promising fame and fortune to all.  Those systems were difficult to use and were entirely one-sided – offering value mainly to the company and little to the employee who participated. 

Now, however, due to the modern collaboration tools, company intranets are a completely different animal.  When well done, they can serve as an interactive go-to network of peers-in-the-know and best practice content and discussions of important trends and issues that impact a knowledge-worker’s ability to do their job well.  They can be easy and even fun to use and serve to support a company culture in an ongoing way.
But, we are scarred from the past and often avoid using these internal social tools like the plague.

Often times, one of the greater obstacles to adoption (provided that we are talking about a good implementation that has clearly defined business goals, adequate staffing, viable technology and a staffing model that is appropriate) is overcoming staff perception about them.  Yet it is the rare company that applies the principals of effective marketing strategy and tactics to help staffs see the value.

If you have a new or underused intranet consider working with the marketing group  to create an internal marketing and awareness campaign to help evangelize the community within the organization.  Make participation fun and rewarding – it can be professionally-based but rewards systems for contributions can go a long way as can scavenger hunts and deadline driven participation events.  Ensure key stakeholders are actually visible on the community as those in authority are often the last ones to engage online and this sends a negative signal to employees who are being asked to participate but see no senior footprint.  Consider creating positive performance incentives to support ongoing participation – make it part of team MBOs on a weekly or monthly basis and not just at the end of the quarter where folks will just upload a bunch of stuff so they can report executing the objective.

And finally, make sure the programs and collaboration efforts on the internal community are truly useful and well-aligned with helping staff solve business problems.  Launch discussions and knowledge exchanges that mirror issues and information needs that are often expressed verbally or informally.  If the internal community is useful, usable and engaging – they will come and they will stay.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Vanessa DiMauro
Vanessa DiMauro is CEO of Leader Networks, a research and strategy consulting company that helps organizations succeed in social business and B2B online community building. DiMauro is a popular speaker, researcher and author. She has founded numerous online communities, and has developed award winning social business strategies for some of the most influential organizations in the world. Her work is frequently covered by leading publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes.


  1. Hello Vanessa:

    It is good to see an article focused on communities that leverage staff’s knowledge. Most of the focus on “Social” systems today is on leveraging the individual and collective wisdom of external community members and not enough discussion is placed on creating and maintaining sustainable community participation by staff.

    Beyond merely ensuring that staff knowledge can be captured and leveraged even when staff move on to another job within or external to the company, one of the biggest paybacks is the incremental knowledge gain from collaboration delivering synergistic outcomes.

    Many great outcomes can certainly occur when broad and informed perspectives are brought together. To that end, I also believe that the most effective communities used by staff are the ones that go beyond staff and selectively allow inclusion of all people within an organization’s entire ecosystem. Communities that selectively bring together the right internal and external people will not result in siloed and redundant content and each person’s demonstrated expertise across a company’s entire ecosystem can be measured, leveraged and rewarded.

    Additionally, if the metric/currency used by any reputation engine to measure demonstrated knowledge across the community is granular and allows delineation by specific subject matter expertise, the currency can be used to recognize and reward very specific contributions and to allow targeted mobilization of relevant people based on their demonstrated skills relevant to the task at hand.

    Not all companies have a brand and/or business model that will realize material gain from communities that engage their customers, but all companies have lots to potentially gain by tapping into the individual and collective wisdom of their staff.

    Fuze Digital Solutions
    Social and multi-channel support


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here