Social Media vs Intranet: Friend of Foe?


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Recently I came across a very interesting article by Gary Flood at Computer Business Review magazine. Although one could get lost in the dozens of similar pieces published around the globe each day, I am really grateful for the social media use cases Gary outlined. Organizations looking for best practices in social media strategies definitely still suffer from the lack of valuable advice for real-life implementations. We are at the dawn of this technology as a valuable marketing tool and there’s never too much of a good thing.

What I didn’t like here is the evident mixing of social media, web 2.0 and intranet technologies. When reading the article, one may think that web 2.0 is social media and social media is about to replace modern intranets.

Wow. Rock’n’roll is dead. E-mail is dead. Web is dead. Intranet is dead. Long live social media? Yes, no, not at all, definitely not, oh, yes!

The direct answer to my title question simply doesn’t exist! Comparing social media to intranets is very much like comparing it to media players or photo editing software. It’s nonsense. You can listen to music there, place or even resize photos, but social media would never replace them. With intranets the discrepancy is even bigger: social media is for communicating with outside people, intranet is about internal communication and collaboration. Would anyone care to talk to their family at home with a speaker installed on the street?

Indeed, intranet is presented like a fifth wheel in this story. So, where’s the rub?

Social media doesn’t equal social networking. The latter term describes much broader range of application including intranets. Social networking is about web 2.0-based relations among people of a given community. I prefer not to use the words ‘open’ or ‘free’ here. Even Facebook and Twitter require registration, which means they connect people of a certain community. An intranet is a community of employees of an organization. Well, I admit this makes it not that easy to join. But again: it is about procedures, not architecture.

Facebook and other social media use social networking for public purposes. Intranets use it for internal purposes. Ergo one cannot replace another.

Look at any contemporary intranet solution: vendors aggressively emphasize on the social dimension of their products putting the social networking features to the frontline of marketing materials. Blogs, forums, wikis, friends, personal profiles, channeled broadcasting and media galleries are just a tip of the iceberg here. Even IBM WebSphere (primarily designed for application integration) and Microsoft SharePoint (designed for document sharing) started feeding the market with ground-breaking news about their products going social. I wonder where they got this process-heavy-static-divisional-boundaries-maintaining intranet mentioned in the article? Is this a sort of dinosaur-era heritage developed some 20 years ago for file sharing? Well, this is definitely NOT an intranet is today’s world.

Looking deeper into the intranet market may reveal that many intranet vendors develop comprehensive web content management systems with a variety of application including websites and online marketing. Guess what is behind Facebook? Right, a custom web content management system. Sorry for a seditious thought but, in fact, Facebook can be considered as a huge social-enabled intranet for everyone to enroll. Anyone care to say it is not?

Here is the summary: social media and intranets will co-exist. And both will heavily rely on social networking.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Denis Zenkin
Denis Zenkin has 15+ years' experience in high-tech marketing. He currently leads global marketing at Bitrix, Inc. – a multi-national developer of Enterprise 2. and website management solutions with a special focus on SMB. Denis is a frequent speaker at industry-specific events covering social-enabled intranet technologies, and regularly publishes articles on E2. adoption practices.


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