*Update: Whoaaa, this blog post is really old! Check out some more recent posts here.
Some intranet managers spend all their time managing content. But your social intranet will be far more successful if you spend that time managing people — specifically, managing content owners and community managers.
Successfully managing a social intranet is all about people and social capital; about relationships and mutual accountability. To properly manage the intranet on an ongoing basis, you need to build a close-knit gang of intranet contributors who feel a sense of commitment. Once you've engaged your content contributors and established a rhythm of involvement, your intranet can cruise along successfully.
Who are your intranet content owners?
An intranet content owner is someone who's explicitly responsible for oversight and upkeep of centralized reference content. For example, you likely have a point person responsible for managing the intranet content related to HR, such as "My Benefits," "Time and Leave," "Ethics Violation Reporting," etc.
This point person, this content owner, has a busy schedule and a full task list and may have little time for the intranet. If that is the case, the HR content may degrade to a very low quality, perhaps becoming just a set of poorly named PDFs and a lot of outdated material.
The antidote is to actively engage with intranet content owners on an ongoing basis and create a community amongst them. Give them voice in the intranet strategy and plan and help them connect with other content owners.
What are intranet community managers?
The second group of note is community managers. An intranet community manager is someone who's explicitly responsible for upkeep of a department page, a project team page or a community group page. A departmental workspace might be the Sales Department group page where people draft proposals together. A project team group page might be the Paper Reduction Task Force. A community group page might be the Bike Commuters Group.
Department groups are where members of functional teams can communicate, collaborate and find working information. Project groups are similar to department pages, but often accommodate cross-functional activities of task forces and the like. Community groups are where colleagues from disparate parts of the organization can connect and contribute information and knowledge around shared interests, either professional or personal.
Social intranets often see explosions of group pages. However, the novelty of easily creating a group page can wear off and they can quickly fall into disuse. The key to helping group pages stay active and useful is to maintain ongoing engagement with the group owners, or what we're calling "community managers."
How to keep content owners & community managers engaged
First, if you're building a new intranet you want to engage content owners and community managers very early on in the process. Don't make the common mistake of only bringing them into the project once you reach the content migration stage. This results in content owners who feel overburdened and undervalued.
You can engage content owners & community managers during a new intranet project by involving them in:
- Workshops to craft the vision and goals of the new intranet
- Requirements workshops
- Vendor reviews
- Software demos
- Design reviews
- Card sorting
- Task testing
- Information architecture application
- Writing for the web workshops
- Intranet training
- Piloting the new intranet
If you've involved these two stakeholder groups in some or all of these steps, then getting them to help with content migration and take long-term ownership will be easy. In fact, there may be no "getting" involved — the sort of active engagement listed above could lead to intranet contributors actively wanting to manage how their materials are shared on the intranet.
Key to ongoing engagement: Recurring meetings
Once your intranet is in place it will be extremely useful to establish recurring in-person meetings with content owners and community managers. It works best to manage each of these groups separately, but how you manage them will be very similar.
Here are the factors to consider in designing these meetings:
- Meet as a group: Over time you want to establish a sense of team amongst the content owners from different departments and community managers from throughout the company. This will create a sense of accountability and camaraderie.
- Meet consistently: I suggest once a month, though some intranet managers meet with intranet contributors as frequently as every other week. Once a quarter may be too infrequently. Meeting consistently creates a sense of continuity and commitment.
- Give and take: Don't use the meeting just as a platform for pushing out training and content management tips. Build in plenty of time to ask questions, find out what people are struggling with and hear complaints. Give these stakeholders a voice.
- Facilitate peer-to-peer sharing: Get content owners and community managers, respectively, talking to each other about the challenges they face and their tricks and tips for using the intranet. Make it about "we", not you, the intranet manager.
- Highlight & recognize people: Use examples of what specific people are doing well to demonstrate good practices. You can even ask people to present on what they've done. This recognition will go a long way in building a sense of ownership & commitment.
- Gather strategic input: Bring strategic intranet questions to these teams for feedback. Then be sure to report back to them on how their input was used and the end result.
- Lure them with food: The chance of me attending an optional meeting doubles if there will be food there. Try it.
The key here is to respect the time, effort, ideas and input of your colleagues and truly engage them. Do this and your content management results may exceed your wildest (how wild can these sorts of dreams be?) dreams.
What about geographically dispersed intranet content contributors?
The wee hiccup in the above strategy is that most companies have content owners and community managers spread around the country, or even around the world. It's hard to deliver food to concurrent meetings in five different cities.
The reality is that engaging with people outside of your office is more challenging than engaging with those in your office. If you have remote content contributors, it will be important to be honest with yourself about the increased effort needed to keep them engaged. Here are a few tips:
- Use webinar software with video: If at all possible, use webinar software with video so that remote content owners and community managers can be as present in the room as possible.
- Have remote colleagues present: This will remind HQ staff that there really are other colleagues out there. It will give presenters a sense of involvement and ownership and will deliver the message to other remote content contributors that they really are part of the team.
- Go the extra mile with one-on-one time: Reach out individually to content owners and community managers outside of your office on an ongoing basis. You can even just give them quick calls to catch up, no agenda needed. The key missing ingredient in engaging with remote colleagues is the social glue of relationships, which is so much easier to create in-person. If you really want to build a strong network of content contributors who will manage intranet content, you simply can't skip this step.
For more suggestions, see the ThoughtFarmer webinar Managing Remote Teams with Dr. Kent Glenzer.
Create intranet communities for your content contributors
Finally, create spaces on your social intranet where content owners and community managers can share ideas, learn useful tips and connect with each other. After all, that's what your social intranet is made for.
With all the management effort required around intranet content management and technical infrastructure, it can be easy to forget about the people. But remember that the intranet is for people and by people. Social capital will go much farther than any other type of intranet resource. Hone your communication and relationship-buildling skills and keep engaging those content contributors.
Have questions? Get in touch! We're always happy to hear from you.