The Social Intranet Involvement Spectrum: Moving Beyond “Buy-in” to Engagement, Ownership

When it comes to launching a new social intranet, many people start discussing how to get “buy-in” from different parts of the company. Buy-in is great. But can you do better than just buy-in? Consider the following spectrum of involvement with your intranet project.

Spectrum of Intranet Involvement: Awareness, Interest, Buy-in, Engagement, Ownership

Spectrum of involvement

Term Definition Meaning & implications
Awareness Having simple knowledge about something By the time you launch an intranet you want every employee to have awareness about it. Awareness sits at the bottom end of the involvement spectrum and is neutral and passive.
Interest Wanting to know more or take part in something Interest is a great starting point and something you want to nurture with all of your intranet project communications. Interest might be enough to get someone to log into a pilot site and poke around, but likely won’t achieve much more.
Buy-in Basic agreement and commitment, often financial A poker player can buy in to a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, which is a financial commitment. If your intranet project is funded by mutliple departments, then getting buy-in is important. However, this term is very transactional. Getting funding for an intranet project may ensure you can build it, but doesn’t secure you active use or involvement over the long term.
Engagement The feeling of being involved in a particular activity This feeling is what helps open people’s minds to committing time and effort to something. The feeling of engagement is something you can build over time and sustain. You can also lose it.
Ownership Accepting responsibility for something and taking control of how it develops Ownership sits at the very top of the involvement spectrum and results in the type of long term responsibility that keeps an intranet growing and improving over time. It can be argued that the single fundamental goal of an intranet manager is to build and sustain shared ownership among intranet stakeholders.

The role of ownership in an online community

A social intranet is basically an online community. It’s a virtual ecosystem that represents you, your colleagues, your work together and your company. Just like any other community space, the quality of care and tending is determined by how at home people feel in the community.

Lasting intranet success requires constant improvement and attention to needed changes. Intranet management is not about one-off projects every three years, but an ongoing intranet program. (See related post: 14 Intranet Best Practices to Transition Your Intranet Project to an Intranet Program.)

Only by building a shared sense of ownership can you really ensure the long-term success of your intranet. Buy-in can get a project started, but it can’t sustain an ongoing program. Engagement helps people stay interested. But ownership instills a sense of responsibility: “I have a role to play here; I care about this.”

Emphasizing the word “buy-in” to explain intranet involvement may limit your strategic thinking and stakeholders’ perspectives. Consider focusing more on using the term “engagement” or the more generic term “involvement” and aiming for shared ownership.