By Tim Eisenhauer, President of Axero Solutions
Technology products have a tendency to come wrapped in jargon. We’ve all overheard (or participated in) conversations and read articles that are stuffed with so much technical terminology, they might as well be in Greek.
Deciphering this terminology requires a certain degree of knowledge and experience, and it can be intimidating. Enterprise intranet software is not immune to “jargonization,” but learning common terms and abbreviations is actually easier than employees might expect, not to mention essential for unlocking the full value of the platform.
Below is a guide to terms that frequently pop up when navigating around a social intranet. Familiarization with these terms is a powerful driver of productivity, smooths communication, and can help strengthen the bonds of your teams.
An activity stream is the main artery of a social intranet because it keeps employees informed about what is going on. The activity stream lists new updates and happenings within the community, and it’s typically the first thing users see when when they log on. Most enterprise intranet activity streams resemble those from major social networks, so chances are your employees will already be comfortable with them.
An activity ticker is similar to an activity stream in that it shares recent posts and updates. The distinction is that the ticker has its own scrolling window, so users can stay in the loop without visiting a separate page. This is particularly important when the activity stream contains an ongoing flood of content.
The intranet administrator is the person with unlimited access to the platform that ensures it is properly used and managed. This role can include dealing with crises, handling breakdowns in functionality, or even mediating arguments between users. It’s a full-time and important job and could be the responsibility of a single or even multiple people.
A campaign is an effort or collection of efforts geared towards solving a problem or achieving a goal. For example, if your social intranet platform is new, then there might be a campaign to drive adoption and engagement that includes training sessions and communication about why it’s important. Or if a team has been struggling to communicate effectively, you could deploy a campaign of team-building exercises to improve their relationships.
Content is the jargony word for anything that is posted and shared within the social intranet. It might be a photo, a video, a status update, technical documentations, an article, or a blog post. Whatever it is, content is the meat of a social intranet. It is what gives the platform value and keeps people connected. The content in every company’s intranet platform will differ. For some, it may be more personal and social (Linda had a birthday) while for others, it may be strictly business (An article on how to prospect leads or notes on implementing a new API). In most cases, a social intranet will represent a mix of the professional and the personal.
Cases, Issues, or Tickets
When an entire organization uses a social intranet platform, there are a lot of disparate parts and needs moving around. Well-designed intranet platforms offer a case feature that can be opened up and used as tickets for internal or external issues, such as a bug or a customer support request. Cases are also an effective tool for managing projects. Case status can be changed at any time, so they are extremely useful for tracking issues and publishing project updates to the community.
Engagement is a pretty broad term that is used in different ways for different technology products. In the case of social intranets, engagement can refer to both the quality and quantity of what employees post, as well as how much information they consume from the platform. Keep in mind that just because someone does not post all the time does not mean they are not engaged. One useful post outweighs five trivial ones. And also remember that engagement in social intranet is not necessarily a reflection of how engaged that employee is in general. Some people just communicate better offline.
Just as people have “friends” on Facebook and other social media networks, so too can they have friends on an enterprise intranet. This feature is not essential to getting your community off the ground, and will likely fulfill a slightly different function than it does on Facebook. Rather than analyzing an ex’s’ wedding photos or a friend’s Thailand vacation, employees can use this feature to keep up with their teammates, coworkers, boss, or anyone they are collaborating with on a project.
An intranet homepage serves as the starting point for community members, especially those who are new to the organization. It often presents the activity stream and serves as a portal from which to use the platform’s many features. From the homepage, employees can access documentation, share ideas, post questions, watch how-to videos, and more. The homepage is also useful as a training center during the onboarding process.
Intranets are all about facilitating the flow of communication, and it is inevitable that new ideas will emerge as a result of all the back-and-forth. The intranet ideation feature is a place where employees can make a note of any inspirations they have had, but don’t have time to dive into. This way, no great ideas get lost, and fellow community members have the opportunity to expand on those ideas.
Mentions enable users to tag someone in a post or status message by putting an @ symbol before their name. Users get notified when they have been tagged, so posts that relate to them don’t fall through the cracks or get drowned out by other posts.
Messages (Group and Private)
Most social intranet systems allow for multiple types of messaging. Individuals can send messages to each other and groups can have ongoing conversations in forums. All the conversations are logged, so if a user ever wants to refer back to a conversation, they can with a simple search.
Notifications help community members monitor how their contributions are received by their coworkers. For example, if a user has created a Wiki, than they will receive a notification every time someone else updates that Wiki. Along with the activity stream and activity ticker, as well as mentions, notifications help employees stay on top of the content that is relevant to them, and eliminates any confusion when things get busy.
Just as organizations are made up of multiple departments, so are social intranets comprised of multiple spaces. Each space is dedicated to a specific team, project, or component of the community. They are useful for keeping information overload at bay and maintaining organization, since it separates the content into distinct compartments. Every member of a space is only presented with the information they need.
Most people know about Wikis through Wikipedia, but they also exist in social intranet platforms. In this context, they are an internal page that a number of different users can create, edit, and collaborate on. They serve as a framework for internal documentation (i.e. how to request vacation days, how to publish in the CMS). Be careful to keep Wikis organized and maintain the quality of information, so they remain a useful resource.
A workflow is the process an employee or team follows in order to take a task from start to finish. It can refer to codified organizational processes, as well as the way each individual person prefers to handle their tasks.
Armed with this lexicon, every member of an organization is empowered to use a social intranet platform like a pro.
Tim Eisenhauer is a co-founder and president of Axero Solutions. He writes on the subjects of social intranets, employee engagement, business communication, knowledge management, and collaboration. His articles and opinions have been featured in Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, CNBC, 60 Second Marketer, HR.com, and others.