Businesses often choose SharePoint as the platform for their intranet because it effectively combines content management, collaboration, search, flexible user profiles, application development capabilities and security. Frequently, corporate communications groups within organisations deliver important company information via the intranet, which gives users a reason to visit the intranet and delivers valuable information to employees quickly.

However, successfully delivering messages in this manner requires executive voice, adequate notification and comment mechanisms for users to react to messages and help them ‘go viral,’ as well as compelling reasons for users to be active in SharePoint. This article shows how to address these issues by empowering corporate communications using SharePoint with social computing software.

Spotlight your CXO’s vision and voice

When an employee wants to know what’s important to an organisation, she first looks to what the executives are saying and doing; any successful effort in an organisation will have some level of executive sponsorship. Using it to broadcast candid executive communication is a great way to drive attention to a social intranet.

In some organisations, executives record short videos which are played from SharePoint portal pages. Resist the temptation to over-produce these videos. Ensure that infrastructure requirements for streaming video can handle large numbers of users, and enable frequent and timely updates with audience commentary.

Executive blogs provide another avenue to project leadership voices through SharePoint. Because blogs are a less formal style of communication and often contain graphical content, they can be excellent vehicles for company leaders to talk to employees.

Blogs in SharePoint contain commenting functions, so they also provide a ready-made capability for users to respond to leadership messages. The biggest challenge with this approach is finding executives who take time regularly to author blog posts. While SharePoint does not have built-in ghostwriter functionality, this can be implemented with social collaboration software (such as Social Sites).

Empower instant communication gratification

Even with executives communicating regularly through SharePoint, users sometimes need messages to come directly to them or at least to be reminded of those communications. While many organisations use email newsletters, this channel is often saturated and requires users to open yet another file.

Consolidating communications within an activity stream and using social capabilities within SharePoint is an easy and effective way to streamline communications, eliminating the laborious send-click-wait-open workflow of email.

It is possible for SharePoint to let users publish events directly into an activity stream that is visible across SharePoint, desktop clients, mobile clients and Outlook to encourage instant communication gratification throughout an organisation. Activity streams on SharePoint aggregate information from many sources and provide an easy and effective means to tap into the attention of busy employees.

The power of using activity streams to carry messages can be greatly enhanced by targeting specific content to specific employees. Communities provide one mechanism for this. Whether people choose to join a community or are automatically subscribed based on their profiles, communities provide great context for communications sent through the activity stream.

For instance, within NewsGator, the majority of product communications are distributed through the product management community. While native SharePoint team sites don’t have communities that produce activity stream updates, add-on products can make this a reality.

Similarly, add-on software can assign specific article feeds to users based on their profile. For example, a sales training feed can be applied to all users with “sales” in their profiles. New articles published to this feed automatically appear within the activity stream of these users.

Give them a reason to care – and be heard

Getting the message to users through channels like activity streams helps with distribution, but giving users the ability to react to those messages leads to a greater awareness and also a good understanding of how the message was perceived. Comments on blogs, as mentioned previously, are a good example of this. SharePoint also natively provides tagging and rating capabilities which helps with discoverability of stories.

When a rich activity stream is added to this, users gain the ability to like, comment and share items from anywhere. This makes it easier for stories to go viral. User comments and shares push the story to users and groups as a personal message from colleagues and cause the story to stay at the top of the activity stream. As users react to the story, they continue to get notified of later comments and likes on that story. This keeps users coming back to the story to carry on a conversation around it.

Finally, it’s easier to get users to see your message in SharePoint if they have many other reasons for spending time in SharePoint; finding content may be the most common reason for users to visit SharePoint. Prioritising content in search results helps bring messages to the surface. Many organisations also put useful tools and capabilities in SharePoint to handle business process needs such as project management or handling vacation-time requests.

Making SharePoint central to the enterprise social computing experience creates incentive for users to visit and unites activity from many places. Drive increased SharePoint activity and interaction with social computing software that rewards participation with badges, runs ideation campaigns and makes locating an expert easy. These kinds of capabilities help employees understand behaviors that are important to the company and make it more fun to get work done.

For organisations trying to increase adoption of SharePoint and find effective means of communicating with employees, a focus on getting the message out through SharePoint is productive. Getting executive participation, ensuring awareness of the messages, providing end-user feedback mechanisms, and creating reasons for employees to use SharePoint are linchpins of a successful communication strategy based on SharePoint. While SharePoint provides many base-level capabilities to drive these communications goals, adding social software can dramatically accelerate adoption and propel your messages through the enterprise.