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Social Intranet: Personal contacts form the basis for virtual networking

Blog / August 8, 2017 / with Lisa Debatin
Social Intranet

Strategically connecting employees, managing knowledge, optimizing communication: In times of digital transformation, companies associate a series of eminently important goals with a social intranet. In particular, change projects should be implemented more successfully – today a decisive basis for securing future viability. In practice, however, many initiatives that sought to make social collaboration possible have failed. Companies have to do more – and strengthen personal contacts.


By introducing a social intranet, also known as an enterprise social network, project leaders ultimately expect nothing less than a fundamental change in corporate culture. Indeed, the technology enables rapid and informal exchange between employees, managers, and executives. It forms a basis for better networking and transparency because both knowledge and critical voices are accessible to a large circle of people in the shortest time possible. And it encourages the personal commitment of individual employees. This will ensure better cooperation at several levels.

Knowledge management and reduction of e-mails

The value of social collaboration also lies in organizing knowledge and making information available. In addition, there is the chance to significantly reduce – if not eliminate – the unpopular e-mail traffic. Although all of this sounds very attractive at first glance, especially from an employee’s point of view, many medium-sized companies and large corporations have difficulties with the social intranet. The issues are not caused by technical challenges but rather a lack of acceptance. Employees and executives doubt the added value or do not recognize it because it is not sufficiently understood.

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Virtual communication needs real emotion

Employees want more interaction – but it is not enough if this only happens on a virtual level. There is no personal connection, there are no emotions. The contact remains superficial and what is communicated between the lines is lost. This brings decisive disadvantages, especially in change and development projects. In many ways, the business use of social media is similar to its private use: Who would use Facebook in their spare time if they didn’t know the real people behind their online friends?

Thus digital forms of communication need the connection with personal contacts. Only then will the cooperation really be re-initiated. The crux is to make real encounters possible – and thus to create a possibility of virtual networking. Events and meetings with the project team are an option here. Often 1:1 meetings are also effective, which can very quickly lead to results. Whether it’s about a concrete exchange on a project or two colleagues getting to know each other over lunch: Personal contact and positive experience lead to a much higher interest in digital networking.

Worth knowing & background information

Why is it worth investing in communication and collaboration?

Surveys show that the majority of employees consider continuous intensive communication and cooperation with colleagues to be important in order to be able to carry out their own tasks.

What if project teams are active on different continents and a personal meeting involves a lot of effort?

A contact via video telephony (e.g. via Skype) cannot replace a face-to-face meeting, but it is a start and enables a better exchange than via e-mail or communities.

How can companies improve communication and collaboration beyond the social intranet?

Companies can make personal contacts possible – for example, by initiating new encounters at lunch across department boundaries. It also makes sense to involve colleagues from outside one’s own field at an early stage in feedback or brainstorming processes


For a company, the start of social collaboration means a high implementation effort – regardless of the selected platform. Internal project managers and change agents must also constantly drive the topic forward in communication. Public forums require a community manager who at least moderates critical discussions. In view of these necessary investments, it must be ensured that the cost- and resource-intensive initiative pays off. This is only possible if real encounters take place in parallel to virtual networking. As with Facebook, the same applies to the business environment: Only the combination with personal interaction creates real added value for virtual platforms.

Opportunity and challenges of the social intranet

Erst die Verbindung von virtuellen Plattformen mit persönlicher Interaktion schafft echten Mehrwert.

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Originally published on August 8, 2017 at 10:00 AM, amended on January 22, 2024 at 5:45 PM


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