It has always been in my head. Ever since the move from traditional push based intranet systems to the introduction of tools like Sharepoint.

I have worked in communications for 10 years and have been involved in four intranet projects in various companies. I have learnt a lot but I have also learnt that the language we use to talk about these tools seems to change and mean different things to different people so I wanted to get mine out of my head to see if I was alone in this thinking…

I don’t believe we should separate an intranet from an enterprise social network or a blog or anything else that we have internally. For me, there is just an online channel. It should be integrated with a clear content strategy and it should allow for two way conversations.

I do believe that there are different levels of social though.

I talk a lot about social intranets. For me, these are platforms that allow some people to publish news and information and for the users to comment and like that news. The information could also be personalised to the user.

For me, a social intranet is different to an enterprise social network (ESN). For me, an enterprise social network is an online tool that is designed for collaboration. That is about communities and file sharing and creating a space for anyone to add news and information. Content can be liked and commented on and people are able to add their own status updates and more personal details to a profile.

For me these are very different things. Creating a community online and having a social intranet serve different purposes and also foster different cultures. From experience, I like to use channels that add value to the business and the audience.

I have created social intranets and I have implemented enterprise social networks and for me, they need to meet the purpose and work together.

I have sat at conferences and listened to case studies about the use of yammer and other similar platforms to support conferences or to sit outside the other online channels and for me, I think we need to really understand what we want to achieve before we just go head first into adding digital into the mix. For some an ESN is perfect, for others a social intranet will do. It is not one size fits all and I would like us to be clear about what the challenge is and what the reality that we are looking for really is. While some companies will thrive with an ESN in place, others don’t need them and social intranets will work just fine to bring people together.

Would be great to hear what terms you use for the online channels in your business and how they work together!