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The Blog Site: A SharePoint Intranet’s Secret Weapon

No less than Bono once told a UK music monthly, “The blogosphere can put you off democracy. Use it sparingly.” Substitute “enterprise social networks” for “democracy” and you’ll find that statement to be a fairly accurate assessment of the way many companies view the concept of enterprise social, and within that, the subset that is the corporate blogroll.  It certainly doesn’t get much love in this era of microblogs, communities, and newsfeeds—but it still can have value as part of an intranet, and I want to share a few suggestions on how to make it work.
The same people who automatically cringe at the word “social” will cringe at the concept of “blogging”.  They associate the practice with the unfiltered internet blogs where random citizens pour their hearts, souls and schadenfreude into the vast ether we once called the “information superhighway” with a charming lack of irony.  This isn’t exactly an unfair perception, either.  Whether it’s long-form blogs or Twitter, public social media has earned its reputation for better and worse alike as a place where anything goes.
Yet the first step to blogging privately, within a closed-circuit like an enterprise requires that, like Luke Skywalker forced to put away his old farmboy mentality by the wise Master Yoda, one must unlearn those perceptions founded in external (and one might say, extraneous) experience. If you want to be a Jedi, you need to forget how to act like a brash hotshot pilot. If you want to see the value of an internal blog, you need to see it as a separate thing, a tool apart from the public internet where communication is unregulated, unfiltered, and unpredictable.
The truth is, when applied properly, the corporate blogging aspects of SharePoint can be used as an effective communication and collaboration tool.  Isn’t that what we all want our intranets to be?
There are three ways to make this work: the Executive blog, the Team blog, and the Information Sharing blog.
The Executive Blog
The Executive blog is exactly what it sounds like: A channel for leadership within the company to share their thoughts, musings, and opinions on corporate vision, productivity, performance, the marketplace et cetera. When used appropriately, it often takes the place of more traditional memos, mass email blasts, printed newsletter columns and the like. It is typically a one-to-many, or few-to-many, collaboration channel.
I’ve seen executives write about the books they’re reading, the company’s strategy, internal transformation intiatives and other high-level topics. When comments are enabled, it allows employees to interact with leadership in a thoughtful and public manner that had never been available before. In a forward-thinking company that has embraced enterprise social and utilizes the wisdom of crowds to its benefit, this can add significant and unexpected value.
The Team Blog
The SharePoint Team blog provides a centralized location where team members can communicate and collaborate in context. It blows apart the “reply-all” email-chain paradigm by storing not only the messages of a conversation (that is, the blog posts and comments) in a single location, but by supporting them with documents (document library), notes (wiki library), and workflow-enabled lists for task tracking. This can be particularly effective when a team is geographically dispersed– for instance, sales staff representing different regions covering a particular industry vertical at a national or global level.
The Team Blog is a small group communication tool. It is not typically exposed beyond the group, and it does not have a single author but rather many co-equal authors contributing equally.  These days it’s a bit less prevalent due to social community sites, but still has a value when micro-feeds and post/comments need to be longer than a set character limit.
The Information Sharing Blog
The Information Sharing Blog allows a small number of individuals to share information quickly with a much larger audience. Typically this is used when one or a handful of individuals are collecting data of use to many other teammates within the organization. One of the benefits of using SharePoint as your intranet platform is the seamless integration of rich media alongside (or within) your blog posts– so the authors of the Information Sharing blog are not only writing reports, but adding photos, audio, and video to support their findings.
While they don’t get much press in this era of newsfeeds and trending topics, SharePoint blogs can be a real secret weapon when used efficiently as part of an intranet content strategy.  I suspect that longtime users of the platform have seen other uses (or variations on these three themes) that are just as valuable.
SharePoint, like Office, is filled with rich and little-used features like these that can add true value when used wisely.  Leverage these examples and others like them for internal communication and you will gain real value from your SharePoint blog sites.

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Rich Wood

Rich Wood has been planning, designing and building enterprise solutions and internet sites with an emphasis on stellar user and customer experiences since 1997. Rich is a National Director for Content and Commerce Platform work in Perficient Digital. One of the rare breed of strategists to truly understand both the business needs of the customer and the platforms that serve them, he is a keen advocate for and accomplished speaker/writer on issues that surround that inflection point. His work has been published on CMSWire, Sitecore and Microsoft partner blogs, and his own LinkedIn page as well as our various blogs here at Perficient, and he has spoken at multiple major conferences including Microsoft's SharePoint Conference 2014. Married and a father of five, Rich enjoys spending time with his wife and family. He is a native of South Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a graduate of Marquette University.

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