10 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Intranet

By Paul Chin

Originally published in Intranet Journal (27-Nov-2007)

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Don't you hate seeing a good intranet go to waste? You sweat and toil away to build and maintain a system only to see it ignored by the users. Sure, you might have a core group of regular users, but it's going to be tough to justify the system's continued existence for only a handful of readers. You can also forget about future expansion too, because there's no way management will invest more money on what they're going to perceive as a sinking ship.

But you don't have to take it lying down. There are many ways to drive more traffic to your intranet. And by "traffic" I'm referring to actual usage, not simple hits—a word the Web community has appropriately dubbed "How Idiots Track Success."

Here are 10 ways to increase intranet traffic and turn casual users into power users:

1. Minimize or eliminate hard copies

How much paper is floating around your organization? You have employee reference manuals; company policies; security, intellectual property handling, and privacy guidelines; corporate newsletters and announcements; project and contract details. All these can, and should, be ported to your intranet. But it shouldn't be done overnight. Instead, wean users off of the hard copies by gradually reducing the print run. Eventually, users will get used to referring to their intranet for this type of information, and then you'll be able to eliminate the hard copies altogether.

2. Implement social media tools

Is it any surprise that Web 2.0 sites—MySpace and Facebook (social networking), YouTube and Flickr (video and photo sharing), and Digg (social bookmarking), Wikipedia (wiki-based encyclopedia)—get as much traffic as they do? Social media tools such as blogs, podcasts, wikis, and social bookmarking, can also be implemented on an intranet to drive more regular users to the system. One of the great selling points of these types of tools is that it has the potential to turn users from spectators into participants. And once users become more active on the intranet, they're more likely to encourage others to get involved.

3. Invest in a real search engine or appliance

It drives me batty when I search a Web site and its search feature doesn't know that "organisation" and "organization" are actually the same thing or when I can't find something I know exists because the search engine isn't "smart" enough to figure out the context of my search words. Web sites with finicky search engines create low-quality search engine results pages, that will either contain too many irrelevant results or none at all.

4. Extend access via an extranet and kiosks

A great way to increase intranet traffic is to create equal access across the board to all potential users in all possible situations. An extranet will allow employees from satellite locations and employees who need to work from home or on the road to access the intranet from outside the company walls. And internal kiosks will give employees who don't have their own computer at work such as factory and plant workers equal access the intranet.

5. Post useful tidbits

Content such as internal job opportunities, holiday schedules, special company events, scheduled service interruptions, cafeteria menu, weather, stock quotes can be posted to drive more users to an intranet. And while there, they can run across a slew of other useful information they might not know exists on the system. This leads us to the next tip.

6. Embed related links

Have you ever noticed those sidebars on news Web sites that list other articles that are related to the one you're reading? The same should be done throughout an intranet because users don't always know what's available to them. You can generate a lot more traffic by placing a related links sidebar to help users find information—whether targeted or discovered.

7. Add RSS feeds

Intranets require users to actively seek and retrieve content, but not all users have the time to check their intranet on a regular basis. This can result in users missing out on important content, or worse, vital announcements that are time sensitive. Categorized RSS feeds are an excellent way to automatically deliver intranet content to users at regular intervals. The feeds can be set up so that users only receive a summary of the content. If they want to view the complete document, a link within the RSS message will send them directly to the intranet. This way they're not overwhelmed with information on an already busy day.

8. Implement discussion forums

There's perhaps no better way to promote large-scale employee interaction and internal communities within an organization than through discussion forums. Forums can be set up for various departments, topics, projects, technical help, and even water cooler content. This gives users the opportunity to meet other employees, and to tap into the collective knowledge of the organization.

9. Use your intranet as a support structure

An intranet can be used as a centralized resource for various technical support issues. It can contain contact information for immediate assistance, an online form for lower priority service requests, and a library of do-it-yourself information such technical how-to's and FAQs.

10. Conduct polls and surveys

Users like to know that their opinion counts for something, that they have a say in the future direction of their intranet. Set up an occasional poll or a more in-depth user survey to gauge user satisfaction and to get feedback on what the user community would like to see in future versions of the intranet. This way, users feel as though they're actually part of the process rather than simple passengers without a say as to where their system's going.

Closing thoughts

Besides various system inadequacies like poor navigation and irrelevant or out-of-date content, lack of awareness is perhaps one of the greatest contributing factors to low user turnout. By carefully considering the manner in which you launch your intranet, how you market the system, and implementing some of the features I discussed above, you can greatly increase both intranet user-base and longevity.

Copyright © 2007 Paul Chin. All rights reserved.
Reproduction of this article in whole or part in any form without prior written permission of Paul Chin is prohibited.