One of the great things about using Google Apps for Work is that it gives you the tools to use their social media platform, Google+, as an intranet.
We recently made the jump to using Google+ as our intranet in a company of 70 employees.
How does Google+ work as an intranet?
If you use Google Mail for your email you will also have the option of creating a Google+ profile. This profile is easily accessible when logged into the Chrome browser making it very convenient for people to access as an intranet.
Here’s where the cool part comes… you can lock down Google’s social media platform so posts shared by people with the company’s email domain are only visible to to those people within your organisation! – Very exciting I know!
So the default option goes from sharing to the public which looks like this:
To sharing to your company / organisation which looks like this:
This allows all your posts to stay totally private and only visible to those who have your organisation’s email address.
Sharing posts like this to your organisation is a great way of sharing company information and updates that do not need urgent attention. N.B. Users will not get a notification when posts are shared this way (unless they choose to get them) just like you will not get notifications every time your friends share something in Facebook (unless you choose too).
How to turn on notifications for every post
If a user wants to turn a Google+ notification every time someone posts to the intranet the best way to do this is:
- Make sure you have all your colleagues in a circle, e.g. a ‘work’ circle
- Select the home option from your left hand side menu
- Along the top of your stream you should see a few options starting with ‘All’. Yours will not be named the same as mine below, it will depend on what circles you have created.
- Select your ‘work’ circle, the one with all your colleagues that you created
- You should now see an option to turn notifications on for that circle.
Using Google+ Communities as part of your intranet
Google+ communities are another great feature of the social media platform which can be used for internal communication as part of your intranet. In fact a single Google+ community alone can work as a mini intranet for a very small organisation with only a few members of staff (I look at this in a moment).
Communities have lots of useful features, two of my favourite being:
- Being able to hold static links on the right hand side of the community
- Having categories within each community to keep posts organised and easy to reference back to.
Both of these features can be created by clicking on the cog symbol within the community and selecting ‘edit community’.
You have the option of turning notifications on or off for communities that you are a member of.
So as well sharing updates to the whole of your organisation you can also create communities within your intranet allowing you to share messages with specific groups of people, e.g just your team members or people you’re working on specific projects with. Communicating through multiple communities allows you to reduce the noise for members of the intranet (communications that aren’t relevant to people).
To create a community just select ‘communities’ from the left hand side menu bar within Google+. You will then have the option of making it private or open within your organisation. An open community means everyone within your organisation (but not the public remember) will be able to see the posts whether they are a member or not. Private will mean the posts are private until the owner of the community accepts someone’s invite.
Within our intranet we have 3 different types of communities.
- Departmental communities (private community) – each department has their own community. This community is private so only people who have joined can see what is being discussed. This is for team members of that department only. These are for team discussions, team process updates, suggested reading, sharing of ideas, team collaboration etc.
- Website communities (open community within the organisation) – Because we have multiple websites we have a community for every website. These work as a communication channel between the developers and people who work closely with the websites e.g. customer service. Every time there is an update to the website the devs will post to the relevant website community.
- Social communities – These are communities around regular social events & activities, e.g ‘Yoga’, ‘Book Club’ & ‘Friday Night Drinks’ are to name a few. By making communities around these events it means people can opt in to having their timeline include these updates and also allows for discussions to happen between the members without creating noise for people who do not want to be involved in them.
Using Communities as your whole intranet (A free option if you just have a Google email address but not paying for Google Apps for work)
If you are not paying for Google Apps for work you will not have the option of locking down Google+ to create a private social media platform like this…
…however you will still have the option to use (private) Google+ communities of course for free.
Google+ communities alone are still a great free tool for team and company collaboration especially for startups with just a few employees.
People will be able to view all their communities they are a member of under the ‘communities’ section in their left hand side menu on Google+.
Some more community ideas…
- A community for company admin. This could hold your HR docs, attendance records, any company benefits etc. Any lateness or last minute leave can be shared with everyone in the company very quickly.
- A community for each project / client that is being worked on. Alternatively if everyone within the company is working on every project / client you could just have the 1 community with a category for each project / client instead. Here everyone can collaborate and share any updates without having to create long unproductive email chains.
- A community for suggested reading / inspiration. This could be a place to share suggested blogs posts to read and discuss. Sharing them in a community environment rather by email gives people the option of engaging easily (+1’ing) and also encourages group discussion more.
The Challenge of Using Google+ as an intranet
One of the biggest challenges of launching an intranet is getting everyone on board. A lot of people tend not to like change so one of our biggest fears when launching Google+ as an intranet is that people just wouldn’t use it because they had never used or heard of Google+ before.
How we overcame that challenge
- Having on-going training workshops
- Having an Intranet cadet within each team. (People fully trained up who are intranet advocates)
- Running competitions on the intranet to incentivise people to use it
- Automating the intranet page to start every morning in people’s browsers
- Sharing pictures within the office of staff members from social events and tagging them to encourage people to visit
- Getting rid of the group email option so people could not revert back to emailing everyone instead of posting on the intranet
- Time (In a company of 70 people it took about 3-4 months for the intranet to become the lively hub of communication that it is with the majority of people within the company now feeling comfortable posting and sharing on it)
The only flaw of using Google+ as an intranet
The only issue which is a bit clunky about using Google+ as an intranet is that you have to add your colleagues to see their posts. This used to be fine as you could share add whole circles with one click of a button however since Google+ updated and got rid of this option this means you have to add every individual separately. This is quite a boring process for a new joiner to the company and means people need to keep up-to-date with adding new joiners also. Of course this becomes more of an issue the more people you have within your company. For that reason Google+ can only ever be an intranet solution for small businesses.
Two Top Tips
- Encourage people to download the Google+ phone app so they can access the intranet on the go.
- Install the ‘Google+ Notifications’ Chrome Extension plugin on user’s browsers
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any questions about using Google+ as an intranet solution please do leave a comment.