Convincing employees to use the intranet is one of the biggest challenges intranet managers face. One of the main reasons is the difficulty in persuading employees to contribute good content that other employees will find useful.
Just how difficult this task can be is highlighted by feedback from the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC) online benchmark survey (the survey has been completed by over 45,000 intranet end users from more than 160 organisations).
The chart below shows the breakdown of responses to the 4 questions that ask employees how often they contribute content to the intranet.
As you can see, on average more than 90% of staff are not frequent contributors (content contribution methods include discussion forums, commenting, team sites, messaging, blogging, micro-blogging, as well as publishing traditional intranet content).
That’s a huge amount of handy hints, tips, information, business intelligence, insights, best practices, ideas, innovations, solutions, answers, knowledge and good advice that is not being properly shared or managed by organisations.
This lack of involvement represents a virtual gold mine of untapped knowledge lying dormant within many organisations.
How can organisations mine this gold?
Wikipedia began in 2001 and has since grown to become the 6th most popular internet site in the world (according to the Alexa website rankings). The Wikipedia statistics for June show that there were 11,071,642 pageviews per hour for the English Wikipedia. In anyone’s language, Wikipedia is a runaway success. And all the content is provided by volunteers!
How did this happen? Why do people contribute content? And can these same lessons be applied within an organisation?
The article, Why did Wikipedia succeed while other encyclopedias failed, explains that there were seven collaborative encyclopedias that aspired to Wikipedia-like dimensions before Wikipedia itself came along.
So why did Wikipedia succeed?
Focus on content - not the technology
Wikipedia focused on content development instead of technology. Its competitors, on the other hand, saw themselves more as technologists than as content providers. Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, the two Wikipedia founders, played the role of content evangelists, seeding Wikipedia with content they solicited from contributors — which, in turn, led to more content, and more contributors.
Lower barriers to participation
Wikipedia also lowered the barriers to participation. Editing Wikipedia is easy, instant, and virtually commitment-free. It’s possible to come along and do an anonymous edit and never make a contribution again. Over time, a sentence here and a paragraph there, turned into articles, which then turned into an encyclopedia. Without this relatively low barrier to entry, the community would be difficult to sustain.
In addition, there are no professional editors that review material before it is published. Instead, it’s the people who visit the pages who are the reviewers.
Why do people contribute content?
The article Online Motivational Factors: Incentives for Participation and Contribution in Wikipedia also examines why people are motivated to contribute to Wikipedia. There are many research based references and it’s well worth reading. Some of the key findings include:
Users will contribute more to a community if they:
Believe that their contributions are important to the group’s performance,
Believe that their contributions will be identifiable, and
Like the group they are working with.
Three conditions need to exist for this kind of peer work to perform well:
Cost for the contributors is low - needs to be easy to do
Tasks are ‘chunked into bite-size pieces’ - minor editing is available and boosts participation because the threshold for initial participation is low
Low cost of quality control
The article also notes that research has shown that a high level of both two-way and large scale community interactivity is a strong inducement to participate. There is a strong correlation between interactivity and motivation in online communities.
10 lessons that can be applied to intranets
You may also be interested in:
- Improve your intranet by 10%: how benchmarking can help
- Why measuring page views, time spent and user activity is a worthy measure of intranet success
Interested in learning more about the WIC research?
I am giving three presentations in September where I'll be talking about some of the more interesting findings from the WIC data. I'll also be showing case studies of intranets that have succeeded in satisfying their most important stakeholder, the end user.
- 23-24 September - Utrecht - Congres SharePoint
- 25 September - London - Interaction 2013
- 26 September - Köln - IOM Summit