When an organization first builds an intranet, document management solution or community portal, the early focus is usually on the technology.  But over the long term, the challenge is usually less about tech, more about user engagement.  

Here are a few tactics that platform administrators can borrow from the marketing industry to keep users actively visiting and contributing to your knowledge sharing platforms: 

  • Theme weeks.  Anyone who remembers “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel (or bought a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks) knows that there’s nothing like a limited-time promotion to drive engagement.  

    One of our clients organizes quarterly events around high-interest topics (security, financial management, legal compliance) during which they post a flurry of new documents, blogs, and webinars on the topic to their SharePoint intranet, while encouraging users to post their own material. 

    This client found theme weeks boosted visitor metrics about 25% (above the usual 16-20K visits per month) and have helped them to gradually grow their baseline engagement over time.  Theme weeks also boost the enthusiasm of the department being spotlighted when it comes to keeping their content fresh.  

  • Contests.  The term “gamification” is a tired buzzword, but driving competitions, done right, are still a useful tactic.   

    Offering a prize to whoever can get the most likes on a blog post or whichever department gets done uploading all their XYZ reports won’t create sustainable engagement by itself.  However, it will get people visiting your platform and – if they discover other things of long-term value while they’re there – that can translate to repeat visits.

    One of our industrial clients did a contest between their three international subsidiaries to see which country could get all of their maintenance technicians to watch a series of videos on the company’s new line of equipment first.  All of the teams were rewarded with a catered party and sports on a big screen in a conference room, but the winning country got to choose the sport (football vs. American football vs. Australian rules football) and the cuisine.  And during the promotion the company stirred up a good-natured rivalry among the three countries involved, and the teams gamely played along.

    The important thing about this contest wasn’t football and beer, but rather that it made all of the maintenance technicians worldwide aware of the technical video library, which translated to sustained usage even after the contest ended. 

  • Focus groups.  While most organizations will do a bit of user testing and piloting during the development of an intranet or other knowledge sharing platform, most fail to solicit user input beyond the first few months post-launch.   

    Contrast this to marketers, who obsess over how customers view their products and messaging, conducting everything from focus groups to surveys at regular intervals.  

    While we don’t want to be asking for feedback too often (there is such a thing as “survey fatigue”) those of us in knowledge management could use a dose of marketing’s customer-oriented mindset.  To that end, several of our clients have had success with rotating focus groups and targeted surveys, gathering feedback and feature requests from two or three departments / stakeholder groups every few months.