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Should You Use an Internal Website or Social Intranet?

Lisa Ardill

Content Editor at Workvivo

21 Feb 2023

If there’s one thing everyone is talking about nowadays, it’s how to create a better employee experience. In fact, a recent survey finds that 92% of human resource leaders listed this as a top priority.

It’s no surprise, since a better employee experience boosts morale, productivity, retention, and more.

That’s also why it may be time to ditch your company’s internal website in favor of something better – like a social intranet. Here, we’re going to explore the differences between internal websites and social intranets so that you can see how an intranet delivers a better experience.

What is an internal website?

You know what the internet is – a vast network of websites and pages that you can access on the World Wide Web. An internal website is similar, except for one huge difference:

Internal websites are typically only for internal operations, rather than being a public-facing site.

Often (though not always), internal websites look exactly like any other website design, complete with blogs, company information, and more, all under the same domain name.

The idea behind them is to provide companies a way to:

  • Share information
  • Manage employees
  • Facilitate internal discussions.

Common features and uses of an internal website

In the early days – back in the 1990s – internal websites often resembled very basic web pages, featuring little more than lists of links. As the internet has evolved, so has the internal website.

Now, companies can incorporate a variety of features, such as:

  • File management and file sharing
  • Bulletin boards and announcements
  • Centralized top-down internal communications
  • Internal blogs and company wikis
  • Helpdesks and troubleshooting tools
  • Social media functionality
  • Internal search engines to find information
  • Forums, template downloads, and other resources

What is a social intranet?

social intranet takes the idea of an internal website and builds on it, adding tools to help employees communicate and collaborate.

It’s tempting to think of it like social media, and therefore to imagine something resembling Facebook or Twitter. A social intranet can indeed resemble social media, where anyone with permissions can create content, and everyone can see and connect with the people who created the content.

But in practice, social intranets take it to the next level for businesses, with crucial features like:

  • Personalized homepages for employees
  • A direct line to any colleague, no matter where they’re based
  • Group pages for teams
  • Document libraries
  • Workspaces

By design, social intranets are meant to help employees connect and collaborate.

Why a social intranet is better

Traditionally, internal websites and intranets were something upper management could use to post updates and other company information. They weren’t particularly interactive – and because of that, engagement was often low.

Ultimately, many company intranets ended up as little more than a private homepage, often featuring outdated content that wasn’t particularly useful.

Social intranets flip all of this upside down.

Instead of being a place for executives to post updates, the idea is to promote company-wide participation.

More than that, social intranets are useful as a space to share files, communicate with team members, host backups, facilitate cross-team collaboration and recognition, and more.

Below, we’ll explore some of the biggest benefits that you’ll get from a social intranet.

Simplifies setup and management

If you want to set up an internal website, you’ll face all the same challenges you would with a traditional website (although you likely won’t need to worry about SEO and optimization for public viewing).

By contrast, using a platform like Workvivo to set up a social intranet is much easier.

That’s because Workvivo gives you specialized tools designed to help you customize your intranet exactly to your organization’s needs. You can add hubs for live video, podcasts, company news, and more – all while allowing employees to comment, like, and interact with content.

From there, you can build on to your intranet, adding features like polling, shared file systems, and whatever else will benefit your employees. It’s a solution that scales to your needs while putting everything employees need all in one spot.

Promotes and facilitates two-way communication

With internal websites and traditional intranets, communication goes one way: leadership speaking to everyone else.

Not so with a social intranet.

Here again, Workvivo helps you rethink what is possible by opening up plenty of opportunities for two-way communication.

This comes through features that allow people to comment on and interact with posted content – and through the ability for users to share their own content, too. 

You can:

  • Invite employees to give each other shoutouts in celebration of achievements
  • Encourage them to stay accountable through goals
  • Engage them with company values
  • Nominate colleagues for awards.

Provides seamless and pleasant user experience

Internal websites are often pretty bare bones: just the content, and links to navigate to that content. That contrasts social intranets, which are typically built more like a social media channel.

That makes them easier and more fun to navigate compared to an internal website. Naturally, when you can create a seamless, pleasant user experience, more people will use your intranet.

Increases employee satisfaction and retention

When you look at employee engagement in the U.S., you’ll begin to see why it is so important to satisfaction and retention. Gallup finds that only 36% of workers reported feeling engaged at work. Employees who aren’t engaged are more likely to be dissatisfied – and to look for other opportunities.

Internal websites and intranets are designed to help build employee engagement. The problem is, internal sites are rarely all that engaging. It relates directly back to the fact that communication on internal sites is one way – leadership speaking to employees. This type of intranet boils down to a series of updates, with nothing for employees to actively engage with.

Social intranet invites interaction and communication among peers, which makes it more engaging by default.

People will feel like they’re part of something – and that not only builds engagement, but also boosts satisfaction and retention.

Social intranet features that outclass plain internal websites

Intranet software is a growing industry, one that is expected to expand by 14.11% between 2020 and 2027. Where a social intranet is concerned, there are a lot of great features that put it above and beyond internal websites.

Let’s dive in to check out some of these features.

Integrations with various tools

Internal websites don’t offer much in the way of integration, since they function essentially like a private website. Intranets through platforms like Workvivo, on the other hand, will integrate with all of your most-used tools – like Slack, Teams, or Zoom.

Personalized activity feeds

The best you can do in the way of personalized feeds on an internal website is to create personal blogs for individuals. While that can be a useful way to share larger updates, it’s clunky and time-consuming if you want to share progress updates, celebrate wins, or highlight progress on goals.

Social intranets give you personalized user feeds that let you do all of these things – while allowing peers to like, comment, and interact with everyone else’s feeds.

Familiar social experience

With an intranet, you can create a familiar social experience that resembles some of today’s biggest social media apps. Not only does that make it easier to use a social intranet, but it makes the experience more engaging.

Internal websites don’t have this functionality. They can really only be made to look like any other traditional website.

Community spaces and groups

You can create community pages on an internal website similar to how you might on a traditional website – but here again, they just won’t have the interactivity of a social intranet.

A social intranet allows you to create community spaces and groups just like you would on social media apps.

Employee recognition capabilities

So much of internal websites revolves around blog-style announcements.

A social intranet gives you the ability to not only make announcements, but also set up systems in which peers can recognize each other. Additionally, people can like and comment on posts where employees have been recognized. This does a lot to create a more fun, celebratory atmosphere and boost morale.

Functionality between multiple devices

Internal sites do offer functionality between multiple devices – but that’s only because you access them through a web browser. As a result, they’re usually much harder to navigate and use on mobile, especially when companies haven’t invested much in mobile web design.

A social intranet will give everyone access to not only desktop portals, but also mobile apps designed to make it easy to use company intranet on the go. It’s the ideal way to facilitate communication and engagement among your workforce, especially among remote teams and distributed teams.

Harness the power of social intranet and revamp the employee experience with Workvivo


Looking for a platform that can help you make the transition from an internal website to a fully featured social intranet site? Workvivo has the tools and features you need to create an engaging experience that will help unite everyone company-wide. Request a demo here to see for yourself!