It's been one year since I took on the job of social media manager at SAS. I've spent a lot of that time working on nuts and bolts, addressing concerns and objections and sitting in meetings (some productive and some less so). My biggest satisfaction in this role has been putting tools, policies and procedures in place that have helped my colleagues use social media to do their jobs better. My biggest frustration has been that the realities of working in a large enterprise often mean we can't always do things quickly.
One night last October I was lying in bed thinking about all that we still needed to do. I realized how easy it is to get bogged down in the details and lose sight of the mission. I worried that I wasn't inspiring anyone, just creating more corporate policies that people might never read. I got up, walked downstairs and wrote this vision straight through in about 20 minutes. Getting it written was extremely cathartic. I haven't shared it publicly up to now, although I can't really think why not.
This is neither a blueprint nor an action plan. This is my personal vision of where we need to be going. Some of these ideas are already underway, some will require significant shifts in mindset and/or resources. If I had a magic wand, this is where we would be today. I welcome your thoughts.
My vision for social media at SAS
SAS connects with its customers and prospects in the ways they want to connect. We use social media tools to show people our knowledge and expertise, rather than tell them about it. Our social media presence reflects our depth of experience and intelligence, our history and culture, and the reciprocal affection and respect we share with our users. Our online presence leaves no doubt that SAS is not only the smartest, most capable competitor in the analytics world, but also the one dedicated to making a genuine personal connection with our customers.
Social media becomes part of everyone's job description at SAS. Everyone in the company is given the tools, both physical and metaphorical, to communicate in social media. We trust our employees to use common sense. We trust our customers to respond positively to sincere efforts even if they sometimes have flaws. We recognize that communications tools, techniques and philosophies are changing dramatically and constantly and we go with the flow. We don't let fear and worst-case scenarios prevent us from making genuine people-to-people connections.
SAS supports a robust community of users, giving them the tools to communicate in the ways they want to communicate. SAS customers of all kinds and at all levels can find information and connections relevant to their field and job easily through a central aggregation portal maintained by SAS. SAS employees participate in and contribute to the community and add real value for our customers, as well as building relationships and trust. We have a harmonious relationship with existing SAS communities and provide our expertise and resources to make the overall SAS online community experience as valuable and fun as it can be.
SAS has an inclusive blogging program at blogs.sas.com. The blogs homepage shows Featured Blogs and top blogs by topic. Another page lists All SAS Blogs. After completing a brief online tutorial in blogging best practices and guidelines, any employee can create an external blog and have it listed in the All SAS Blogs page, which is searchable by topic, by blogger and by popularity.
SAS employees are active on the major social networks and use them to develop and maintain relationships with professional contacts. SAS has presences in all the major social networks globally, including a SAS Institute fan page on Facebook and an official SAS LinkedIn group. There are SAS fan pages and groups for all country offices, fan pages for each major product line (e.g. a SAS Customer Intelligence Fan Page), and groups for each industry vertical (SAS Financial Services, SAS Retail, etc.). Every major event and series of events has an event page. Responsibility for maintaining, updating and sharing on these groups is included in the job responsibilities of individual marketers and communicators. These social network presences serve as "outposts," designed to engage people who are already on those sites, then give them a reason to visit our "home base," sas.com.
Our primary Twitter strategy is to encourage individual SAS employees to develop their own audiences and communicate with them in the most appropriate manner for that audience. There is a SAS Institute Twitter account, maintained by a group of people, that shares high-level news and information, interesting facts and links about our top-level business themes, tweets interesting and fun SAS facts, shares customer success stories and responds to general comments and inquiries. Requests for information and assistance from SAS users are quickly and effectively answered. Sales folks use Twitter to develop and nurture prospects. Each product line and industry vertical has a branded Twitter stream run by marketers to share information and promote events. Individual marketers use Twitter to communicate and stay in touch with their networks and gather market intelligence. External Comms folks use it to tell stories (see below) and to further relationships.
Short-form video is incorporated into all of our marketing and external communications activities. Our goal is to tell stories and share fun and interesting information that reflects well on SAS and supports our marketing message. For much of our video communication we value speed, relevance and interest over production values. Marketers and communicators are given clear guidelines and trusted to post video directly without review. We don't try to go "viral," we try to be interesting, genuine and informative. Marketers and communicators become proficient in shooting video themselves, using simple editing tools, and posting video to a blog, social network page or YouTube. We figure prominently in key search terms related to our business on YouTube, like analytics and business intelligence.
Members of the External Communications team, both in Marketing Editorial and PR, act as journalists and storytellers, finding unique stories and presenting them in a variety of media. Every member of the team contributes regularly to a blog, on Twitter and in social networks. Every member of the team has a video camera or video-enabled smart phone and uses it to shoot video and post it to YouTube. Instead of writing pitches for stories, we write stories. Instead of writing traditional customer success stories for the web, we tell our customers' stories in whatever medium is best suited. We transition to a social media release format for press releases, on the way to abandoning press releases altogether, in favor of sharing our stories with the audiences we develop ourselves, which may include journalists as well as customers and prospects and the community as a whole.
Photo by me