We’ve used Dynamic Signal to drive our program’s success. We’re able to see all employee activity on the platform. That measurement capability is key because we can show the program’s impact and be able to recognize the employees who are doing really well. Without the platform, we wouldn’t know at all who is producing results.”
Kirsten Hamstra, Global Head of Social Media
It’s no wonder that SAS, the world’s leader in business analytics software, has been included in Fortune’s Best Place to Work For ranking every year since the list’s inception in 1997. The North Carolina-based company is renowned for its workplace culture. SAS provides on–site daycare, access to a medical center and fitness facilities, and even distributes more than 22 tons of free M&Ms to employees each year.
This quote from CEO and Co-founder Jim Goodnight often is cited in management books: “95 percent of a company’s assets drive out the front gate every night, the CEO must see to it that they return the following day.”
The result of this laser focus on the employee experience is a passionate, motivated, and productive workforce. It also presented SAS with a golden opportunity. What if the company could harness that intense loyalty and help employees share the company story with the broader world through their social media networks?
“We realized that conversations were happening online around SAS and our products that we weren’t even aware of, let alone participating in them,” said Kirsten Hamstra, Global Head of Social Media. “At the same time, there has been a tidal shift about the best resources for information that people trust. Typically, it had been company leadership, the company website, marketing materials. But that was shifting to regular people with social communities online.”
SAS recognized the untapped potential of using the authentic voices of employees in a more organized effort to expand brand awareness and increase the share of voice against competitors. Just as crucial to the employee-centric company, SAS also wanted the emphasis to be on the workers themselves – empowering them to use social media to reach their individual goals and build their own brands.
Today, the foundation of an award-winning Employee Advocacy program at SAS is the Dynamic Signal platform.
“As a company, there’s a real understanding of how employee voices can have an impact on the brand,” Hamstra said. “But we also want to give employees a platform – if they want it. There are plenty of employees here who want nothing to do with social, and that’s totally fine. But there is a percentage of people who are active on social, and we needed to create a more structured program for them. When people are excited and see that this helps them, they become effective advocates. It’s been wonderful to see the explosion of growth in a way that employees embrace the brand.”
The secret to success at SAS is an innovative approach to training. More than 1,300 employees have completed a social media certification program – giving them access to the Dynamic Signal platform. In addition, SAS launched an award-winning training program called “The 140.” The name came from the number of characters allowed in Twitter posts at the time and also represented one percent of the company’s workforce.
The goal of “The 140” is to teach employees social media skills and help them feel more confident about how they present themselves online. There also are office hours to seek assistance as well as workshops on topics such as using hashtags, how to take great photos with mobile devices, blogging tips, and building a social media audience. So far, 600 employees have gone through the training, and 90 percent say their comfort level online has improved significantly.
Employees have generated more than 122,000 shares, resulting in nearly 300 million social media impressions. It explains why SAS has seen a 160 percent increase in conversation volume among all employees on topics relevant to the company. This happens because Hamstra’s team curates compelling content that employees want to share. It can be stories about the corporate culture, content about the work SAS does with artificial intelligence and machine learning, and media articles about the company.
The platform easily enables employees to put an individual spin on the content they’re sharing with their networks – so it’s more authentic. They also use the platform to raise their own profiles by demonstrating their expertise in specific subjects.
It’s a win-win for both employees and SAS.
Success isn’t just a “gut” feeling, either. Platform metrics enable SAS to see how many employees are engaging with content and what types of information resonate most. This allows the social media team to continuously refine their strategy. It also enables Hamstra to report data insights to leadership that shows Employee Advocacy is having a tangible impact on building brand awareness and driving revenue.
As the program has grown, different areas of the business have become more active on the platform. For instance, HR now uses it for social recruiting by showcasing the SAS corporate culture in a way that is much more engaging.
“We’re getting great survey data from employees,” Hamstra said. “Our participation numbers keep increasing. But we’re also seeing great numbers in the part of the business that our leadership really cares about like our share of voice and our reach on topics that matter to us. That’s the benefit of mobilizing our employees and giving them the training to make an impact.”