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Social Media at SAS – Turning a Great Reputation Into an Online Asset

What comes to mind when you hear the acronym SAS? No, not “software as a service.” Not the Scandinavian airline. Not even Surfers Against Sewage.

If your job depends on making business decisions based on analysis of unstructured data, you probably thought immediately of SAS, the leader in business analytics. And once you connect with this company in one way or another–by visiting their web site or blogs, talking with them by phone or reading one of the many articles written about their award-winning corporate culture, the company and its employees will stand out in your memory.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing David B. Thomas, SAS’s new social media manager. I was connected to Dave by Steve Polilli (a cool 6 degrees story) when I put up a blog post a week or so ago on the organization. Within 3 minutes I received an email from Steve thanking me for showcasing the company’s socially responsible initiatives and asking if I would be interested in interviewing Dave. Of course I said yes and below you can find answers to several questions I had as to their online user experience. I hope you enjoy it as much as I had fun interviewing Dave.

What three things would you want people to have done to optimize their user experience on your site(s)?

First, take a look at our blogs at blogs.sas.com and see the collection of thought leaders we have writing about the big issues in healthcare, banking and risk, performance management, business intelligence and business analytics, and more.

Second, take a look at our customer success stories and videos and see how companies and organizations partner with SAS. No matter what industry or field someone is in, they will probably see a company with similar goals and challenges who has used SAS software to accomplish their goals.

Third, visit not only www.sas.com but some of our affiliated sites, like http://support.sas.com and www.sascommunity.org , a collaborative online community of SAS users worldwide. You’ll get an immediate understanding of how much our users love and value our software. They are our best brand ambassadors.

Let’s focus on the your users. What do they look like?

You’ll find SAS users and evangelists at all levels of an organization. They could be a CMO talking about how SAS software helps them meet their marketing goals, a CFO talking about how SAS helps them make money in a difficult economy or a CIO, IS or IT manager, a statistician or analyst or a programmer talking about how SAS software helps the people on their team get their jobs done faster or more efficiently.

What brought you to this position?

I’ve been in marketing communications in the technology industry for about 13 years, and a professional communicator for the past 20. I started with SAS in May 2007 in the corporate public relations group, supporting our overall corporate message and working with journalists who wanted to know more about our corporate culture and the company as a whole. If people don’t know anything else about SAS they know we are a great place to work.

We’ve been listed on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in America since the list began. We had onsite daycare beginning in 1981, for instance. We have an onsite health care center providing primary medical care free of charge to employees and covered dependents. We also have a 66,000 square-foot recreation and fitness center, miles of walking trails, onsite massage therapy and yoga, personal trainers and more.
Jim Goodnight, our founder, started the company in 1976. He has always said that if you treat employees as though they make a difference, they will make a difference. That philosophy permeates everything we do.
How does having a great workplace translate to growing a successful business? There is a feeling of dedication to the customer I have not seen anywhere else. It is a very positive working environment. People come in and write better software and treat customers better as a result.

What’s one thing you would like to see happen going forward?

I would like to see SAS employees contributing more than they already do in the many places on the web where the people are talking about SAS. I would like our employees to get involved in the conversation and provide insight and support. Some are doing that now. I would like to see it become even more widespread. Our employees are so passionate about the company and the software, and so knowledgeable, that the more they get out and communicate the more people we can reach and assist and impress.

What are you doing to get people more involved?

We’re working on a company-wide communications plan to let people know how they can – and should – be communicating in Web 2.0 and social media channels. We’ll be sharing our guidelines and recommendations and then encouraging them to get out and communicate.
If there is one thing–the 20% that a company can do to yield an 80% return to create a great online user experience, what would that be? Make sure you have great content and make it easy for people to get. It doesn’t do you any good to have a great white paper on your web site if no one can find it. Have a presence in the places on the web where your customers and prospects are already interacting.
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To me, the bottom line with SAS is that because they have taken time and have accomplished developing great people they created a wealth of human and social capital and now are mobilizing that capital, encouraging further investment through online communities and dynamic conversations. Stay tuned for Dave’s new external blog.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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