Deb Orton interviews SAS Social Media Manager Dave Thomas. Dave discusses the history of social media at SAS, social media guideline development, the importance in involving human and legal in the process, the steps that companies should follow before jumping into social media, ownership of social media and more.
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hi I’m Deb Orton from SAS we’re at SAS world headquarters in Cary North Carolina with Dave Thomas SAS social media manager we’re taking a few moments to get a behind the scenes look at social media at SAS Dave welcome thank you very much it’s great to be here in this is your living room right this is my living room that’s right we’re getting used to it that’s right welcome thank you have a sip of water if you’d like well thank you know I’ve always wondered what was in these cups that it turns out its knowledge and you have the power to know now that’s good not very nice so as the social media manager how has fast prepared for engaging in social media we had a grassroots effort here that started several years ago as people the early adopters who were really interested in social media and knew that it was something important that was coming there was a group called the social media exchange that was actually a fairly global group of people that met regularly to talk about what the new trends were and how we could be involved in them got the blogging program off the ground and served as sort of an internal antenna and lightning rod for some of these activities they laid the groundwork for a group called the marketing to point out council that you know you and I are both members of so I don’t need to tell you about that that is a group of people that brought to and yet I will that was a group of people that we brought together from across the company so that we could get everybody together and talk about what the implications were of two point oh and social media how we should be integrating it into into our activities at SAS I still think of that as one of our best practices or maybe our first best practice the ability to get people who have in all the different stakeholders everybody who has an opinion the people the evangelists and the skeptics and get them together in the same room oh and we went through that process with the 20 council we put together task forces to look at the different areas of social media that we had identified as important to our business we created a set of recommendations for each of those areas we also created a set of all recommendations one of those was to create a social media manager position me and then I was able to take the groundwork that the task force has had done and turned those into our social media policies and guidelines and that was sort of the the first that was one of our first step set at institutionalizing it and turning it into something that we could share with other people that other people could use yeah it’s been quite a journey over the last couple of years and I think culminating in those guidelines recommendations etc so as you think back and I’m sure there were missteps along the way but what advice would you give in terms of the most important things that a company should do first again I would say get everybody together in the same room you’re going to have evangelists you’re going to have skeptics the evangelists will pick up hopefully on some of the some of the caution that the skeptics may have because you know corporation can just dive into this without thinking about it first you need to be you need to be cautious and see how it fits in with your corporate culture and with your with your corporate objectives but by the same token hopefully the skeptics are going to learn from the evangelists and get some of the pick up on some of the enthusiasm and also see some of the ways that social media can be can have a business value we all remember anybody’s ever set up a twitter account and it remembers that first time where you create your account and then it says you have zero followers0 following anything will bend zero tweets what do I do next that if you can sit down with somebody and show them how it works and how you derive actual business value then that makes it much more real and much more immediate for people and by getting everybody together in the same room you can help do that one of the things that was useful for us I think with the marketing two point O council was when we were done we had the the guidelines and recommendations and they had the weight of the 20 council behind them we were able to say we brought together everybody who we needed to bring together and this is what we’ve come up with and this is what we endorsed it’s also very important to have executive champions you have to have that top down commitment that this is important because you’re going to need resources you’re going to need people to understand that this is important it’s very difficult if you just have one person in the organization shouting from the rooftops saying this is we have to do this it’s great to have bought a top down support and we’ve had we’ve been lucky to have Jim Davis our senior VP and chief marketing officer who’s been a very vocal advocate of social media for for some time and that’s helped us here as well I think another really important step and this gets back to one of the core principles of social media is you need to set up your listening apparatus you before you get out there and start talking you need to know what people are saying about you you need to see what the landscape is we found that there were a lot of groups are already out there that we’re talking about SAS and we need to be communicating with them and listening to them much more than just putting out our own messages so find some of the simple ways that you can start to understand what people are saying about you whether it’s setting up google alerts or Google Blog search going to find the Linked.In groups or Facebook groups where people are talking about your company in your field and just and Twitter search as well and just starting to get a sense for what people are saying and doing then once you’ve got your policies in place and again we’ve talked about the the fact that we set those up you need to have some understanding employees need to know what they can and can’t do and how they should and shouldn’t be participating so once you have those in place and I think we’re going to talk more about that in a bit but once you have those in place you need to understand what’s important to your business and this is where this is one of the key things that one of the key elements that people sometimes forget they think oh we need to have a Twitter strategy we need to have a Facebook strategy you already have I hope a corporate marketing strategy of corporate communication strategy existing goals and objectives and you know what’s important to you look at how social media can help support those activities don’t think of it as a strategy in itself okay so we’ve gotten people started now we’ve given them guidelines or at least encourage guidelines to be put in place we’ve got that executive champion got a lot of the underpinnings in place and that’s taken a while to get us there who do you think should own social media in any organization that’s a big question and that’s a question that people have been asking very specifically at least for the last year that I’ve seen it and more but that’s been a big concern with a lot of people ultimately and this is sort of the this is sort of the Pat answer but it’s I really believe that it needs to be part of everybody’s job starting with the external communicators but with with with everybody as well anybody who has a role in communicating with customers needs to understand how social media effects that whether its customers the community internally and externally that being said it really does make sense to have someone to help get things off the ground to drive the strategy to the communication and the training the and share best practices for us what’s worked out and I came out of the public relations team and I think that makes a lot of sense I made a lot of sense for us to have somebody with a back you know so I understood how we communicated as a corporation I understood how the importance of branding I understood some you know had an understanding crisis communications and things like that I think it makes sense to find somebody in your organization whether it’s in PR or marketing communications or the marketing team who has a level of comfort with the way your organization communicates and put that person in a central role to help spread it out and ideally that’s going to be somebody who is already active in those channels and likes it and likes the idea of spending Saturday night on the couch figuring out how Twitter lists work or getting more followers or seeing what your competitors are doing so it needs to be somebody who’s who’s bought into it and enjoys doing it so that’s the job description yes that’s the job description is buy into it and be and enjoy it enjoy it and end your Saturday night spend your Saturday night Syria and your Sunday afternoons and three o’clock in the morning sometimes you really have to that’s right so do companies really need a social media policy then absolutely if you don’t have a written policy in place then you have a de facto policy that says just do whatever you want yeah you need to make it clear to your employees what they can and can’t do policies allow people to feel more comfortable to know where their where the boundaries are and I know that it’s has I want to hook this position I had some people come to me and say well you know we lad to are we allowed to be on linkedin I heard that we weren’t and I asked her on I couldn’t find anybody who would say that we weren’t allowed to do that so there may have been a point where we were where some things were primitive but one of the things that we found was just having those policies in place starting with something that said yes you can participate in social media we think it’s a good idea as long as you do it in an intelligent way really help to set the tone for everything that we’ve built on we also found that it’s really important to include the dues as well as the don’ts if all your policy says is you know don’t talk about customers don’t to reveal proprietary information don’t do anything stupid don’t misrepresent yourself those are all important messages but if you can show people good examples of the dues positive examples of social media communication then that’s going to help them understand it a lot better right so who should be involved in writing the policy again I think it goes back to that if you’ve got that group in place like the marketing to point o counsel then you’ve got the stakeholders you’ve got the people who are likely to who might be likely to object you got the evangelists and the skeptics so it’s good to build on that structure another thing that’s very important is to get HR and legal involved from the start those those are people in your organization who see on a daily basis the hazards of not thinking through some of these some of the larger larger corporate activities they’re going to have a sense of balance that some of the some of the evangelists might not have they’re also going to be able to point out some things that you might not have thought about and more important if you ignore them and then you spring it on them later you may find that you’re working through a long series of objections and you’ve turned them into adversaries much better to get them involved in the process early on and show them that you value their input okay what did you learn from writing and communicating sasses policies you need to make them short useful and practical one of the things that we we started with those task force recommendations had a lot of good information a lot of good material I tend to be a bit verbose in writing and in talking because I get excited about these things and I want to I want to try to anticipate every possible ramification what we found I think was that in any organization these days people are busy people are people are overworked people are thinking about are concentrating on what’s the most important thing to them in their job so if you spring something on them and say well now I want to add something new to your plate and I want you to read this 40 page document they’re not likely to get around to it so one of the things that we’ve done in our second iteration of the guidelines is to streamline them cut them down to the simplest chunks that we want people to really understand and rearrange the internal portal where we are where we communicate those to let people come in by different persona so somebody can come in and say I’m a sales guy I want to know what I need to know about about what about my role and they can go straight to their and not have to wade through it another really important factor is you have to communicate the existence of these of your guidelines as often as you can in every channel that’s available to you we have 11,000 employees worldwide it’s nearly impossible to get one message delivered consistently to every single person in any organization that has more than one employee there’s going to be there there’s a possibility for some kind of some kind of confusion or for things to get lost in translation so you need to keep at it keep showing people what what they can do keep highlighting the successes of people who are doing it well and make sure that people know that it’s a corporate priority and that it’s in front of them and it’s their their responsibility and their opportunity to take advantage of great so thanks Dave for joining us today to share some of what’s going on in social media at SAS I’d like to invite you to check out the SAS customer intelligence blog you can find it at blogs dots ascom / gap grow keep you. .