This is a continuation of our interview with Alli Soule ( @allisoule ), employee and engagement training specialist with SAS . The data analytics company regularly appears on great places to work lists, not just in the U.S. but internationally.
As part of SAS’s corporate social media team, which formed in 2014, Alli counsels employees on how to integrate social media into their professional lives. She fills us in on how the six-person team conveys corporate culture and builds employer brand across social media channels.
What are some of your personal favorite ways to engage employees on social media?
I like to do a lot of shout-outs. One of the things I love about my job is that I get to meet a ton of employees across the company. When I meet people and then I’m able to connect with them on social, I feel like it adds an extra dimension to our relationship.
It’s actually come back to help me in a work capacity. Among our internal communications channels at SAS is a blog that our team writes, and I have a series on the blog called ‘Tip of the Week.’ It’s a quick social media tip/trick/snippet. After I connect with an employee on social and they read the blog, they’ll frequently send me suggestions.
When I blogged about a tip that two employees suggested, I shouted out to them in my post and also posted their Twitter handles, so that readers could start following them. I like building that network and seeing how it can benefit the company.
SAS is on a number of different social channels, and I would imagine that your Instagram account is newer than, say, your Facebook account. What should a company consider before diving into another social network?
I would say above all else, make sure your audience is there. That’s sort of Communications 101, but you don’t want to hop on the bandwagon just to hop on the bandwagon.
If your audience is there, you need to make sure you have a person or system to administer that account. If you’re going to start on Instagram, for instance, you need to make sure you’ve got someone who will regularly post pictures, that they know when to post pictures, what to post pictures of, what’s performing well on the channel, and that they’re doing social listening and responding to comments that require responses.
Taking on a new social account is a huge responsibility. If you get on and you don’t run it properly, it will make your brand look bad. We tell this to our employees, too–don’t get on something just to be on it. It’s going to damage your personal reputation.
Companies have a lot of choice when it comes to posting on social channels. How do you decide what content goes where, and when to cross-post between channels?
For us, it’s a combination of research and knowing who’s on what channel. Say we’re creating a white paper and making a social tile. We know that’s applicable on LinkedIn or even Twitter , but probably not on Facebook, based on who’s a fan of our Facebook page and they type of engagement we usually get.
When we create content for social, we do it with a specific channel in mind. Typically, Twitter and LinkedIn go together well, for more business- or product-related content. What performs well for us on Facebook are our company culture posts–the great place to work announcements or quirky holidays.
We keep our eye on metrics and have dashboards. We’re a data analytics company, so we kind of have to do that.
How does your audience differs across networks? How are your LinkedIn followers different from your Instagram followers, for example?
Our LinkedIn audience is generally more interested in thought leadership and subject matter expertise. For social content, that translates into blog posts, analyst reports and articles. On our external site, we’ve got a page called Insights , where we feature articles on high-level topics. These articles are really popular, but they address obscure subjects–stuff like the Internet of Things .
We write these articles on the nebulous topics that people might be hearing about but not really understand, and we define them. People love it, because it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s what that is.’ And these articles tend to do really well on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is changing a lot now. You’ve got a news feed, where people are posting a lot of articles and images. We’re trying to make sure that our content, while it’s very business-centric and serious, still is visually appealing. So we might take a stat from an article and make it into a tile. We’re trying to reach a lot of executives and C-level people on LinkedIn. Decision-makers. The people making the decision to actually buy our software.
As opposed, to, say, Facebook, where we’ve got a whole lot of users–the people who are in the weeds and actually using SAS software, like statisticians or data scientists. Other people who follow us on Facebook are those who are interested in SAS as a company. Our employees have a huge showing there, their friends and family have a big showing. So I think that’s why that company culture-type information goes over a little bit more successfully on Facebook.
If you were interviewing a candidate who’d expressed to you that they’d looked through SAS’s social channels, what kinds of questions or observations might the candidate ask that would impress you?
I think anyone would be flattered if someone is paying attention to what they’re doing on social. Just the fact that anyone would take the time to dig down that rabbit hole would be impressive.
Something that would really impress me is if they took the time to familiarize themselves with some of our corporate web properties. Because SAS is kind of a content machine. We put out a lot of stuff. So if someone could distinguish between our Insights page and another area of our website, that would be impressive. Our internal communications team gets a lot of positive press, because we have a really impressive intranet. If they knew about things like that, that would be impressive.
On social, we’re trying to do a good job of showing the culture from the inside out. So if candidate caught on to that, that would be impressive.
How do people actually connect with you for training? Do you have a regular training schedule? Or are there occasions when you put out an open call announcing that you’re available for training at a certain time?
There a few different ways. We have a ticketing system at SAS that we use for everything under the sun. It’s sort of the equivalent of any technical site’s help ticketing system. One of the things employees can use it for is to log requests for the corporate social media team, including training requests.
Additionally, a lot of managers will approach us and say, ‘My team is interested in social media, but we’re not really sure how we should be using it. Can you give us an overview of x?’ I’ve gotten really broad questions–about how other employees are using Twitter or how social can be used in a business capacity. A lot of times people will come to me through a random email or random phone call.
None of us on the corporate social media team are new to SAS, but the team itself is relatively new. So we’ve tried to go out of our way to let people know that we’re a resource for employees. A lot of times it’s like I’ll get referrals from people I’ve worked with already: ‘Oh, I think Alli does that. You should just shoot her an email.’
That’s kind of a unique challenge, to try to make people aware of the team to begin with.
Yeah. My previous job was in internal communications. I wrote a lot of articles, I familiarized myself with the company. So coming to the team I knew a lot of people, and my colleagues on the team all know a lot people. We all come from different departments and divisions. We have someone who came from R&D, who’s very technical. We have a couple people who came from marketing. It’s a nice distribution.
Because we all know a lot about how SAS works already and we know a lot of these internal communications channels, we wanted to make sure that we maximized those and got the word out. We exist, really, to help employees. So what kind of a job would we be doing if they didn’t know we were here to help them in the first place?
The top image is from SAS’s Instagram account, depicting the view from the office in Wellington, New Zealand. Wow, right?
About the author
Erin Engstrom is the web content strategist at Trakstar. I’m in Chicago for now, but hope to take advantage of Trakstar’s remote workplace and do the digital nomad thing. Relax and eat the elephant one bite at a time.