Employee advocacy. Everyone’s talking about it. But who’s actually doing it, and who has a story to tell? Let’s find out. I’ve spoken to Alli Soule of SAS, a global software company to learn more. Have a listen on iTunes, or keep reading for a summary of our conversation.
Tell us about SAS and what you do there?
SAS is an analytics software company and we are based in Cary, North Carolina. We’re a global company, we have offices all over the place and our specialty is analytic software, so very much a tech company. We create and sell and market all of our own software here in-house. I have a background in public relations, communications and specifically my job here at SAS has gone down a social media path, so my job is to train people on social media and how to use social media in their jobs to make their everyday processes a little bit more efficient.
What prompted SAS to launch an employee advocacy program?
Back in 2014 we actually launched a social media survey to all of our employees and we had somewhere in the range of 14,000 employees. And we’d never really taken the temperature on social media at SAS, we were sort of guessing and using anecdotal evidence, and so we wanted some real data. And we heard back from almost half of our employees, we knew that social would be a very polarising topic and that people would either love it or hate it and that definitely came through in our survey. But what we heard in our survey which was really useful was that a lot of people were really asking for training and that they were reticent to use social media in a work related capacity because they were afraid they were going to do something wrong or they were going to tweet something and get fired, just were sort of scared. And so we sort of took that feedback and said okay, what can we do on a scalable, organised, coordinated effort to sort of help with this issue? And that was really the genesis of our employee advocacy program.
What types of content can we see in this program and what has garnered the most engagement?
Our program is sort of chronological so we start with the very baseline education about your profiles first and then we move into engagement, so the liking, the sharing, the commenting, sort of those small significant actions that say that you’re paying attention. And then eventually we get to the content piece. And what we’ve done, we’ve actually purchased an employee advocacy platform that we made available to our participants in the program and we put both third-party content and SAS brand content in there.
And what we found is that the content that’s resonated best has been analytics content that is usually tied to some sort of top of mind area. So for example we had an article about SAS and the Zika virus and how SAS is being used to help figure out how to combat the Zika virus and that had huge pick up with some of our folks in the program. Because again, it’s top of mind, everybody understands Zika and to know that there’s a SAS connection in there is sort of a universal thing. We also celebrate some ridiculous holiday like World Emoji Day, anything like that that always gets good pick up too.
— Alli Soule (@allisoule) February 2, 2016
What have been the benefits of this program to the company and also to individual employees?
I’ll start with our employees. What’s been really gratifying is that we surveyed our employees before, during and after our program and we’re going to continue surveying them to get their feedback. And what’s been nice is that we hear things like I was intimidated by social media but now I’m not. Or now I know when I see an issue I know the person I can contact. It’s just been this nice empowering feeling I think for a lot of our folks here.
And in terms of the company, sort of along that same line, the company and our leadership is incredibly proud of our employees because we have some really smart people and social is such an easy way to shed light on those people. I mean what better way to show your credibility as a brand and a company than to spotlight your employees who are just exceptional and doing good work? So for the company it’s just been a nice indirect way to sort of brag a little bit.
Are active employees in this program in general more successful, more informed or more engaged than the average employee?
Yes I would definitely say so. One interesting statistic that we were able to pull after the program ended is we have a pretty involved social listening program here at SAS and we’re using social to measure a lot of different things and one thing that we do is we try to keep track of our employee conversations around SAS and around the brand and how much they’re contributing to it. And we were interested in sort of okay, of every SAS employee that we know is on social media talking about SAS and talking about the brand, how much of our employee advocates are participating in that conversation? How much are they making up of that conversation? And we found that it was about 88%. So this group of employee advocates was 88% of the conversations, the employee conversations around the brand, were coming from these employee advocates. So we’ve definitely found them to be highly influential, definitely contributing to these brand conversations and they just continually sort of elevate their status online.
How do you measure success and are you able to tie back metrics to ROI?
Great question. So as I mentioned to you earlier we’re doing a lot of surveying so it was important to us to, you know we had some general goals at the beginning of the program, but really we wanted to hear what the goals of our participants were so that we made sure that-what’s in it for them? We actually found that 90% of our participants said that they made significant progress on their goals and about 27% said that they met their goals. So those are some of the ways that we sort of measured success.
We tried to stay away from vanity metrics, because as we know that can only tell you part of the story. But we still did see things like, so our program was three months long and on average a new, one of our participants would get I think an increase of 64 connections on LinkedIn and 62 new followers on Twitter. So even though those are vanity metrics we did see numbers like that increase. We also looked at things like, on LinkedIn you can see what percentile you fall in with respect to profile views in comparison to, I can’t remember all the different metrics, but one of them is you can see sort of where you stand among other employees in your company.
In terms of ROI that’s a tougher one. We have a social selling program here at SAS, and that revolves around numbers and quotas and meeting things like that. And what they do with social selling is they have certain metrics that they maintain in our CRM that basically ask did social media have any bearing in this particular sale? So a salesperson is able to denote that. And what we did is we invited our social selling leads to be part of our program to see if there was any training that they could use or anything that they could repurpose for their program to again contribute to that bottom line and that’s been wonderful. We already had a really good working relationship with them but they’re repurposing a ton of our training now and they’re making it mandatory for sales and in addition to that as we scale we’re actually inviting a lot more sales people to be part of the program, part of employee advocacy, so that’s probably the clearest ROI, bottom line stat I can give you.
— SAS Software (@SASsoftware) April 20, 2016
What type of technology is aiding this program?
So we’ve definitely relied on free tools and a mixture of free tools and paid tools, so in terms of free tools, my team is a huge fan of Buffer. So we’re constantly educating people about Buffer and how to use that. Feedly is another big one. As I mentioned before, we have an employee advocacy platform that we really like, Dynamic Signal. We made a part of training mandatory in order to unlock your license to Dynamic Signal so we sort of used that as a carrot almost for our training program. It worked out nicely.
Follow Alli on Twitter @AlliSoule.