SAS Institute Creates Internal Facebook With Socialcast

Socialcast offers support for internal company activity streams that mimic the news feed on a Facebook page and is available as a service or as a software appliance.
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Graebe said a SharePoint upgrade was under way at the same time as the Socialcast implementation, so integration between the two hasn't happened yet but is certainly planned. "Now we can implement the Reach feature and begin to integrate into SharePoint Sites and also our wikis and blogs," she said.

The SAS social network, which users dubbed The Hub, had a "soft launch" in January when project team members and key constituencies like the intranet bloggers were invited to set up accounts. They were also given permission to pass the login details on to anyone else they knew who might be interested.

"By the end of the first week of the soft launch, we had over 1,400 users because of the viral impact of people inviting in their friends," Graebe said. "To us, that was a good sign that the usability of the tool going to be as good as we hoped, or better." That first wave of adoption was important because it seeded the system with content, making the environment look more interesting once the rest of the company was invited in, she said. The Hub officially launched on February 14, with a Valentine's Day "Love the Hub" internal promotional campaign. As of Wednesday, it was up to 6,028 users, or more than half the employees in the company. And one of those users has accumulated over 2,000 intranet followers.

Lee said she really sees this as a new mode of communication. "It's nothing you can do over email, and you can't do it by IM-ing or texting," she said.

The Hub has not necessarily replaced other means of sharing or publishing information, such as internal blogs, but that was not the goal. Graebe said employees are told information they want to "live forever" should be stored in some other repository, such as a blog or team website, but that they should link to that content in Socialcast. "We're only keeping new posts on The Hub for 180 days because we don't want to create another information graveyard where things become outdated and inaccurate," she said.

At least, that was the starting point. Now that the system has been in use for a while, employees are posting valuable information to it that perhaps should be archived in some way, Graebe said, but the communications team is still figuring that out.

Previously, several groups of SAS employees had experimented with Yammer as a social tool, and the company had also implemented Chatter on a more formal basis. But Socialcast "has a ton more features" and richer group collaboration, Graebe said. That seemed to become apparent to everyone shortly after The Hub went live, she said. "We had a debate going. Do we get rid of Chatter? Or do we not get rid of Chatter. In the end, we kind of let that die its own death. I'd say within a couple of weeks after we implemented this, Chatter was dead." Now that life signs have ceased, SAS will officially pull the plug soon, she said.

Lee may take a more proactive stance toward killing off email list serves that have been used for collaboration within the company for years. "That's old technology, an old way to communicate, and I'd like to see those die out," she said. Many of the email list managers are already coming to her asking for a way of migrating to the social media system, she said.