2020 Customer Awards: SAS - Best-in-Class: Community

2020 Customer Awards: SAS - Best-in-Class: Community


Company: SAS

Company background: SAS is a Cary, N.C.-based software company with roots in American academia. Founded at N.C. State University in 1976, SAS has grown to become the leader in business analytics software and services and the largest privately held software company in the world.

Today, co-founder Jim Goodnight remains at the helm as CEO and more than 80,000 business, government and university sites in more than 140 countries rely on SAS® software. We make it easier for more people to use powerful analytics every day, to shorten the path from data to insight – and to inspire bold new discoveries that drive progress. The result is analytics that breaks down barriers, fuels ambition and gets results. We give our customers THE POWER TO KNOW®.

Contact: Beverly Brown

Title: Community Manager

Related URLs:

SAS Support Communities

SAS GitHub

SAS Users Blog

SAS Users YouTube

SAS Tech Report (newsletter)

SAS Cares (Twitter)

Virtual SAS Global Forum (event website)

Kudos Category: Best-in-Class: Community

1. Describe your community(s) and how you decided to start a community or grow/change it? (user request, Khoros suggestion, internal idea, etc.).

The COVID-19 pandemic forced SAS Global Forum, our largest annual in-person customer gathering, to go digital. The unforeseen pivot made SAS Support Communities, already a global focal point for SAS conversations and content, decisive in the success of Virtual SAS Global Forum.

Our mature site is a hub of SAS expertise that complements our presence on channels such as YouTube and GitHub and across inbound customer support channels monitored by SAS’ Customer Contact Center. It's a friendly, collegial place. Relationships between SAS users and employees flourish there.

If we'd been less intentional about growing our community, the sudden shift could have fragmented the flow of conference content to SAS users. Instead, it elevated the SAS Support Communities as a key success factor for Virtual SAS Global Forum – and validated our top executives' 2015 bet that a Khoros-based community would help us grow and engage the SAS ecosystem in new ways.

A customer-centric ethos

Our best-in-class community, playing a vital role in today's new “normal”, rests on a user-oriented foundation built over five decades. Key turning points in our story:

  • Long before SAS spun out of NCSU in 1976, as our three co-founders hammered out the first lines of SAS code, they welcomed input from an enthusiastic nascent community of SAS users.
  • Our first users conference, which drew 300+ attendees, further baked customer-centricity into our culture and products.
  • Online user collaboration sprouted in 1986 when SAS users connected via the SAS-L email listserve.
  • In the late 2000s, we launched a community on Jive, followed in 2015 with the migration to Khoros.

The latter move, in line with our customer-centric ethos and users' growing preference for peer-to-peer and self-service support, marked a significant uptick in investment. We tripled community-management staff to grow engagement, curate content and enlist employee and customer experts to improve the quality and number of solved topics.

In the past year alone, we:

  • Integrated customer communication channels by cross promoting content between SAS Support Communities, SAS blogs, SAS Developers website, SAS GitHub, the SAS Users YouTube channel, and corporate social media accounts, such as @sas_cares on Twitter.

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  • Assigned SAS Customer Contact Center agents to provide rapid response to novice users in the New SAS User Community.
  • Added staff, including an award-winning developer advocate to build bridges to that important audience.
  • Revamped the SAS Users YouTube channel with a fun new style of SAS tutorial that showcases internal SAS experts' personalities as well as their know-how. Producers choose topics based on frequently asked community topics, high-volume Google and YouTube search terms, customer interactions on YouTube, SAS Customer Contact Center "Voice of the Customer" reports and more.

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What are Shewhart Control Charts?

Indispensable channel for Virtual SAS Global Forum

As the pandemic took hold in mid-March and SAS sent us home to work, we re-launched SAS Support Communities with responsive skin for a more modern look and feel and refreshed our gamification around badges and ranks. To better serve inexperienced SAS users, we edited the welcome email to new community members to direct newbies to the New SAS User Community:

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But an even bigger task loomed: setting up Virtual SAS Global Forum for success.

2. Tell us about how you made it happen? Did you stage it first? Who got an early look? How did you drive adoption? Did you get executive buy-in? Did you have any key iterations?

Once executive management moved SAS Global Forum 100% online, it was clear SAS Support Communities was positioned for the moment. When marketing leadership charged us with enriching the customer experience, here's what we did:

  • Gave Super Users – a small but very active audience – a preview of how conference content would be available on our YouTube channel:

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  • Turned into a secondary landing page for conference content:

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  • Encouraged thousands of employee community members to promote the conference in their signatures before…

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… and after the conference:

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  • Promoted the conference in the right rail of topic pages within relevant forums:

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3. What were the results? 

During the pandemic, the SAS Support Communities helped amplify important collaborations on the SAS Software GitHub, including a partnership with Cleveland Clinic to help health systems plan their capacity  (

Top-level trends that indicate our pandemic pivot was successful:

  • 65K+ views of library articles based on Virtual SAS Global Forum presentations in less than a month
  • Q2 new community messages and replies were 27% higher than the same quarter last year
  • Q2 YouTube subscribers rose 257%, up from 157% in Q1.

Overall community health and success metrics are up and to the right:

  • New members: 22,800 new members YTD (on pace to surpass last year's 38,000)
  • Page views: 11.2 million YTD (on pace to surpass last year's 20.3 million)
  • Visits: 5.5 million YTD (on pace to surpass last year's 9.9 million)
  • New topics: 9K+ YTD (on pace to more than double last year's (16K)
  • New topics and replies: 52K+ YTD (on pace to surpass last year's 89K+)
  • Solved topics consistently garner a healthy 60% of total topic views.
  • New SAS User Community Net Promoter Score up 53% in 2019 over 2018


Our application highlights our "pandemic pivot," so it's also worth noting that the adjustment continues. Because we weren't able to connect with SAS customers in person at SAS Global Forum, a plan to reward engaged community members with swag became a trivia contest. If you're a SAS user, join us at 10:00AM ET on Tuesday, Aug. 25!