How Microsoft Leveraged Bloggers for a Successful Product Launch
The company typically relies heavily on advertising and PR to get the word out.
But for its Office 365 product, the team took a different approach.
Using partnerships and social media, Microsoft connected specifically with women business owners – a key audience group.
Rather than directing promotional messages toward them, Microsoft involved them in the process from start to finish.
“It’s definitely innovation within a large matrix organization like Microsoft that hasn’t really done this in the past,” said Penny Delgadillo, senior product manager at Microsoft.
In just a two-month period, the entirely social Office 365 “Your Office, Your Terms” campaign garnered 5.8 million overall campaign impressions and four times more traffic from social sharing than the typical Microsoft campaign.
Target: Eight Million Women Business Owners
Launched in June 2011, Microsoft’s Office 365 product gives users web-based (cloud) access to email and calendars, Office web apps, web conferencing and file sharing. For this brand-new product, Microsoft targeted high-level female executives, entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Approximately 29 percent of U.S. businesses are women-owned, but the number of those businesses has grown by 44% in recent years, twice as fast as men-owned firms. With that in mind, the Office 365 team tapped this group to co-create content for its women-specific campaign, “Your Office, Your Terms.”
“Knowing our sweet spot is small business and eight million in the market today are woman-owned, there was a tremendous opportunity there,” Delgadillo said. “We invested digitally and drove thought leadership around topics for them.”
Here’s how Microsoft teamed with women to generate conversations, interest and traffic for its “Your Office, Your Terms” campaign:
#1: A Peek Into Business Owners’ Minds
Ahead of the campaign, the team needed to understand what was on the minds of women in business. Microsoft decided to partner with 85 Broads, a nationwide network of women executives and business owners. With a regular blog for Forbes.com, the organization brought valuable connections and a high profile.
“You have to choose organizations that are going to give you instant credibility,” Delgadillo said.
Through the survey, Microsoft learned that remote working increases productivity and job satisfaction – giving the company some strong topics for conversation across its social networks.
#2: A Packed Editorial Calendar
With insight from the survey, Microsoft built a high-volume editorial calendar with a content mix from 80 percent women in business and 20 percent Microsoft authors.
“We have about 65 influential women bloggers across a variety of media. Whether they’re business owners themselves, whether thought leaders in their own marketplace, whether they’re presidents and owners of different organizations that help women-owned businesses, we cultivate these relationships and have them drive our social message and outreach,” Delgadillo said.
With its Office 365 blog, Microsoft provided the platform for content and discussions, as well as facilitated guest post contributions for leading business publications.
The campaign also generated a number of posts on external blogs such as TechMamas and News on Women.
With such an active content calendar, the company landed 30 original stories in 60 days.
#3: Rich Content, Shared via Social
That rich content gave Microsoft attractive, high-value posts for the company’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages:
#4: From Interaction to Action
So, how does in-demand content and “hyper-social” activity translate to people taking action – learning about the product and downloading a free trial?
“We did a good amount of work in terms of, how do we make social turn into dollars and sense?” Delgadillo said.
Rather than overtly pitch, Microsoft simply encouraged bloggers to talk about technology that enables remote working success and other best practices of women in business. At the bottom of articles and blog posts, readers could click links to learn more, download a free trial of the product or buy it.
#5: Measure Everything
To measure engagement during and after the campaign, Microsoft relied on a toolkit of applications:
- Sprinklr, an enterprise social CRM tool, helped the company evolve its conversation channels, workflows and queues, monitoring dashboards, reporting, audience and content management.
- The company enabled Meteor Solutions on all campaign pages and posts to allow tracking of percentage of visitors from social media, top conversion rates and many other important social sharing metrics.
- Microsoft embedded RIO/Atlas tracking into all social posts to track end-action of try, buy, registration and “find a partner.”
- Simply Measuredallowed the company to aggregate social media data from across several networks and the web to ensure proper tracking on outgoing messages.
Half Clicked to Try/Buy
The campaign ran approximately two months, from November to January 2012 – notably across two of the biggest holidays in the U.S. The team’s focus on engaging with women drew impressive traffic:
- 45 percent of visitors to the product site were from social sharing, compared to 10 percent on average for Microsoft.
- Over half of site visitors clicked Try/Buy.
- The “Your Office, Your Terms” page was the most visited page on the Office 365 site in December (74 percent of all U.S. Office 365 page engagement).
- The campaign garnered a lower average cost for the company.
“We effectively utilized audience marketing and the power of social to amplify our message organically to still meet the end result and not proactively spam the end user with try or buy messaging,” said Matthew Tennant, a social media consultant/manager for Microsoft.
What do you think? What organizations and influencers can you team with to bring high-value content to your audience? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.
Casey Hibbard is Social Media Examiner's case study writer. She is also president of Compelling Cases Inc. and author of Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset. Other posts by Casey Hibbard »