How Microsoft Leveraged Bloggers for a Successful Product Launch

social media case studiesSoftware giant Microsoft launches dozens of products and services every year.

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.

facebook

More than 62,000 fans follow the product on Facebook.

Organization: Microsoft

Social Media Handles & Stats:

Highlights:

  • The “Your Office, Your Terms” campaign brought in 5.8 million campaign impressions.
  • With an active content calendar, the company landed 30 original stories in 60 days.
  • The content mix was 80 percent women in business and 20 percent Microsoft authors.
  • The campaign brought in more than four times the amount of traffic from social sharing than the average Microsoft campaign.
  • Over half of site visitors clicked Try/Buy.

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.

facebook 85 broads

Through 85 Broads, Microsoft conducted a survey of members around remote working and technology.

forbes story

Microsoft's Maggie Chan Jones shared insight on women's remote working preferences on Forbes.com.

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.

The 85 Broads partnership helped open doors to collaborate with other women’s organizations and influencers such as Women 2.0, TechMamas and the National Council for Research on Women.

“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.

fast company

Fast Company expert blogger Cali Williams Yost wrote about remote work.

The campaign also generated a number of posts on external blogs such as TechMamas and News on Women.

tech mamas

Beth Blecherman wrote about remote work on her popular blog, TechMamas.

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:

women

Microsoft teamed with respected women professionals for guest posts.

forbes

The list of high-profile guest contributions included Forbes.

sharepoint

Microsoft used a hashtag (#YOYT) for the Your Office, Your Terms campaign.

facebook

Expert tips truly engaged the target audience.

#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.

call to action

A friendly "call to action" in the TechMamas article.

#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.

    meteor solutions

    Meteor Solutions was just one tool the "Your Office, Your Terms" team used to measure results.

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.

Microsoft’s Launch Lessons

  • Know your audience – Before kickoff, Microsoft conducted a survey through the organization 85 Broads to understand the top issues and design content accordingly.
  • Increase credibility with partnerships – Partnerships gave the company “instant credibility” with its target audience: women in business.
  • Complement online with offline – Microsoft hosted live events at its own stores and through partner organizations to give women a chance to interact face to face. On average, events brought in more than 100 attendees, driving the funnel of demos, trials and purchases.
  • Create win-win opportunities – By featuring guest bloggers on its site and others, Microsoft built its thought leadership and gained exposure for Office 365.
  • Measure, measure – The team continuously monitored and measured its impact with tools such as Sprinklr, RIO/Atlas, Meteor Solutions and Simply Measured.

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.

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About the Author, Casey Hibbard

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 »




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  • $44796859

    Thanks for such a comprehensive insight :) So much to talk about, but I don’t think the power of guest blogging can be underestimated.

  • http://www.nutmeg.co.uk/ Julie from Nutmeg

    Thanks for posting this case study, Casey. As the social media manager for Nutmeg, an online investment manager, I agree with the need to engage with influencers and measure results. I think one of the keys is to reach out to the right audience for your company’s brand. 

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  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com/ Nick Robinson

    It’s the “other people” variable in the Launch equation! I think this case study is a direct reflection of what Social Media Examiner stands for. Provide great content and experiences first, and people will trust that you provide a superior business offering. Great post!

  • http://www.mybizperforms.com/ Bettina Horvath

    What a great article wow! It’s not often that one gets such a lot of inside information on how companies run campaigns. Most valuable and hugely appreciated, thank you very much! 

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  • http://anitaloomba.com/ Anita Loomba

    What a great case study! As another social media manager, I agree with Microsoft’s approach of listening to their potential customers – by investing in a survey to understand them better. Using that to design the content was a big win for them. Thank you for sharing!

  • Cheli

    Thanks for writing this case study – it was well explained and I appreciated the way you broke the process down into different areas, discussing in detail each one. It helps give me a better idea of how each element works towards a successful outcome.

  • http://www.wordconstructions.com.au/blog Tash Hughes

    Great to read about how a campaign is aimed at listening to customers and encouraging people to interact and share ideas. Certainly supports my belief in guest blogging, too.

    I love the way they not only got to know their audience through a survey but also used that survey to start the campaign and build some momentum.

  • http://www.coupon4codes.com/ couponcode

    I love the story

  • DonnaGilliland

    Casey, you did a great job on the research for this case study. As a social media trainer as well as a Microsoft Office trainer, this article really appealed to me.

    Interesting that the Microsoft Office 365 marketing is primarily women.

    Fabulous insight into Microsoft’s leverage of social media to promote Office 365. Thanks Casey.

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    Great point, Julie!  

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    :)  Glad you noticed, Nick!

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    You’re welcome, Bettina!

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    Good point, Anita!  I’m always surprised at how little surveys are used.

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    Glad you liked it, Cheli!

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    Yes. Good point, Tash!

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    Thanks for sharing, Donna!  It is interesting about marketing to women, isn’t it? 

  • caseyhibbard

    Yes, thanks Bettina! It was so interesting to see behind the curtain on such a big name’s social media efforts.

  • caseyhibbard

    I appreciate your comments Donna. Women are certainly not the only market for this product, but they really did a good job of finding a niche, creating messaging around it and going after it.

  • http://twitter.com/bstraley Ben Straley

    Really informative case study.  What this illustrates more than anything else is how quality information delivered regularly by authentic voices can make marketing programs really go.  The results speak for themselves.

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  • http://anitaloomba.com/ Anita Loomba

    This was very similar to Microsoft’s promotion with their Accounting software in 2006. They challenged people to use the software to bring business ideas to life, calling it IdeaWins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62O6TzWWKvw.

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  • Rod Beckford

    Wow! Such a friendly a positive service !  thanks Becky ,,its so good to be in the know and follow through with current events.  love the video and content.
    Kind Regards

    Rod Beckford (london)

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  • Matthew Tennant

    I’m glad everyone liked the work and the case study!  More to come ;)

  • http://Forexsig.com/ Firebal989

    Great job on this case study, very interesting.  Microsoft seems to take a variety of approaches when launching products, and the way bloggers had a heavy impact in this one if very intesting and great to see =)

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