social media case studiesAre you looking for creative ways to grow your social media following?

Are you dealing with limited resources?

Then you’ll want to study what Microsoft Dynamics did.

How is a giant like Microsoft the same as everybody else when it comes to social media marketing?

They have the same challenges as any company. They have to figure out:

  • Whom they’re talking to
  • What their needs are
  • Where and how to talk to them

And even though they’re Microsoft, they still have limited resources to do it all. So how does Microsoft do social media? They start by trial and error, and then see what works and what needs changing. Sound familiar?

Over the past two years, Microsoft Dynamics, a business group of Microsoft, pruned their social channels by half, but now reaches more customers.

I spoke with Kelly Rigotti, senior marketing communication manager of social media for Microsoft Dynamics, to learn how they did it.

microsoft vine video

Microsoft Dynamics uses Vine videos as visual elements in their Twitter stream.

Social Media Handles and Stats


  • In 2011, had over 40 social accounts and blogs. Now has 23 accounts and blogs
  • Up to 75% of followers of their LinkedIn showcase page see their updates
  • YouTube views per month increased 700% over the last 15 months
  • Facebook fans increased 900% over 15 months with 99% unsponsored posts
  • Twitter account started from scratch in 2012 grown to over 13,000 followers

#1: Who’s in Charge of Social?

Before Rigotti was hired two years ago at Microsoft Dynamics, they had over 40 social media accounts and blogs spread over multiple platforms. A lot of people had social media as part of their job. But no single person was responsible for it as a whole.

Rigotti sees the way things evolved at Microsoft Dynamics as similar to what happens at many companies.

“Nobody would dream of going off and doing his or her own website,” she said. “You don’t go off and do your own advertising campaign.” But teams would start their own social channels because it was so easy.

“Somebody would hear about something new, like a blog, and get the okay from their manager to start it,” she said.

But the company realized they needed to start thinking strategically about social media. They created a new position and hired Rigotti, who had consulted for them previously. Her sole responsibility would be to manage social media.

microsoft social acccounts

Microsoft Dynamics started looking at social accounts strategically.

microsoft pared social acccounts

Microsoft Dynamics pared social accounts and groups to 23 from over 40.

#2: Storytelling vs. Talking About Products

Rigotti’s hiring coincided with a shift in marketing strategy for Microsoft as a whole. She characterizes it as a storytelling approach vs. a product-centered approach.

“We wanted to start talking to customers about what their needs are as opposed to what our products are,” she said.

Instead of talking about individual products, they would listen to their customers and then show how they could help them do their jobs better.

microsoft customer service update

Microsoft Dynamics shifted to addressing customer concerns with their social updates.

Many of the existing social accounts had been started by product specialists and had a product-centered approach. The shift meant these accounts would need to be cut, tweaked, repurposed or updated.

This required a diplomatic approach on Rigotti’s part. But first she needed to track down and evaluate what they had.

#3: Selling the Idea Internally

She searched to find all of the Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and other social accounts containing “Microsoft Dynamics” and figure out who owned them.

At the same time, she and her team of two were developing the messaging and talking to the people managing the accounts.

Since they would need to give control over to Rigotti and her team, she made special effort to bring everyone on board with the idea.

“We were not saying, ‘Thanks for your two years of work, but that doesn’t matter anymore,'” Rigotti explained. Instead she touted the benefits of letting her team take over the time-consuming tactical aspects of social media.

You share your expertise with me and I’ll make sure we grow the audience for that content,” was her message.

It wasn’t always an easy sell. “People are really rational when they see you’re not abandoning something, but instead bringing things together,” she added.

By the end of the first year, Rigotti’s team had pruned their social media accounts to four platforms, focusing on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Rigotti said she is often in the role of traffic cop, tracking down unofficial accounts that still pop up. “It’s a constant effort through education and communication,” she said. But she explains the reason for curbing additional accounts this way:

“We always ask, ‘Can we reach an audience with this account that we can’t reach on our other channels?'”

#4: Content + Connections

The company has a range of audiences, including end users, purchasers and solution partners in each of five priority industries.

“We don’t have specific social media communities for each one of those audiences,” said Rigotti.

So how do they reach more people with fewer social accounts? They think about what ties all these audiences together.

“We asked, ‘What’s the story we can tell that will appeal to as many of these people as possible?‘” Rigotti said.

The message they developed was that the technology you use makes a difference in the way you work. That story is the common thread they use in all their content on all their social media channels.

microsoft linkedin update

Even when talking about products, the focus is on solutions, not features.

For content, Rigotti and her team rely on product and industry specialists, such as manufacturing industry experts who know what that audience cares about. Then they think about how they can socialize that information.

About 30 people contribute content as determined by an editorial calendar. “It’s all about great content and great connections,” Rigotti said.

#5: Evaluating Results

The link between social media and product sales at Microsoft Dynamics is not direct, because end users typically purchase through a solution provider.

To evaluate social media activity, Rigotti said they approach it similarly to PR. The focus is on awareness and engagement.

They use the enterprise social media management program Sprinklr to track metrics such as reach, hashtag use, etc., and NetBreeze, which Microsoft Dynamics acquired in 2013, to track sentiment and mentions.

Though their measurement data is proprietary, Rigotti noted that they are getting great visibility with LinkedIn. Up to 75% of followers are seeing content from their LinkedIn showcase page. That translates to over a million followers getting their updates.

Their main Twitter account was started from scratch in 2012 and has grown to over 13,000 followers to date. Facebook and YouTube followers have grown to 10 times and 8 times their previous numbers, respectively, since mid-2012.

microsoft parature tweet

The Microsoft Dynamics Twitter account, new since 2012, has an engaged follower base.

Rigotti stresses that whatever metrics you evaluate, the most important thing is to be consistent over the long-term. Looking at a snapshot of data or a small sampling of posts won’t tell you much. Pick something to measure and evaluate it over time.

“Even if [the criteria] are not the most accurate, we can measure over time to see progress,” she said.

What do you think? Is your company overextended on social media? Could you benefit by pruning your accounts and focusing on storytelling to your core audience? Include your comments and questions below.

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  • fabiyiolawale

    I really love the writeup, like blue ocean strategy teaches analyzing the “painpoints of the customer” . Better to state the painpoints of potential customers which they can easily identify with than stating what you have to offer on the go,…great article

  • Rebecca Hauptman Cashman

    I don’t think that the headline was indicative of what this article is about. It is really a case study on Microsoft Dynamics Social Media Strategy. It doesn’t tell me how to get a 7-fold increase in my own followers/fans.

  • OutpostMagazine

    Wait, so how do we increase our Social Media following by over 700%?

  • WoW! these are good

  • I enjoyed the article and feel this is relevant to my responsibilities at the law firm where I am the Marketing Director. Even though I understand the focus of the article and general concepts I feel there is a need for a more specific write up on exactly what messages they used for their specific results. As always marketing can be very hard to evaluate and measure results when it comes to social media for smaller companies and it’s nice to see that large corporations struggle with the same problems.

  • Last year we scaled back Pinterest activity, began to just auto tweet and continued to consistently blog & email but focused about 75% of our SM efforts on Facebook resulting in 15,000 likes at Feb 2013 vs 80,000 likes a year later Feb 2014 (500% increase) – 90% of which are organic – so yes focus is critical to growth

  • Awesome

  • I definitely like what you showed in numbers 3 and 4. Sometimes it just comes down to the relationships you build to make things happen. Showing that determination to make the right connections really helps make a strong following.

  • kellyrigotti

    We really want to focus on our customers’ needs– thinking about how they use CRM & ERP solutions to create amazing customer experiences for their customers. With that, and the foundational idea that technology can make a difference in your work, in mind, creating content is easier. Thanks for your comment!

  • kellyrigotti

    Thanks Rebecca. True, this is a case study of what we as a team did, but I think the principles are easy enough to apply to other business cases (doing the work itself will be harder of course!). Find out what audiences and communities are out there, look to see which ones add value, listen for the kinds of conversations and content that people find useful, and then create that content. That sounds really simplistic of course, but it’s what has worked for us (and other clients before I joined Microsoft).

  • kellyrigotti

    Hard work. Good content. Time and effort. A little fairy dust and rainbow unicorns won’t hurt either :).

  • kellyrigotti

    Hi Marilee- Louise touched briefly on the messaging piece when she wrote about our editorial calendar and contributors. There will be differences between our worlds, of course, but having many contributors and content creators, and a calendar that we stick to has been very helpful in testing and measuring the effectiveness of our messages. Thanks for your comment.

  • kellyrigotti

    Absolutely– you have to find the communities and focus that work for you and your business!

  • kellyrigotti

    Thanks, James. I also have two fabulous community & project managers on my team, and they really help create connections through the content they share.

  • It’s so useful to see exactly how a strategy shift like this can bump up interaction. Of course, with @kellyrigotti:disqus at the helm, it would have to be smart business 🙂 I especially love the concept of moving toward storytelling rather than just broadcasting product updates.

  • Louise Julig

    The original title of the piece was, “How Microsoft Dynamics Reduced Social Channels by Half and Reached More Customers,” but it got changed in the editorial process. I’ll pass your comment up the chain — thanks for taking the time to give us feedback.

  • Louise Julig

    Thanks for your comment – I’m glad you got something out of the article.

  • Louise Julig

    As I replied to Rebecca below, the title of the piece changed during the editorial process. As you note, this is not strictly a how-to piece, but a case study on how Microsoft reduced their social channels and saw an increase in social media followers.

  • well done @louisejulig:disqus for the story. @kellyrigotti:disqus amazing insights and even better execution of the Social Media Marketing Strategy. Like you said: Storytelling is the key resource to engage more users and put them to be an important part of the strategy.

  • AmandahBlackwell

    Yesterday, I listened to a webinar about attracting recruiters to your LinkedIn account. Why? Because I knew I may learn something new that could help me improve my LinkedIn Profile and social media practices. One of the points made was to post relevant, helpful content. When you post a link to your blog post, tell a story and provide a solution to your audience’s problem.

    I feel as if I’m overextended on social media — it makes my head spin.

  • Very interesting reading. But there’s some additional factor that would have certainly help them to build up their audiences, something that most of us don’t have – or at least not to that degree: brand recognition.

    I have applied this type of strategy for some years now and results arrive for sure, but not as quickly as if I was doing the same using a big name (e.g.: Microsoft)

  • I agree with Rebecca. Very interesting Case Study though…

  • Awesome interview Louise! This is a great example of storytelling – tested and proven tactics are valuable as references, so thank you. And thank you for sharing the strategies you used Kelly!

  • Louise Julig

    Thank you for the kind words on the piece. I’ve done case studies on big brands and small companies, and I keep hearing the same things, namely, focus on stories, don’t just talk about yourself. A lot of social media success seems to come from applying basic principles, no matter what size the company is.

  • Louise Julig

    A well-established brand definitely has a leg up in that area, Antonio. But I thought it was interesting that they use the same trial and error approach that any company would. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • Louise Julig

    Thank you for your kind words on the piece! I enjoy learning what different companies are doing in social media.

  • kellyrigotti

    Thanks Rosemary!

  • kellyrigotti

    Thanks John. Louise and I met last year at the Social Media Examiner conference (I’m going again this year) and it was fun to be able to collaborate on this.

  • Totally agree on that one: sometimes the most basic and simple strategies – like trial and error – are the best ones, whilst overcomplicating things could lead to total failure.

  • Madhava Verma Dantuluri

    This is lot of analysis. Really appreciate on how you bring out all the stats so perfect.

  • MakeDigitalWork

    Great timing for me, as we are about to work with value added distributor starting a similar process, they have some great content that never sees the light of day, and nobody to drive the social activity, I love the idea of creating a short story in every tweet.

  • For sure. These kinds of case studies aren’t that helpful in terms of numbers. Your strategy didn’t get all those followers. People ‘like’ or ‘follow’ popular brands because of lots of other marketing and PR efforts over many years.

    The article might as well say ‘here’s what happens when Microsoft sets up any social network account’.

    What is helpful is showing your most popular types or posts and how you figured out what to write about.

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  • Emma Rorry

    thanks for the info. I would like to ask- are there any special instructions about how to increase my followers in local social networks (like…?

  • Louise Julig

    True, this is definitely more of a strategy story than a numbers story, and the title did not reflect that. However the point of the story was that even big brands need to think strategically to have success with social media – if they rely on name recognition alone they will fall behind.

  • They did something that works exceedingly well for all forms of marketing; developed a unified strategy and a goal oriented plan to achieve it. In retrospect, it’s a bit shocking an organization as large as MSFT didn’t have that in place already.

  • Louise Julig

    Microsoft Dynamics is only using the social platforms shown in the article, and meetey is not one of them. Try searching the Social Media Examiner site to see if there are any other writers who have done articles on local networks. Good luck.

  • Emma Rorry