How Microsoft Japan Used Social Media to Find Attendees

Microsoft Japan needed another way — in addition to email — to attract decision-makers to its online product demonstrations. Enter social media.

Seeking new customers for its Office 365 small-business suite of products, Microsoft Japan’s product team began conducting 50-minute live digital seminars three times each month beginning this past February to showcase the software’s features. These demonstrations were designed to engage high-level decision-makers such as company presidents, vice presidents, CEOs, and board members. But the team had to deal with a marketing constraint: Due to an internal frequency-control policy, they were allowed to send out only one email blast per week to potential customers. They turned to social media to supplement the blasts.

“One of our major challenges was to reach ‘new’ customers who are not listed in our owned database,” said Takashi Futaki, executive marketing specialist for Microsoft Japan. “Social media helped us to drive registration to the seminars by connecting with both sides of the businessperson — business and private — and bringing in new customers who are interested in Office 365.”

Using Facebook and Twitter, Futaki’s team promoted the seminars to potential customers on a daily — and sometimes hourly — basis, an approach that went hand-in-hand with the weekly emails. “Promotional emails have strong ‘push’ characteristics. We interrupt someone’s consciousness and fill their mailbox based on our initiative,” Futaki said. “However, social media is a ‘pull’ tactic because our message flow is off in a timeline that customers intentionally check. Both strategies have pros and cons, and both are complementary.”

In February, the team’s social lead began posting teasers: “What’s Office 365?” and “What’s the difference between Office 365 and Office?” on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day. Brief introductions to the seminars that included the date and time of the next session were posted daily. Ramped-up social-media efforts before each Office 365 Live Seminar succeeded in attracting 114 new leads and 86 attendees through Twitter and Facebook for five successive sessions. Using Rio SEO, a program that tracks social-media engagement, Futaki’s team found that their tweets and Facebook posts had the most impact in the week leading up to each seminar. “I think it’s related to instantaneousness of the consumption of the information on social media,” he said.

The social-media push had a snowball effect: As the campaign gained momentum, overall attendance at each seminar rose. “It seems continuous engagement generated interest in Office 365 and awareness of the series of seminars,” Futaki said. “Endurance makes you stronger.”

A Surprise Plus

Microsoft Japan’s Takashi Futaki said his team realized an unexpected benefit through its Facebook and Twitter campaign: Attendees gained through social-media efforts versus email promotions were more likely to ask questions during the 20-minute Q&A sessions held after each product demonstration. “Japanese people tend to hesitate to say something in front of many others, so you could often hear a pin drop during a Q&A session,” Futaki said. “However, the customers [acquired] from social media are familiar with communicating with others they’re unacquainted with.”

Social-media platforms in addition to Microsoft Japan’s choice of Facebook and Twitter — Instagram, Pinterest, and Vine, to name a few — can be used to market events. How to choose which ones best suit your needs? It depends on where your audience might “hang out online,” said social-media consultant Stephanie Frasco. You should “monitor where your social traffic comes from, and spend your time and resources there,” she advised on the Social Media Today blog. “Think about your social media as a billboard. You wouldn’t spend money on a billboard in the middle of Los Angeles if your business is in Louisville, right? The same is true for social media.”

Kate Mulcrone

Kate Mulcrone is digital editor of Convene.