REDDIT SOCIAL OUTREACH by Blockdot for Microsoft

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REDDIT SOCIAL OUTREACH

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Industry IT & Electronical Components
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Agency Blockdot
Released August 2012

Credits & Description

Category: Best Use of Digital PR
Advertiser: MICROSOFT
Product/Service: BRAND IDENTITY FORUM
Senior Strategist: Ryan Valley (Blockdot)
Program Manager: Sudhir Diddee (Microsoft)
Product Manager: S.I. Newhouse (Condé Nast)
Media placement: Social Bookmarking - reddit.com - June 6th 2010

Summary of the Campaign
Microsoft wanted to discover better ways of communicating their brand identity, product messages and value proposition to the US technical audiences while addressing critics within the core technical audience sector. The challenge was to start endearing Microsoft to communities with significant internet and technology influence. Reddit is an audience who has been less than positive to MS products in the past and would need to be engaged in a new method. Social Media has provided excellent two way conversation for marketers and consumers however with the tech savvy community this hasn’t worked as expected. Microsoft enlisted some of its brightest minds to discuss every aspect of their group’s products with the community at reddit.com through a specialized marketing and PR campaign.
The result was met with mixed emotions at first, but within months it was being received more positively than anyone had imagined. Negativity turned into influence, comments turned into questions, advice, and product improvements and most importantly, customers. No longer a faceless corporation, Microsoft now started giving and receiving feedback with one of its most important buying audiences.
Using traditional display ads, Microsoft harnessed digital influence in a new, groundbreaking manner.

The Situation
For many years Microsoft has struggled to reach the younger tech savvy audience in a meaningful way while reaching a massive amount of the demographic.
Microsoft wanted to elicit feedback from the group in its key demographic who are generally not receptive to advertising. This was combined with the fact that many already held a negative impression of Microsoft. It was time to shift perceptions to the reality and give a face to Microsoft.
Microsoft was for the most part seen as a monolithic and unreceptive corporation on reddit.com and there was no representation to combat this.

The Goal
There were two distinct goals with the campaign. The first goal was to create awareness to competitive products that Microsoft developers have created that help to simplify the life of IT Professionals, developers, and tech savvy digital natives.
The second goal was to start changing perceptions and endearing the Microsoft brand to a generation that evangelizes the next generation of products that will be seen in our consumer digital lives and enterprise IT solution stacks.
It was agreed that reddit has become a most influential forum within the audiences that MSFT sought. Statistics on their site backed this theory up.

The Strategy
Traditional methods of reach and frequency through simple display ads have not been successful with this audience segment ever. The plan was not to abandon ads, but rather put them in a place that we would have those ads and direct them to a meaningful conversation with their peer group employed at Microsoft.
Microsoft would engage members of the community within reddit and not involve marketers in the conversations. The marketing would be simple and make use of the trusted alien reddit brand. It would use ads to drive members to sections within its own site. In this case the r/iAmA subreddit.
Microsoft, on reddit and with our advice, assembled teams of their top technical staff who would be available live on reddit for a period of time. Through a series of reddit alien co-branded ads users were directed to the conversation.
Meanwhile MS staff members gathered in a room and prepared...

Execution
It was decided that a minimum of 3 campaigns would need to be launched. Ads would be placed to direct the community to on-site conversation at r/iama.
The Internet Explorer 9 team was the first. We knew the IE brand was one of the least well received Microsoft brands at reddit, their developers had many issues with previous versions. Questions were asked, and answered. The audience was not happy and wanted real time answers. IE9 came back, answered live and took much criticism. The overall experience proved their brand was under attack, but technical comments about the new browser were positive.
The next group was Hotmail. They took less criticism and received amazing product feedback which is being implemented into their software today.
Microsoft Lync was the third. It is a very enterprise focused product and had a huge win. Members began defending Microsoft against critics and accepted their presence.

Documented Results
The campaign has achieved results in the three most important criteria’s. It received millions of views.

1. Brand endorsement:
Often the easiest goal to obtain in advertising is Brand Awareness and most difficult is Brand Endorsement. During the final campaign the result was greater than anyone expected. Redditors who were critical were now involved; the audience that was once resistant was now evangelizing Microsoft and including them in the community.

2. Media Attention:
When word got out that Microsoft was on the reddit site interacting, a lot of tech pundits held their breath and anticipated the worst. It got blogged instantly and was covered in the NY Times. This helped hit critical mass quickly.

3. Trial and Purchase:
Brand Awareness means nothing until in converts to sales. The reddit community is intelligent and clicked through to trial each product group offering, gave feedback, and many are now counted as customers.