Microsoft: The blank canvas: Planning our Instagram launch — Live from Member Meeting 34

Coverage of this session by Courtney Graham of Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

4:30 —'s Brian Parks introduces Microsoft's Senior MarComm Manager, Rob Wolf.

4:32 — Rob: We're going to do something a little different. We're going to talk specifically about Instagram. We weren't on Instagram initially, so we saw an opportunity with a blank canvas.

4:33 — Rob: Why an Instagram launch? It's the third major platform and now has more active users than Twitter. Plus, it's growing at a rate faster than Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest combined.

4:34 — Rob: The kids love it. Piper Jaffray's does a study twice a year on the preference of teens, and it's shown a steady decrease in Facebook by teens, but a major increase for Instagram. Being on Instagram will help us reach a younger audience.

4:35 — Engagement is at a high for Instagram. Data from Forrester shows that a post on Twitter from a brand gets .03% engagement, Facebook gets .07%, and Instagram gets 4.3%. It would take a million fans on Facebook to get the same engagement from 16,000 on Instagram. So they weren't worried about not having a huge crowd right off the bat.

4:36 — Rob shares a new perspective on Instagram: Microsoft found that this is a place to get inspired, users take great pride in the artistry of their posts, and people can be fickle and quickly unfollow brands. They want something different from branded content — something they can't get on any other social platforms.

4:37 — What Instagram told Microsoft: Be true to your brand, share experiences, find beauty everywhere, inspire action, and know your audience.

4:37 — Rob shares some brands doing it well: General Electric, Starbucks, and Nike.

4:38 — It's about creating a world that helps you achieve more and do more through the brand. They used that idea to really craft the Instagram launch.

Rob: What kind of story could we tell that matched the ethos of Instagram?

4:39 — The big idea: The Instagram relay — a worldwide tour to meet the people who are achieving great things, thanks in part to Microsoft products. To do it, they started highlighting people and celebrating their accomplishments and passions. They hired a professional photographer to capture the images and then had to research to find the people to highlight. They assembled a crew to go on the road to find these people for the campaign. And used the hashtag, #domore.

4:40 — Planning the journey:

  • Researching our subjects
  • Assembling the crew
  • Campaign hashtag (#domore)
  • Cross-channel strategy
  • Paid Media
  • PR Suport
  • Internal communications

4:41 — Rob: We spent a good amount of money on the campaign, but we ended up with months of great content to use. It was worthwhile to invest heavily in the content.

4:43 — Rob says they launched the campaign in Seattle with a woman that was sharing entrepreneurial advice via Skype all across the South America. They utilized blogs to highlight the content.

4:44 — Microsoft maximizes their Instagram bio to highlight whatever blog post or story that's being told.

4:45 — They focused on the idea of pulling back the curtain — they really wanted to highlight what went into the project as well as the content for the campaign.

4:46 — Rob: Our Instagram launch has been an exercise of marketing restraint. It's not about always plugging the product or getting our message out there.

4:48 — Rob: Now that we have all these pictures out there, we are turning to the community to have them tell us about the people who are doing amazing things (and crowdsourcing the content from them).

4:50 — What's next?

  • Find a way to crowdsource stories
  • Integrate with brand campaign
  • Maintain quality
  • Don't be so damn precious about it
  • It's a long hard slog
  • Paid media: very top of the funnel

Q & A:

Q: What is your longterm strategy for ROI?

A: Rob: We think being on the platform and our current strategy is about long-term ROI. We think Instagram is going to be at a high brand level for awhile and we want to keep it more about the creative and inspirational.

Q: How did you get all your followers in a short amount of time?

A: Rob: It's tough and takes time. We look everyday to see how the investment is working. We've also seen that when we have a big brand moment, we'll see a little bump in followers. but for the most part it's steady. Over time, if you invest in good content, you'll grow your followers. It starts with content that makes the user pause.

Q: More of a comment: There's information out there that people make brand decisions based on emotion. I think that it's really good that Microsoft is staying true to the essence of Instagram and about sharing something beautiful.

Q: How did you integrate hashtags?

A: Rob: We try not to do too many hashtags in the post but we'll do some main ones in the main comment.

Q: How did you make the sale internally?

A: Rob: It's really about finding those that can get on board and really explaining the value of Instagram. It's not about driving sales or traffic. There's not necessarily a hard ROI. You have space on Instagram to tell a story about your brand, and the engagement is really high on these posts.

Q: How do you talk through the opportunity cost?

A: Rob: You'll probably be spending a lot of money, but you'll be getting a product and content worth sharing. You have to use the platforms as they are today and in ways in which you can get a positive reaction.

Q: What insights do you have from advertising on Instagram?

A: Rob: The way Instagram advertising works today, you can't really put money behind organic posts that do well. Users aren't always up-to-date to your content when they see the ad. You have to assume they are new to your content. We also found that followers don't like a call to action so it's not good to be a noisy brand. They want the platform to stay true.