Rob Wolf

Rob Wolf on how Microsoft tells stories in social media

This post features a case study from Microsoft Social Media Manager Rob Wolf at our Brands-Only Summit in Orlando on storytelling at Microsoft. Rob's been a member of since 2011 and gave another great presentation at our Member Meeting in Los Angeles.

“As storytellers, we have to ask ourselves a fundamental question: What do we want people to believe?”

In his presentation at our Brands-Only Summit in Orlando, Microsoft Social Media Manager Rob Wolf explains social storytelling has to start with this goal in mind. For example, he says Microsoft wants people to believe they're good corporate citizens, their family of devices work together, and their offices are great places to work.

But there's a problem: No one cares about what you want them to believe.

“No matter how we answer the question, it’s not about what we want,” says Rob.

The things on our storytelling agenda are what we want people to think, but it’s not what customers care about. So we have to entice them, to speak to their needs and their desires to lead a more productive and happier life and do the things that matter to them.”

Rob's team uses a chart to map the intersection of what they want people to believe and how they get them to care.

He says these charts are driven by tactics like long-form stories, contests, special offers, behind-the-scenes looks, and celebrity tie-ins. At the intersection of these tactics and their goals might be something like Microsoft's version of The New York Time'sSnow Fall,” called “88 Acres.”

The long-form, visual article featured Microsoft's 88-acre campus and a story about an employee named Darrell. Rob says Darrell and a small team of engineers used Microsoft software to interconnect monitoring and energy systems for 125 buildings — a feat that turned a five-year job into a 15-minute task and saved the company millions of dollars a year.

“This becomes a story about inventing the future, corporate responsibility, and a great place to work — and Darrell was the hero of this story.”

When Microsoft pitched this story to the media, they were turned down.

Rob's team decided they could probably tell the story better themselves than another media outlet anyway. So they shared it in their Microsoft News Center, a site that houses the content they share in social media.

“By telling the story ourselves, we got many of those same publications who passed on it in the first place to write about it and tell the story for us,” says Rob. “This is a great example where we took the initiative to tell the story ourselves and it resulted in tons of business.”

With all of the coverage of Microsoft's “88 Acres,” Darrell and his team got tons of phone calls from city governments asking for Microsoft's help with consulting and software.

“But no one Facebook post and no one tweet is going to change someone's mind permanently,” says Rob.

He says it's about continually trying new things and sharing tons of stories like these to change minds over time.

“Those stories are out there and every company is going to have its Darrells. You just have to go out and find them.”

Say hello to Rob on Twitter and ask about his favorite photography subject.