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Microsoft Goes Viral with the Help of Brickfish – Part Three

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This is the third part of a three-part series about Microsoft and Brickfish teaming up to get the "I’m a PC" campaign all across the Internet. The first part was about the actual campaign and how the two are working together. The second part was an interview with Brickfish CEO/President/Co-founder Nichole Goodyear. This part, the third and final part, is an interview with Microsoft's social media specialists, focusing on this specific campaign, and the probable campaigns in the future, as well as what Microsoft is doing to recapture the college market.

What are your names and positions within Microsoft? What exactly do your positions entail? Can you each tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Marty Collins is the Social Media Strategist for Windows and leads the Windows Social Media Marketing team. The team's primary goal is to use online, social media and communities to manage a positive and on-going conversation with our customers. Our approach: We know our customers are online. They are reading and writing forums, participating in communities like Facebook and MyYearbook, Tweeting, blogging, reviewing, you name it. Our objective is not only to inspire our passionate customers to advocate for our products in these spaces, but also to have a valuable presence and relationship with the existing communities that allow brands to have a presence.

To that end, the Windows Social Media Team has created a community on its own domain called the Windows Live Clubhouse, which launched in August 2008. Active and passionate WindowsLive members write about tips, tricks, and personal experiences with our Live suite of products (Hotmail, Live Gallery, Messenger, Spaces, etc.). Then, other members of the community can vote and review on that user-generated content. With enough reviews and comments, the UGC is pushed out to WindowsLive.com and becomes publicly available to anyone visiting the site. We see value in engaging our passionate users and broadcasting their insights to like-minded customers. This effort is managed by Marcus Schmidt and you can learn more about the Clubhouse here.

Ali Wiezbowski is the Social Media Marketing Manager and manages another primary aspect of our team's work: the strategy and implementation of a valuable brand presence in communities that exist off Windows' domains. Those include Facebook, YouTube and Brickfish, as well as other popular tech forums like Yahoo Answers. Ali's role is to consider how to complement product launches and consumer campaigns across the Windows organization (and not one or the other), as well as maintain an on-going, 24/7 conversation with our community members in these spaces. These forums have been designed to evolve over time, and will continue to do so as the Windows Social Media Marketing team matures. She graduated in May 2008 from the University of Pennsylvania with a double Bachelor's degree in Communications and Visual Studies, and moved to Seattle in July of this year to start her career with Windows.

For those college kids out there, how did you get your job with Microsoft?

AW: I was lucky because Microsoft came to me. We send recruiters out to college campuses around the country to participate in college fairs and recruit future graduates. I spent some time discussing the culture and the job opportunities with Microsoft employees who'd graduated from my alma mater, and I was convinced. More information about opportunities and local college visits can be found Here.

This year, I participated in the recruitment process from the other side of the fence, which I think bears an interesting perspective. For all the college kids out there: It's not just about the detailed questions you ask and how well you think you know the company, don't just try to impress me or name-drop your former internships. The candidates that were most intriguing demonstrated an authentic enthusiasm for communications technology and the job field they were applying for, which speaks wonders to the culture of our organization.

You and Brickfish are working together under the "I'm A PC" campaign. Would you please tell us how exactly you guys got in contact and how you came up with the idea of using the Internet to virally market?

MC: We teamed up with Brickfish to add more social media elements to our "I'm a PC" campaign. One of our overarching goals of the campaign was to connect with our customers and the web is a perfect medium for fostering an ongoing conversation. This particular project invited people to submit photos or videos that express how each person "is a PC." The most creative entries will win prizes ranging from a fully loaded Alienware M17 laptop to an Xbox 360 console and a $250 gift card to Xbox.com.

Tell us a little bit about the "Life Without Walls" campaign, the "I'm A PC" campaign, and the "Mojave Experiment" campaign. What are the goals of each campaign, and are they working so far?

MC: We had a few goals when we rolled out the various campaigns earlier this year and while it's too soon to share specific results we are very encouraged by the reception we've received from our customers. The purpose of the "Life Without Walls" campaign is to actually use Windows as a metaphor for showcasing how the product is an indispensible part of the lives of a billion people around the globe — it helps remove the walls in your life (work, play, communicate, connect) and remove the walls between the technologies you use (desktop, laptop, phone, Web). With Real PC, our goal is to shift the conversation, to tell our story and instill a sense of pride among Windows and PC users. The Mojave Experiment is designed to address the perceptions in the marketplace about Vista that are out-dated. If you look at data from the last six months, customer satisfaction levels are high among people with Vista, so Mojave is a way to demonstrate the true value of the product.

Specifically thinking about the "I'm A PC" campaign, let's dig a little deeper. What was the target demographic? What did you expect to happen? Did it happen?

MC: Again, it's too soon to share results. This is a long-term campaign and we're very pleased with the reception we've received so far. The central theme around that particular campaign was instilling a sense of pride among the billion people around the world who are PC users and to give them a voice as individuals. Based on the user generated content we've seen in response to the ads from our customers, we believe we've hit a nerve. People were tired of the false image of the PC user that had been perpetuated in the market and were happy to lend their voice to a very diverse community of PC users.

Share with us some interesting submissions (please link to them if you can) that have been submitted so far for the "I'm A PC" campaign. What do you like about them? Do you think that they will help sell more Windows OSes?

AW: Certainly! My favorites are the ones that are creative and humorous, which reflects the Brickfish community and sheds a new light & youth into this campaign. I do think they will influence and improve perceptions of the PC brand and I certainly believe that will help more sell more PCs the long-term.  Some examples below, submitted by:
psahmn
thesweetestangel
manzelle
Sara_nicole3

What are the future plans of viral marketing by Microsoft? Do you plan to use Brickfish again?

MC: Stay tuned. We have lots of ideas we're considering but we're not ready to announce anything right now.

When Vista was released it was greeted with a mixed reception by the public bordering on negative reviews [with which the interviewer strongly disagreed]. Do you believe that the recent campaigns by Microsoft are starting to break through this perception? How are you guys planning on combating this in the near future? What about for the Windows 7 launch; how do you guys plan on addressing it then?

MC: The Mojave Experiment was designed to break thru those outdated perceptions about Vista. In a recent independent survey, over 89% of existing Windows Vista users in the U.S. say they are satisfied or very satisfied with the product. That data also shows that favorability increases the more familiar people are with Windows Vista. We're excited about the early buzz for Windows 7 and for anyone considering a PC purchase in the near future, Vista is a great path to 7. I can't comment on future marketing plans, but I can say we'll continue to tell our story and look for creative ways to connect with our Windows customer.

Can you expand a bit on the Mojave Experiment?
Here is some more of the information and the link to the Mojave Experiment website. The Mojave Experiment was less of a survey and more of a focus group project to better understand customer reactions to Windows Vista — when they were not actually aware that it was Windows Vista. A small sample of participants were asked to discuss their perceptions of Vista and then shown what we called "the latest version of Windows," code-named "Mojave." Many subjects liked what they saw in "Mojave," which was later revealed to be Windows Vista. The videos of their perceptions & reactions can be found on on the website.

Please click here to see part one and part two in this series.

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About Robert M. Barga