Social media policies Microsoft

Starbucks took home the top prize in an analysis of how major companies are using social media to connect with their customers. But Microsoft took fifth place, barely trailing Dell, eBay and Google in a list of 100 brands.

Seattlepi.com‘s Starbucks reporter, Sara Kiesler, and I published a joint report Monday on the social-media marketing performances of Starbucks and Microsoft, two of the Seattle area’s biggest businesses. It’s based off of a July report that found social-media marketing is not only good for customer relations, it’s also good for the bottom line.

Microsoft has used social media to foster similar fandom and excitement around Bing, its new search engine. Every Friday, @bing posts a question on the Bing Community Blog and on Twitter for followers, then gives free T-shirts to those who respond with the Twitter tag #ftf (Free T-shirt Friday) before their answer.

Gayle Troberman, Microsoft’s general manager of advertising and customer engagement, said Microsoft doesn’t have an all-encompassing social media marketing policy. Microsoft’s marketing teams simply use social-media tools to promote brands and, more importantly, get feedback from customers about what advertisements work and what people are excited about.

I was pleased we were able to publish our report before Oct. 22, when Microsoft releases Windows 7, because it will be interesting to watch the company’s approach to marketing the new operating system through social-media channels. These include blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and other social networks.

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Download the social-media engagement report (PDF). An interactive version is available at engagementdb.com.

Troberman said Microsoft was, through its social-media marketing channels, able to quickly hear feedback on the advertisement. For the most part, people didn’t like it.

“There’s sort of a new reality in advertising that we pay attention to, ” she said. “In the social sphere, the immediacy of reaction and response is different.”

“You see when you put yourself out there in the media, or free media, sphere, ” she added, “it’s not just about where you’re saying, it’s about what people are seeing and what they say in response.”

Microsoft operates in too many social-media channels to count. Its teams – corporate communications, engineering, marketing, et cetera – run dozens of blogs about dozens of different products. The company has more than 50 Twitter accounts – official and unofficial. And Redmond runs more than 20 Facebook pages for different Microsoft brands.

A partial list of Microsoft’s social-media channels is viewable on the company’s profile at engagmentdb.com, the interactive online companion to July’s social-media marketing analysis.

“Social media really has its own rules, ” Troberman said. “Done well, it’s not just pushing messages, it’s listening. … It’s reminded us that we need to listen more than shout.”

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