Continuing the Conversation (Guestpost)

Thu 2 July 2009 10:30, Editors

Continuing the Conversation (Guestpost)

When you are looking for a Microsoft representative on a search event you will probably be finding Mel Carson. Mel Carson is Microsoft's Advertising Community Manager. As part of Microsoft Advertising,

Mel’s role is to build relationships within the online advertising community to support, educate & evangelise through & industry blogs & forums, and to speak about internet marketing at conferences, trade shows & other events.

Continuing the Conversation – Social Media & Microsoft Advertising

Customer feedback is crucial to improving our products and services here at Microsoft.

With the launch of Microsoft adCenter back in 2006, it was hugely important to provide some kind of mechanism to reach out and support advertisers who were in difficulty (OK so adCenter V1 had its opportunities...we know.....we know....!), and also provide our customers and potential customers with the kind of news and information that would help them get the most out of our PPC platform.

In the old days we had a blog and a forum. It went pretty well. Myself and Carolyn would trawl the message boards pointing folks to help resources or answering questions. We’d post a few times a week with some best practices, tips, advice or news about upgrades but it seems our advertisers wanted more.

As we scaled, adding to the mix the keyword add-in, now Microsoft Advertising Intelligence and tools like adLabs and the adCenter Desktop, we had to add more forums, solicit more content from SME’s (subject matter experts) within Microsoft who were willing to spend time writing about the products they’d built and continue the dialogue with customers to gather feedback as to how to make them even better.

We had to move to a new platform – Community Server 2007 – and more recently the pressure was on to expand our reach beyond just adCenter so early last month we launched Microsoft Advertising Community, a vibrant hub of information and support where advertisers can help each other or take advice from teams of Microsoftee’s who regularly dip in to give their 2 cents/pence!

If you’re looking to social media to help round off your marketing, sales, support or research efforts, don’t just rely on your own blog or forums as it makes sense to be where the conversations are being held elsewhere.

Our Twitter feeds for adCenter Blog, Microsoft Advertising and adCenter Rep have grown well in engagement and interaction. They are used for different things and it’s important to make the distinction between their functions. adCenter Blog is, you guessed it, all about PPC and search related content and discussion. Microsoft Advertising is where we talk about other things we’re doing outside the search space, so mobile, in-game, display and Atlas Institute research and adCenterRep is about pro-active outreach and support.

Keeping our Facebook Page regularly up-to-date with photos, videos from events & new product release discussions is crucial to providing fresh content that may be of use or curiosity for our fans.

There may be a lot of heavy lifting, remembering to update each channel with something new, but it pays by extending reach, creating a dialogue from which our product engineering and marketing teams glean a lot of valuable feedback which is then used to enhance plans for future iterations of our platform and tools.

Last week was perhaps the pinnacle of what we’ve been doing so far in the social media space.

Microsoft Advertising was sponsoring the Cannes Lions 2009 International Advertising festival in the South of France. With delegate numbers down 40% this year because of the recession, we decided to invest in a whole community effort that brought the festival to people’s desktop through our Cannes Community Site, Video Interviews and Highlights, Photos and Live Blogging! The reception was great and when the dust settles we’ll be able to share some numbers which demonstrate that it was well worth the small investment to have us there doing our social media thing.

Now a few years have gone by, I’m now getting more invitations to speak on social media and brand reputation management than I do about search. I’m proud that what we’ve been doing somehow resonates with the online marketing community and we’re seen as authentic and transparent.

But it has to be stressed that anyone can utilize social media effectively if you just invest a little time and integrate it into your business plan so thoroughly it becomes part of your companies DNA.

The internet has provided a fantastic channel for a meaningful, data-driven conversation with your customers.........long may it continue!

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