December 20, 2014

Michael Westgate of Microsoft: Leveraging Participatory Marketing

Social media has opened up many new marketing doors and along with it, new marketing perspectives. Michael Westgate, Sr. Marketing Manager and Social Media Lead at Microsoft, joins Brent Leary to discuss a concept he calls participatory marketing.  Tune in as Michael discusses how to best leverage social media using this concept.

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Michael Westgate of MicrosoftSmall Business Trends: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Michael Westgate: I’m part of the small and mid-sized business organization and I manage our customer acquisition efforts, which includes social media and digital media.

Small Business Trends: Can you tell us what behavioral marketing is and how social and mobile has impacted that area?

Michael Westgate: I don’t think behavioral marketing necessarily is a new term, but maybe a more relevant term for the social media space would be participatory marketing.

How do we not only engage audiences, but allow them to share news, reviews, attitudes and ideas about products and services? How do we get them engaged in not only conversations with us, but activities that might be a value-add. That’s what I’m referring to with regards to behavioral.

Small Business Trends: Are we getting to the point where companies look for how social media is translating into long term advocacy from customers as opposed to how many followers they have, etc.?

Michael Westgate: We think about social media and how we can attribute different actions back to either “likes” or engagements. We are looking at easier ways to track things such as “likes.”  We’re also trying to dive a bit deeper and segment how different engagements look.

What types of users are engaging? Who is more active? Who might be advocates?

Small Business Trends: What are some of the things Microsoft is doing?

Michael Westgate: Microsoft might be unique in this as we do have a social presence for a lot of different products.  I’m in an audience team. So, Microsoft’s SMB team has social profiles on Twitter and Facebook.  We also have a YouTube channel because we believe that is where our community, our target audience, resides and shares ideas.

There’s enough proliferation in Facebook and Twitter, where we don’t need multiple accounts. But if they’re serving a distinct purpose, for instance, specific to Microsoft for small and medium business, it makes sense to have conversations there.  Because we find a lot of small businesses are looking for ideas on technology, listening to thought leaders, following particular conversations and hash tags.  To understand what is the latest and greatest in productivity, networking, and so forth for their business.

Small Business Trends: How do you measure if you are hitting the mark?  If you are using the right channel?  Or if you’re using the right kind of content?

Michael Westgate: What we’re trying to understand best is not only how can we use the right property, but what is the right way to measure that property? We feel if we have been able to develop a dialogue and solve a customer service issue, answer a product question, or maybe even connect a customer to a local partner that needs technology support and deployment and services, those are the metrics that we’re most interested in.

It’s an amplification of the rest of our marketing efforts really. To once again engage that customer make sure we’re meeting their needs no matter where they find us. If they found us on our website or if they happen to come across us in Facebook, it’s a consistent experience.  They’re able to either connect to a partner or find answers to the questions that they have.

Small Business Trends: How would you recommend a new company try to figure out how to leverage social media to engage their audience?

Michael Westgate: The most important thing is to identify who your target is and then ask yourself, “Where do they go for information, and reviews, and ideas?” If you can identify in the social space that there are specific locations, conversations and groups, go and participate there.

I think that’s a great place to start, whether it’s Facebook or it’s a LinkedIn group. If you’re continually delivering value and creating a strong network with engagement and response, and you’re human and relevant, then your community will build in size.  You can continue to liberate even more value there.

We sponsored a service called Brandify.com.  It’s basically a free online tool for small businesses to understand their Web presence and search ability, their social media foot print. It will find your Facebook page or your Twitter location. It’ll find your Bing local ad business listing and then tell you, based on search engine optimization principles, this is how searchable you are in this category. Here are the sites you have. Here’s your score today. Here’s some very easy steps to how you might improve it.

It’s for those of us with small businesses that are just getting into the game and really want to understand how better to market in the modern age of social media.

Small Business Trends: Klout has recently updated their formula. What role do they play?

Michael Westgate: I think it depends on how Klout scores are viewed. They could be very helpful to a business.  Because it takes you one step deeper into not only understanding how many in aggregate followers you might have, Facebook likes for instance.  But what are the network effects of those particular users? Especially those that are taking action. I also have heard detraction as well.

I heard that in London, Big Ben has a Klout profile and a score higher than everybody else. Because every time you log in, it tweets a tweet giving the time. A lot of people share that and the Klout score is through the roof.

So you have to ask questions and understand, “Now what is this metric?  Is it most relevant to what I’m trying to measure here?”

Small Business Trends: Where can people lean more?

Michael Westgate: Go to Microsoft for SMB on Facebook or on Twitter @MicrosoftSMB.

This interview is part of our One on One interview series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. 

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Brent Leary


Brent Leary Brent Leary is a Partner at CRM Essentials and organizer of the Social Business Atlanta conference. Brent serves on the advisory board of The University of Toronto CRM Center of Excellence, writes the Social CRM column for Inc.com's technology site, and blogs at Brent's Social CRM Blog.

4 Reactions

  1. Good stuff Michael and Brent. I am curious on any specific feedback you have gotten from small businesses on important is social media (compared to other channels) in helping them research products and services and select vendors. Are some industries more receptive than others? What kinds of companies are more likely to engage you in making purchase decisions? Is there a way to describe a typical decision maker?

  2. Dan –
    Great questions, a lot of which we are still grappling with. As our community grows (concurrently with broad social media usage), we find that the speed, relevance, and availability of answers and opinions/reviews makes social media a go-to for a growing number of small businesses. For instance, in the mid-market space, a significant # of technical decision makers and IT Pro’s use Spiceworks to source this type of data. Spiceworks is a free networking tool and online community for IT Pro’s. Though our own profiling information in Twitter and Facebook is still limited, we surmise that a large portion of our audience is small and emerging (<50 employees) and often wearing multiple hats :).
    Thanks!

  3. Great read Michael and Brent, very interesting topic. I have a question for Michael in terms of what he feels are the rules of the game in terms of engaging in participatory marketing, if there are any.

  4. That interview was very interesting. I work in a very busy office, but got so interested in the interview that I put my phones on hold.

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