Thanks to the explosion of social media, tons of brands are bringing contests to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and the like. Thousands of people enter contests by retweeting or pinning things, and it leads to a lot of buzz and exposure for companies.
And personally, I’ve entered dozens of social media contests. Best of all, I actually won one! I submitted an Instagram picture of Converse shoes to win some more Converse. But that’s a story for another day.
Today’s story is about how Microsoft and their PR department surprised one fan (me!) with a trip to New York to celebrate the launch of the Microsoft Store in Times Square.
It started, as many things do these days, with a tweet.
— Mandy Kilinskis (@ImAmandaJulius) October 19, 2012
I have been excited about Surface ever since Microsoft announced it back in June. I mean, a tablet with a snap-in keyboard cover that has Word? As a writer, that’s everything I want in a tablet. But then they announced the pricing, and hopes of getting one were dashed. There’s nothing wrong with pricing a tablet that’s competitive with a laptop at $499, it’s just more than I have in my dispensable income. So thus, that tweet.
And then I continued watching Parks and Recreation, feeling just a little bit better that I was able to release my disappointment on Twitter. I thought nothing of that tweet until two days later, when I received this tweet in return:
@imamandajulius Glad you love the ads! We want you to have one, too… Any plans next week?
— Microsoft (@Microsoft) October 20, 2012
This started a Twitter conversation that moved to direct messages, that moved to email, and ended up with Microsoft inviting me to the opening of their Time Square holiday store the following weekend.
At first, I kind of thought it was a little too good to be true. I hadn’t entered any contests. And while I’ve read about some brands surprising fans with free or discounted goods, I hadn’t heard of any giant brands like Microsoft or Apple doing anything like this.
But after many emails, travel arrangements, and a few days of waiting, I was off to New York.
— Mandy Kilinskis (@ImAmandaJulius) October 25, 2012
I vacationed in New York earlier this year, but I was still incredibly excited to head back. Especially since Microsoft was practically rolling out the red carpet for me and a handful of other social media influencers: fancy meals, an excellent hotel location in Times Square, and even a fully-loaded Metra Card for the weekend.
But in between sightseeing and few Broadway shows was the main attraction: the Microsoft Times Square store and their interactive display in the middle of Times Square.
Bulking Up on Offline Presence…
For a company who mostly sells software, Microsoft decided to build a serious offline presence for the launch of the Surface tablet, Windows 8, and the holidays.
In addition to their catchy TV ads, and normal (and fairly new) retail locations, Microsoft has opened about 30 pop-up stores for the holidays. These stores are going to focus heavily on Windows 8 and the Surface tablet. The set-up borrows heavily from Apple, with a minimalist design, gorgeous display of products, and tables and chairs set up so that potential customers can walk in (well, after standing in an Apple-sized line) and have some hands-on time with a Surface.
And if consumers weren’t ready to head into the store, then there was a multi-block installation that featured tons of personal computers all with Windows 8. The hardware was all different (everyone from Sony to HP to Acer had displays), but the software was all the same: Windows 8.
Passersby could wander into the installation, pick an open or preferred device, and then play around with the new features. It was an excellent way to try before you buy, and smart for Windows’ business partners to attend with their own hardware. You might already have an iPad and want to skip the Surface, but you could be considering a new laptop.
Signs were posted in certain areas with notices like “video being taken in this area,” so Microsoft was able to gather a ton of footage that they could possibly use in future TV or online commercials.
Even promotional products were in attendance! A few of the first Surface customers, myself, and the other social influencers got some Surface-branded jackets. And all purchases were packaged in reusable Microsoft tote bags.
…And Then Taking it Back Online
Microsoft has hit the metaphorical ground running with their online marketing. They have a fully-fleshed out social media presence, they post their TV ads on their YouTube channel, and they are all over the place on Google ad results.
In addition to those online marketing efforts, it was cool that Microsoft was reaching out to individual influencers and inviting them to the store opening. It’s standard (and necessary) to invite tech bloggers to events like this. But Microsoft decided to up the ante by hand-selecting influencers outside of the technology niche, taking us to their store, and giving us a way to take home a Surface.
These individual influencers carried a lot of weight. One of them was Daniel Bear Hunley who has a massive 1.7 million followers on Pinterest. He set up a pinboard dedicated to the event. He posted a picture of the Surface tablet on it and at this writing, the pin had received 46 likes, 2 comments, and 48 repins. That’s an impressive amount of engagement on a single pin.
Other influencers included popular fashion vloggers, lifestyle bloggers, and yours truly. I can’t say I’m nearly as popular online as the other guests were, but hey, you’re reading this right now, aren’t you?
Wrapping it Up
It’s too soon to say if the Surface tablet is a guaranteed hit (I’m pulling for it, though. I love mine!), but there’s no doubt that Microsoft’s marketing has been a home run.
But since most of us don’t have Microsoft’s budget, here’s how you can implement these promotional ideas for yourself.
- Monitor your social mentions. Check out your @ mentions on Twitter and set up Google alerts for your company name. You’ll be able to see who’s talking about you and what they’re saying.
- Grab the element of surprise. Reach out to your fans and the people talking about you. They’ll be pleased that you’re listening.
- Offer them something great. We can’t all afford to give away trips or tablets. But you can offer someone a free appetizer if they show your tweet or give them a coupon for your latest product.
- Don’t ignore non-social media fans. Make sure that your brick-and-mortar location and homepage is clean, inviting, and easy to navigate.
Have you heard of the Microsoft Surface or Windows 8 launch? Have you also been impressed by their online and offline marketing? Sound off in the comments below!