Microsoft Surface Marketing: How One Tweet Got Me a Trip to New York City

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.

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:


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.


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.

Microsoft Holiday Pop Up Store

Inside of the Microsoft Times Square Store

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.

Apple Sized Line for Microsoft

There were also multiple queue lines around the corner!

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.

Microsoft Install in Times Square

Plenty of devices to try at the Times Square install!

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.

Microsoft Fans Surface Jacket

Fans in line wear their new jackets and hold Microsoft totes! (via Microsoft)

…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.

But they’re also deeply entrenched in the blogosphere. There have been write-ups on Mashable and BuzzFeed, and Microsoft even sponsored Lifehacker for a day.

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.

Microsoft Surface Pinterest

Daniel’s picture of the 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!


Mandy Kilinskis

Mandy is proud to be a part of QLP’s content team. A self-professed nerd, her interests include video games, sitcoms, superhero movies, iPods and iPhones but never Macs, and shockingly, writing. Her claims to fame are: owning over forty pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, offering spot-on coffee advice, and knowing an unbelievable amount of Disney Princess facts. You can connect with Mandy on


  1. Wash

    That’s awesome! I guess I’m going to have to bother companies via social media more often! 🙂

  2. Eric

    I remember Apple opening “Pop-Up” stores last holiday season, and what I remember most was the fact they set up – if I’m not mistaken – in Grand Central Station. If there’s one place I’ve no qualms about nosing around and playing with new gizmos to pass time, it’s at the train station. I imagine they must’ve sold quite a few computers that way.

    Man! For all the shameless, unsolicited promotion I’ve given companies and products! @#$%! Heck, you’d think the second “Bond” post in the last six months, alone, would’ve at least scored a couple free tickets to “Skyfall.” Well, good news, Bond…you’ll still get my ten bucks and I’ll still see the show.

    Alright. Rant over. But seriously, nice to see good things happen to good people, and all the better you got to jet over to the East Coast for the event, Mandy. Cool post, and thanks for giving us a glimpse into your trip!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      It’d be interested to learn how many computers and iPads that Apple sold that way. Because while I’d certainly spend some time playing around with a computer at the train station, I don’t know if I’d be in the right mindset or situation to just buy a $600 electronic device.

      Maybe you should post the links on the Skyfall Facebook page. Maybe they’d give you another set to let you see it again. 🙂

  3. Rachel

    Awesome article, Mandy! I’m so excited for you that you got to go on this mini-adventure after one little tweet. And this write-up allowed me to live vicariously through you, haha.

    You make a lot of excellent points about Microsoft’s marketing strategy. It seems like there has been a huge shift in the way they present themselves to consumers lately — clean, boldly colorful lines and shapes in all their advertising, sleek and streamlined hardware, brand new software like Windows 8 … the brand no longer seems to fit the old-fashioned, behind-the-times image portrayed in those “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” Apple commercials. Which I’m sure is Microsoft’s goal, at least in part.

    Thanks again for sharing your experiences with us! I will now be tweeting every company I can think of and cross my fingers that I get as lucky as you did. 🙂

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      They’ve definitely taken lots of step towards being “hip” again. Windows 8 is definitely a new, sleek, and eye-catching model of the old operating systems, but I’m glad that they have a desktop app so you don’t miss out on what made Windows great in the first place.

      And yes, the hardware is so snazzy! I especially love the new colors of their TouchPads. It’s a small part of a great device, but being able to choose a cool red or bright pink just makes the entire experience even better.

      Yay for living vicariously! Good luck with tweeting companies! I tweeted Marvel & Chevy to team up and make Marvel-branded cars, but got no response. I guess I just get one cool thing per year. 🙂

  4. Amy Swanson

    What a fun trip, Mandy! Man oh man!!

    I hadn’t heard of Microsoft’s Surface until the commericals started to air a few weeks ago. Their tablet looks really cool and I’m glad to see maybe Apple will have some competition with their iPad now.

    I personally really like their TV commerical for the Surface. It’s really simple and easy tor remember, it’s not gimmicky or cheesy like other electronics ads. As for their online promotion, I haven’t been following that as closely, but apparently they’re spending some big bucks to get their name out there to customers again.

    Great post, Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I love the Surface TV ad. It’s just so fun and engaging. And I can say that without a bias. Because I also love the commercial for the iPad mini where they’re playing a duet. That’s adorable.

      Also, the click of the keyboard into the Surface tablet is just as fun and satisfying as you hope it would be.

      And yeah, I imagine that Microsoft is spending some big bucks. But apparently it’s working, because their brand perception has seen a huge lift. You go, Microsoft!

  5. Cybernetic SAM

    WOW! That is so cool you got to do that! I know I am not one to usually be persuaded by ads about tech stuff, but when I saw that really awesome commerical on TV for the new surface w/ keyboard I looked at Joe and said with eyes wide “Can I have one? PLEEEEEEASE!?” That was a first for me! I may be the only one who thinks this but I prefer Microsoft products, as all electronics wear out, but at least Microsoft doesn’t wear out your wallet like some companies…. Plus, I think it is really neat that they were so generous that is really awesome!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      It was definitely a cool, one-in-a-lifetime experience. 🙂 And you’re not the only one, Sam. I adore my iPhone, but I still have a desktop PC that runs Windows 7. I’ve never felt the need to switch over to a Mac.

      Hopefully Joe took your wide-eyed plea into account. I’m pretty sure that the holiday season is coming up…

  6. Jenna Markowski

    I am so jealous! It is SO cool that Microsoft surprised you with such an awesome trip! This just makes me want to tweet to every brand to see what they’ll give me. From what I’ve heard from you, Microsoft totally nailed it with their promotions for the Surface on and offline. Thanks for writing this post! It’s cool to see what it was like for you while you were there!

    P.S. Did I mention I hate you?

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      It’s still kind of hard to believe that it happened, and I was there for it! But it was definitely a great way for Microsoft to get some social media word-of-mouth for their products. And hey, it’s working! Mad props to Microsoft’s marketing and PR departments!

      P.S. Not today yet! 🙂

  7. Promotional Products

    I just used it briefly before tweeting to this article. I wouldn’t really say that the Start screen “takes the place of” the desktop. One of the tiles at the bottom of the Start screen is itself called “Desktop”. Click it and it takes you to a more traditional Windows desktop view, although without the familiar Windows logo/start button.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I didn’t write a review of Windows 8 (I left that to the tech blogs), so I’m a bit confused as to why you left this comment.

      But I have to disagree. The start screen does take the place of the desktop in that it’s the screen you’re presented with when you turn on your device. You do have to take another step to click on the desktop tile and bring up the familiar view. And since the start menu is gone, and instead is just shown through live tiles on the start screen…that seems like a replacement.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that the desktop function is still there. But since there are extra steps to accessing it, it’s just not the focus it used to be.

  8. Mikey

    Wow, that is simply amazing, Mandy! It’s one of those one-in-a-million chances that you think you’ll never win, personally. And it sounds like you had an awesome time in New York and with your new Surface. I’m glad this all went so well for you …and a teensy bit jealous, too, of course. Heh, but I digress. From what you’ve said, it definitely sounds like Microsoft is stepping up its ad presence and marketing strategy. Like the others have said, they’re probably tired of looking like runners up to Apple. Thanks for this unique look at Microsoft’s ad strategy and new product, and for sharing your adventure with us.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Thanks, Mike! It really was a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I had a blast. It was a seriously great experience. Hopefully all of this marketing pays off for them!

      Though I must say, the real fun of the trip was coming back to my desk which was covered in post-it notes. Ah, coworkers. 🙂

  9. Jana Quinn

    That is so unbelievably crazy! I can’t get over the fact that a simple tweet – one from someone who may not necessary even have spent a single cent on Microsoft products – directly led to an all-expenses-paid weekend. Ballsy move on Microsoft’s part, but it seems to be paying off.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      It’s a still a little hard to believe even though I lived it. I really hope that Microsoft’s marketing pays off for them. I’m definitely pulling for them!

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