Social as a standalone discipline is not going to have a meaningful future, says Microsoft Office’s marketing director of search and social, Paul Fabretti.
In the run-up to his judging of The Drum Social Buzz Awards, Fabretti spoke openly about his position on paid for influencers, how more human-centric stories will boost social media outcomes and how the key to real-time interactions and story-telling is thinking outside the box.
“As big as our social presences are,” he said. “I think there is potentially a ceiling of impact which social will hit unless it starts to recognise where and how else in the business it can provide support and value.”
Taking content beyond the concept
According to Fabretti, the introduction of mainstream live broadcasting has extended the conventional marketing message into a more real-time experience.
He said: “Real-time has evolved and everyone talks about it in terms of purely in-stream interactions. A lot more companies have started to see the opportunity to take a campaign and have it as a living and breathing entity but it evolves in response to the public's reaction.”
Microsoft Office is doing this is by constantly looking at the various ways in which it can tell a story and do something different. “Whether it is adding a podcast to a webcast, whether it's using influencers or working with PR, there's a bunch of diverse ways that we can add colour, flavour and impact to the original story,” said Fabretti.
“In some respect, storytelling is probably the term to describe that. It is taking an existing ad campaign and really blowing it out. It's something that is reflective of people's behaviour in the platforms they are.”
One platform that Microsoft has found success with is LinkedIn. Fabretti explained that the networking platform has moved on from its initial remit of being a networking site, to a stage that provides them with good opportunities to connect with the sort of business buyers that Office is interested in working with.
He said: “LinkedIn is one where we see a lot of success, which is nothing to do with the fact that the two businesses are one, but more with the recognition that as a platform, it builds its base on people expressing thought leadership in order to enhance their networking opportunity. It has now become a concept hub and we see a lot of success there.
“From an ad point of view, it provides a level of visibility into the status or the title and then for purchasing power or capability of that individual as well.”
Tackling influencer guidelines
Certainly, influencers are one way to go if you want to engage with your audience and create new interesting experiences for them. However, there has been concern with brand marketers providing transparency to their consumers on paid-for content which endorses influencers. Fabretti explained that Office have regular check-ups with their legal organisation CELA, to make sure, from a policy point of view, they are adhering to the regulations, as there are heavy penalties for falling foul to them.
He said: “We always build into our influencers/creatives contract a statement that requires them to denote the work is being paid for. There are often times when they will announce it both audibly, as well as within the description of the video. Rather than just e.g. #ad in the description box.
“People can hide #ad in the description and say that they are legally covered, but we want to make sure that we are exceeding the minimum requirement for compliance. We always build clauses into contracts to make sure that this is done. At the same time, everyone who works with the influencers across the Office team, also make sure that they review the copy and that the copy that is put out is the version that is legally suitable.”
Humanising your content
By telling more human stories, Fabretti believes that rather than just telling people what they can do with the product, social platforms allow them to share in a much more relatable way.
“It's less about us and more about the people that are using it. That's not to say, there's never a better person to talk about you than your customers, but we still go through the process of manufacturing photo shoots, building the story and understanding how people are using it.”
Earlier this year, Office produced a live product Q&A broadcast, which saw entrepreneur Nicole Ritchie and Levo’s chief executive officer, Caroline Ghosn answer the questions of four small businesses who had written into to ask for support and insight. With the assistance of their instant messaging service, Skype, Office provided thousands of viewers a chance to watch this broadcast via Facebook and Twitter, but went beyond that to provide more video content, and storytelling, in various ways.
Fabretti explained: “We started to dice the broadcast up into different sized videos and ran them as media units on Facebook and Twitter. We recognised that not everybody is going to watch an hour long live broadcast, and not many will watch a two-minute broadcast. It's about finding the snippet that we can create something from and execute it differently.”
Fabretti is a judge for The Drum Social Buzz Awards, which celebrate and reward the very best in social media communications. By rewarding effective social media campaigns and strategies, these awards give recognition to those who are using social media to communicate in exciting and innovative ways.
The entry deadline has now passed, but you can apply for an extension by contacting Annabel Conn at email@example.com.