With Microsoft Inspire around the corner, we’ve been speaking to Microsoft to help partners (us included!) prepare for Microsoft’s biggest event of the year. We spoke with Rachel Braunstein—Partner Marketing Manager with the Microsoft Partner Network—on the spectacle of Microsoft Inspire and how to take advantage of the event through networking and social media.
Thanks for talking to us Rachel. Can we start with a bit of info on you and what you’ll be doing at Microsoft Inspire this year?
“Of course. I’m part of the One Commercial Partner organization, which harnesses Microsoft’s partner expertise and knowledge, from technical to marketing, business development, and programs. Microsoft is not just partner-led, it’s partner-first. And nothing showcases that as much as Microsoft Inspire.
“Last year I ran the social media for Microsoft Inspire, but this year, I’m speaking, attending sessions, and hosting podcasts onsite in the community hub. What’s great about Inspire is that we have incredible people from across the globe coming together, from business decision-makers to thought leaders and Microsoft employees. There’s a lot of great content there, so it’s a perfect place for podcasts. My session on Thursday morning is on how to connect with customers through modern selling and LinkedIn, something I’m super passionate about. So, lots of stuff going on as always! I love being an active participant like our partners—listening to the Corenotes, attending sessions, exploring the commons, and enjoying all the networking events at night.”
For those that haven’t attended Inspire before, can you briefly break down what it is and why it’s such a great opportunity for Microsoft Partners?
“Microsoft Inspire is where Microsoft connects with its partners on the largest stage of the year. We connect at many small events around the world but Inspire brings together nearly 18,000 people to talk about how we can build businesses, go-to-market and sell together. It’s all about partnership and unlocking new opportunities.
“And this year, Inspire is being co-located with Microsoft Ready—our major internal sales conference. With both these audiences in the same place, there’s sure to be even more opportunities for Microsoft Partners to talk to Microsoft directly. The community is unified in a way that’s only done once a year on and on such a scale, so you’re bound to learn and create opportunities no matter what. And if you’re a first-time attendee, we have specialized tours starting Sunday and programming to help you find your way, connect with others and have an incredible time.”
If there was one thing that Microsoft Partners must do while at Inspire, what would you say it is?
“It’s hard to say! Some conferences are solely about digesting information and attending sessions. While you can do a lot of that at Inspire, if I had to choose one thing, it’s networking. And social media, particularly LinkedIn, is key to that. So maybe it’s more: network as much as possible, but make sure you use the social platform to help you!
“There will be greater functionality on the My Inspire app during the event to make it easier to network with people digitally and connect with attendees through LinkedIn. There are many opportunities to use LinkedIn to create conversations and potentially create new business. For instance, I always suggest people connect with session speakers on LinkedIn right after attending their session, and send a note saying how you attended their session and what you learned; or follow-up with them before or after the session to show that you care. That’s what networking is all about. It’s these special ways to build relationships with potential clients or partners that makes LinkedIn the perfect tool for your Inspire social strategy. It’s also important because when you speak to so many people, you can quickly lose track and you can refer back to the notes you send.
“With that in mind, you want to make sure your personal and company LinkedIn profiles are as engaging and up-to-date as possible. Include imagery, a summary description, rich media, your qualifications, and anything to draw someone in and relate to who you are. First impressions count, and your profile could be the first impression people have of your company before they actually meet you. So, be sure to post on your company pages before, during and after the event. If your profile is in top shape, you can be ready to meet as many new people as possible and give yourself the best chance at finding new leads and building relationships.
“It all comes down to networking and relationship building, and LinkedIn is your digital method of doing that.”
That’s really useful. Beyond keeping your profile fresh, how should Microsoft Partners approach the show on social channels like LinkedIn?
“There are two sides to social at Inspire: personal and brand. They’re both different and alike.
“If you’re bringing a team to Inspire, you’ve got a small army of advocates. As an individual, you’re representing yourself and your company. That’s what employee advocacy is all about. So, from a personal social standpoint, I would focus on Twitter and LinkedIn—those are my social platforms of choice. At an event like Inspire, you can post a lot of content every day—videos of the Corenotes and Sessions is a great way to capture the atmosphere of Inspire. Every time you post, you’re representing your company. So, including hashtags like #MSInspire and #MicrosoftLife, and ‘@’ mentioning the people you’ve met, are good ways to do this. It’s about creating an authentic experience around what you’re learning and participating in—that’s the best thing you can do. Show your credibility and differentiate not only yourself but your business by talking about the cool stuff you’re doing.
Show your credibility and differentiate not only yourself but your business by talking about the cool stuff you’re doing.
“The other side is thinking about the impact on your company brand. This should require a bit more of a framework. Of course, you still want to use images, video, and hashtags to give your posts the best visibility. But each post should have thought behind it. It’s not just about the experience—leave that for the personal side—but about sharing thought leadership with your audience. Let them know why the company is there, and the benefits of attending for your clients.
“But there should, of course, be fluidity between personal and brand in your Inspire social strategy. On your corporate account, re-post and share any great messages shared by employees (and vice versa). They play off each other. There’s nothing better as an employee to know they’re having their content broadcasted, while the business gets to extend its reach further. It’s a win-win!
“Social is ultimately about driving the conversation. It’s not supposed to be a static tool. That’s what’s so great about events like Inspire because there’s so much to say and do.”
And, even though Inspire hasn’t started, that should be the case now, too. Right?
“Frequency picks up the most at the event for sure. You can’t exhaust your audience before they even get there! At Microsoft, this month is all about inspiration. We’re trying to engage the partner network with inspirational quotes on our social channels—we want everybody to get in on the conversation and get people excited about the event.”
We’d like to thank Rachel for sharing her thoughts and expertise with us. Don’t forget to follow Rachel on Twitter (@rkbraunstein) and LinkedIn (rachelbraunstein). Keep up with the Microsoft Partner Network (@MSPartner) on Twitter for all the latest around Inspire, and make sure to visit Fifty Five and Five at stand #1622 at the event! Not getting enough leads? Talk to us about improving your inbound marketing. Get in touch.