The perfect Microsoft Inspire social media strategy: interview with Rachel Braunstein

Preparing for Microsoft Inspire? Here’s some guidance for building the perfect Microsoft Inspire social media strategy.

Pranita Tamang
6 MIN|June 20, 2017
Microsoft Inspire social media

With less than a month until the Microsoft Inspire conference, we’ve been speaking to Team Microsoft to get us as prepared as possible for Microsoft’s biggest event of the year! In our latest Microsoft Inspire interview, we spoke with Rachel Braunstein—Microsoft’s Digital Marketing Manager leading social media strategy for Microsoft Partners—to find out what makes the perfect Microsoft Inspire social media strategy and how Partners can stay connected with the conversation.

There’s been so much information about Microsoft Inspire and what’s in store for partners. What are you looking forward to the most?

This is going to be my third Microsoft Partner conference, and what’s really exciting is its new brand name, Microsoft Inspire. To change from the Worldwide Partner Conference name to Microsoft Inspire has honestly inspired and invigorated both the internal Microsoft teams and our partners. It’s reflective of how the partner community inspires other partners and us, and everyone I’ve spoken to about it seems really excited!

We just announced our Keynote Speakers with Satya [Nadella], our new CVP Ron Huddleston, President and Chief Legal Officer at Microsoft Brad Smith and CVP Gavriella Schuster just to name a few. For me, I get very inspired by hearing our executives set the tone for the year and what direction we’re going to go in this crazy digital economy. A lot is going on across the globe, both exciting and challenging, and Microsoft plays a big part in making positive changes.

I’m looking forward to seeing our vision from the keynotes, hearing the stories from our customers and talking to partners. Hearing about all the incredible work our partners are doing is always the most fun for me. I’m also looking forward to being in Washington, D.C., and the energy that the city gives across the globe. It’s going to be a special time to be in the capital.

For partners heading to the conference, how do you think they can use social media for Microsoft Inspire?

The social conversation is happening 365 days a year—I live and breathe this digital conversation every single day since I manage the Microsoft Partner Network social strategy. For me, Microsoft Inspire is about taking this conversation that’s ‘always on’ and bringing it to life for the 16,000+ attendees that are going this year.

We have many different channels to engage in conversations with our fans.  With nearly 200,000 followers on Facebook, the same on Twitter, and 10,000+ on LinkedIn, we’re engaging with our partners in all different ways.  I also own the corporate blogs on the Microsoft Partner Portal, the MPN YouTube page, and host and execute our podcast channel, so I’m constantly interacting and trying to get a pulse on the business conversation. We’ll be super active on social media during Microsoft Inspire using #MSInspire—the keynotes will be live streamed every day on the MPN portal, and we’ll be blogging and engaging in conversation on Twitter and Facebook. Social media is going to be a place where you can tap into the conversation, see what news is hitting, connect with other partners, and stay on the pulse of the conference conversation. We’re encouraging everyone to use the hashtag #MSInspire and follow us @msPartner as much as possible!

Another thing I’d like to mention is LinkedIn. This year we had to think about how we could encourage partners to use LinkedIn and connect with partners. So this year, partners can add their LinkedIn profile information to their Microsoft Inspire profile and easily connect with other registered partners on LinkedIn from our tools. LinkedIn is the place where business gets done and where customers can be found, so we strongly encourage partners to connect with as many people as possible while at the conference. Social selling is all about how you’re going to use digital platforms to engage with potential customers early in the buying journey, and LinkedIn is the place to do that.

It’s super important to have both a personal and company profile. There are still some companies that haven’t done that. It’s an untapped resource, but is very important, as we develop our relationship with LinkedIn. Having both a personal and company profile is an essential part of building an influence online and reaching customers.

The Microsoft Partner community is so big; it can be hard to stay up to date with everything. What are the best channels to follow and keep up to date?

The best channels are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and our MPN podcast. From there you’ll be able to keep up to date with our blog and major news. I also want to mention the relaunch of the Microsoft Partner community. That’s a really wonderful forum to engage with partners and ‘Microsofties,’ to ask questions and join discussions.

This year there’s going to be lots of tips and tricks for first-time attendees, and ‘know before you go’ kind of information on the Microsoft Partner Community. I would definitely recommend for partners to sign up and use it throughout the year. There is also a hashtag #New2MSInspire for partners mentoring or bringing in new attendees. We have quite a lot of first-time attendees, so this hashtag will embody that conversation and include a ‘tweet meet’ on Sunday for those first-timers.

Before the conference, is there anything Microsoft Partners should be doing on social media?

Firstly, there are a few personal things to consider before you go to a conference:

  • What is your brand?
  • What are your priorities while on-site?
  • How do you want to build your influence and authority on social?

The reality is you cannot survive in this digital economy without having a presence on social. 80% of buying decisions are made before any contact is made. People are looking at your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your website, the blogs you’ve put out there, everything. So take a second and think about who you are and what you stand for. Have a voice and be you. Stand for something and show your expertise to the world.

When thinking about how to use social media, my recommendation is to think about how much time you have and what channels you want to commit to using every day. LinkedIn should be your number one priority, as this is for business conversation and thought leadership, and it’s really a place where you can show off your expertise and credibility with relatively little effort. Get that profile up there, use the best pictures, update your location and dedicate two to three hours of your time to making it look really good before you get to the conference!

Another great channel is Twitter since it’s so quick, easy and instantaneous, making it perfect for following people you enjoy and adding quick value to your followers. Absolutely follow MS Partner—we are going to be giving you the best information, news, and resources not only during the conference but throughout the year.

Also, make sure you have the Microsoft Inspire application on your phone and get yourself prepped, even if it’s a week before. You’re going be engaging with a lot of people, so it makes things a lot easier to pull something up from your phone or look up the Microsoft Inspire news.

Do you have any tips or advice for partners for their Microsoft Inspire social media strategy while at the conference?

I think my tips for partners would be:

  1. Make sure you have a high-quality LinkedIn profile and check to see if your company has one as well
  2. Follow @msPartner on Twitter and Facebook and check out the Microsoft Partner community for any information
  3. When you’re in conversation with someone, make sure to connect with them! Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or whatever platform they’re comfortable with. I do it all the time; I’ll be talking and just ask them before I forget! Some people may have business cards at a conference like this, but really you should be connecting on LinkedIn especially if you have a good profile.
  4. When you do connect on social, send a note with that connection. Whatever it is, just say ‘love what you said while chatting at XYZ session, so great to talk to you!’ It’s all about networking, and once the conference is over it will be so much easier to look back at your notes and the connections you’ve made.
  5. Post wherever you’re comfortable and use #MSInspire and #New2MSInspire! Tag @msPartner and use #MSPartner 365 days out of the year. We’ll be showcasing a lot of posts before the keynote starts on the big screens, at the social wall in the Community Hub, and in the Nationals Stadium so you may see your posts on the big screens!

We want to say a huge thank you to Rachel for sharing her thoughts for our Microsoft Inspire blog series! Don’t forget to follow @MSPartner for the latest news, blogs, and podcasts!