How Microsoft Is Using Tutorial Videos To Connect Better With Customers With Sonia Atchison

sonia atchison microsoft

Sonia Atchison of Microsoft tells us how the company is using tutorial videos on the Microsoft Office support website and and also their YouTube channel to help customers use Office better.

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GUEST: Sonia Atchison of Microsoft

HOST: Dane Golden of VidiUp | LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

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PRODUCER: Jason Perrier of Phizzy Studios

TRANSCRIPT

Dane Golden:
It’s time for the Video Marketing Value Podcast. This is the podcast where we help marketers and business owners just like you get more value out of your video marketing efforts. My name is Dane Golden from VidiUp and VidTarget, used to be called hey.com, not anymore. And today we have a special guest, Sonia Atchison of Microsoft. Welcome Sonia.

Sonia Atchison:
Thank you. Nice to be here. Thanks Dane.

Dane Golden:
I’m excited to have you here, Sonia, because you seem to be doing a very unusual job at Microsoft with the Office 365 team. And you’re going to tell me if I’m right, here. So your team manages both the support docs in video form on support.office.com and you also work on the YouTube side connecting with productivity influencers who are using Microsoft and showing people how to do it on YouTube. Is that all sort of correct?

Sonia Atchison:
Yeah. So I work with a pretty big team and we produce a ton of written and video how-to content that we publish on support.office.com. And then we also work to syndicate that content on the Office 365 YouTube channel. And then kind of my role within that is as a content strategist, so I’m sort of looking at the landscape of customer needs and content platforms and trends, consumption habits, and then our resourcing and production capabilities, and then making recommendations on content investment areas that align with our business objectives. It also means that I lead some incubation efforts in experimental investment areas like you were mentioning.

Sonia Atchison:
Yeah. Yeah. Well a lot of it seems experimental. And I want to ask about what I sort of think is the weirdest part, which some people may think is weird. I do. Now, I think you are in the engineering department, but essentially, you’re doing marketing. Do they know about this? Is this a renegade project? Are they just finding out about this by listening to this podcast?

Sonia Atchison:
That’s a funny question. So they definitely know about it. We work very closely together. So-

Dane Golden:
So it’s okay, we’re not doing anything illegal.

Sonia Atchison:
Everything is good. Everything’s above board. Yeah. I sit within engineering and we work kind of in lock step with our partners in marketing because they have a good sense of what we’re trying to share out to our customers and we have a good sense of what customers need in terms of learning how to use our products. And so we sort of blend the two worlds. Yeah. So they’re definitely aware and supportive and helpful and we have a great partnership.

Dane Golden:
Yeah. I mean, if you’ve ever worked for a tech company, you know getting marketing and engineering together is a challenge. And I really admire that you seem to be doing this pretty well. Help me understand. In your opinion, is a how-to video or a support video sort of marketing?

Sonia Atchison:
Yes. My opinion is yes. Although I think they’re just labels, right? Because we’re really just trying to help people learn how to do things. And it just depends on for what purpose. Right? And so, I pulled some numbers. So I wanted to throw some numbers out there because that’s what I do.

Dane Golden:
What? Numbers!

Sonia Atchison:
I’m a content strategist and I like numbers. So CMI, Content Marketing Institute, did a study back in March of technology content marketing. And in that study, it showed that 79% of tech marketers are now using how-to content in the sales funnel to nurture audiences and with a 64% increase in their use of video. So that’s one figure. And then specific to YouTube, Pew had done a study, I think it was last year. And just looking-

Dane Golden:
Pew, P-E-W?

Sonia Atchison:
What was that?

Dane Golden:
Pew, is it P-E-W?

Sonia Atchison:
Yeah. Pew Research.

Dane Golden:
Not pew, pew. Okay, go on.

Sonia Atchison:
I mean, maybe they could go with that. But yeah, Pew Research.

Dane Golden:
All right, all right.

Sonia Atchison:
They did a study probably, I don’t know, I think it was a year ago. I’m not positive on the date there, but they were looking just at the US. And specific to YouTube, most people in the US, most adults are using YouTube. The numbers that they had were 91% of 18 to 24 year olds use YouTube, 87% of 30 to 49 year olds, 70% of 50 to 64 year olds. So most US adults are using YouTube. And then sort of the next layer of the study looked at how-to learning. So 87% of US adults who use YouTube say that it’s important for how-to learning. And then kind of taking that one step further, just over half, 54% of US adults who use YouTube say that it’s important for making purchase decisions. And so, when you look at sort of that landscape, it does say to me that how-to content is important for marketing purposes.

Sonia Atchison:
I think of it in a couple of different ways. One is around search, so that something, some video answer is there to explain a desired solution to a customer who is considering purchase. And then also from a social standpoint, making sure that customers are aware of the day to day solutions that your product has delivered in the places where people are already spending their time. So YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook, those sorts of places. And again, that’s also really good during initial consideration because we’re showing up in the places that make sense to someone every day. But then it’s also good for consideration on the renewal side of things. So once someone has already made a purchase and is using your product, you want them to renew, you want them to stay your customer. And so landing some of that how-to information in the places where they are already consuming a lot of content makes sense because it’s sort of presenting solutions to their problems right in their face. You know what I mean?

Dane Golden:
Well, what about the concept that if I see that there’s many, many helpful how-to documents, that if I’m making buying decisions for my company and I’m saying, “Should I get product A or product B?” If I see they’re just a huge resource of how to do things and that the company’s taking an effort to be really helpful through video, they will lean on the side of that product because they will say, “Well, they clearly have great support and it’s easy to learn and they show you how to do it.”

Sonia Atchison:
Yeah, exactly. I think that’s a good observation.

Dane Golden:
Well now, so help me understand. You have videos on the Microsoft website, but you also have them on YouTube. How are they different if you have videos on the Microsoft support website or on YouTube? Or are they the same?

Sonia Atchison:
Yeah. So for the most part, what we have out there is the same. So we have videos that we produced for support.office.com that are training videos that are kind of longer form. And then we have some very short versions of videos that are … There’s no voiceover, it’s just a visual with some text that sort of points around to what you’re doing on the screen. Both of those styles of videos we use on support.office.com and then we also use them on YouTube and occasionally on Facebook and Twitter in partnership with our marketing leads. And so, we use those there. On YouTube specifically, we’re starting to explore the concept of what it looks like to do something native to YouTube. And so you’ll see we have a series on the Office 365 channel now that’s all about what’s new in Microsoft 365. And that one is designed to be YouTube native and it’s definitely a work in progress. We’re learning as we go. But we’re trying to listen very closely to the audience and respond in the best way that we can and improve month over month. Same as really anyone who’s publishing to YouTube does.

Dane Golden:
You were saying that not using dialogue in the videos gives you some flexibility. Could you talk about that?

Sonia Atchison:
Yeah. So Microsoft products are available globally, which means there’s a lot of languages where people need information delivered. And so, when we take voiceover out of the picture and just use text on the screen with kind of a click through of the elements on the screen that we’re talking about, that helps from a localization standpoint. It’s much easier to localize text and screenshots within a certain time frame than it is to localize also the voiceover. And so from a production standpoint, it makes a lot of sense for us.

Dane Golden:
How many different languages are you doing on the website for videos?

Sonia Atchison:
Gosh. I wish I had that number for you. I wish I did. I will have to follow up with you afterwards on that because it is quite a few. Yeah.

Dane Golden:
Wow. Well just a lot that you don’t even know how many?

Sonia Atchison:
A lot. It’s a lot.

Dane Golden:
That’s good enough. That’s a good number. So I’ve talked to support people in the past who say, “Listen, we just can’t do video on our support docs because our products are changing all the time.” How do you deal with the change of a feature or some sort of update? Do you have to redo every video? Do you make videos in a certain way? Or even if it’s not how you’d happen to do videos, maybe your product cycle is a little bit longer than some SAS products. How might people approach this?

Sonia Atchison:
Yeah, so our products do change a lot. And so it’s kind of … There’s sort of two elements to it. One is deciding what to create a video on and what not to create a video on. We do look to try to create videos on the things that are top of mind for customers. Like what are they really going to need? As opposed to just making a broad swath and creating videos for everything. Because we do have to take maintenance into account. What happens is … So we have a bunch of writers that are assigned to different product areas. We have a huge team. And I wouldn’t say huge, but we have a decent sized team.

Dane Golden:
A huge team!

Sonia Atchison:
It’s not huge. It’s a decent size. And they each kind of have ownership over specific product areas. And so when those product areas change, they are responsible for flagging the related videos as needing an update. And so, behind the scenes, we’ve got an internal video management system where every video gets assigned an ID. And then we also have a video catalog where that internal ID is matched with a YouTube ID once it’s published to YouTube. And so basically what happens is once the updated video is produced in our internal video management system, which is what we use to publish the videos to support.office.com for example. In that system, it’s pretty simple. We can swap out the MP4 and the caption files that are associated with a particular ID and then we don’t have to go and reembed it everywhere. But you can’t do that on YouTube.

Dane Golden:
No, you can’t. You can’t just upload a replacement video.

Sonia Atchison:
So what we’re doing is tracking sort of that internal ID against the YouTube ID. And when I know that that internal ID has been updated with a new version of that video, then we go and look for that corresponding YouTube video ID, make that video unlisted on YouTube, and publish the new one and it’s just new video ID with the internal ID.

Dane Golden:
And put that in your playlist on YouTube and so forth?

Sonia Atchison:
Yeah. Yep.

Dane Golden:
Well that’s a nuanced and sophisticated process.

Sonia Atchison:
[crosstalk 00:12:07] It’s tough to do at scale.

Dane Golden:
But it’s doable and clearly you feel it’s important.

Sonia Atchison:
It is. It’s definitely important. We want customers to be able to get the answers that they need and we have the content. And I mean, YouTube is the number one or number two website globally. Definitely a top search engine for especially as you go down in the generations. And so, making sure that the information is there if they need it. I mean, that’s a pretty big deal.

Dane Golden:
Now you have another part of your job. Well, let me just touch on that before I move on to the next question. When you say it’s really big, now, you already have all of the videos on your website. They can go onto your website and find all of the answers that you’re answering. Why do you do it on YouTube too?

Sonia Atchison:
A lot of people go to YouTube first. A lot. A lot of people. There are definitely a significant portion of our customer base does look for our support content either through the app itself, so in the help pane, or does a broad web search for the different answers that they’re looking for. But because video content is such a huge preference for people, there are a lot of people who go to YouTube before anywhere else, before they go to Google or Bing or wherever. They hit YouTube first because they want their answer in a video format. And so, it’s important to make sure that our content is there and providing that answer so that when they’re trying to find the solution, they find our product as opposed to a competitor product.

Dane Golden:
Okay. And you also work with … You call them productivity influencers?

Sonia Atchison:
Yes. Well, I call them a lot of things. I call them creators.

Dane Golden:
Okay. Productivity creators. And how do you do that? I mean, there’s a lot of people who create tutorials. What’s your method of working with them?

Sonia Atchison:
Yeah, so I’m going to throw some more numbers.

Dane Golden:
All right. More numbers.

Sonia Atchison:
So the Edelman Trust Barometer, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that, but it’s a report that-

Dane Golden:
No, but I trust it.

Sonia Atchison:
Yes. They released a report earlier this year. And in that report, it showed that 63% of 18 to 34 year olds trust influencers over brands. And because of an influencer, 58% bought a new product in the last six months, 40% trust the brand, and 33% talked about the brand. And so, when you take those numbers and you pair them with the numbers we were talking about earlier around how to content in the funnel, it starts to present a pretty interesting opportunity. And so what I looked at was the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people out there with YouTube channels that include and sometimes entirely focus on how-to content about Microsoft products and services. And I mean, you can call them influencers if you want. They definitely are influential in a lot of ways. But for the most part, they consider themselves to be experts and trainers. And a lot of them have entire businesses built around that content.

Sonia Atchison:
And so from a brand perspective, there are a couple of things that came to mind for me. One was that customers search for content before purchasing, like we’ve been talking about. And they’re almost always presented with content from these community experts before they’re presented with our content. And there are a lot of kind of algorithmic reasons behind that. But that’s a fact. That’s what’s happening. And then the other factor that came to mind was that when customers get stuck, at least some portion of them are going out there and seeking help from these community experts that they feel that they can trust to give them a straight answer. And because those experts want to help and are interested in kind of growing their audiences, they often provide that one-on-one guidance. And so, kind of given all of those factors and the fact that, as a brand, we want to make sure that people have and share accurate information about our products and services, we started growing a program called Microsoft Creators. And started that about a year and a half ago. It started as just sort of a research project and then evolved into something a little bit more substantial. Through the program, we’re curating playlists of community content that we link to from our support site. So you can get to that either through support.office.com or also through the help pane in app.

Dane Golden:
Let me stop you there because I have some questions.

Sonia Atchison:
Yeah, go ahead.

Dane Golden:
So my first question is do you ask them or tell them that you’re making them part of a playlist?

Sonia Atchison:
We offer. So we don’t take it. We don’t specifically go and seek things out. We just offer, “If you’d like to be a part of this, here’s how you can submit your videos.” And if they choose to do that, awesome.

Dane Golden:
So people send them on your website, for instance. They’ll say, “Be in our YouTube playlist.” Is that what you said?

Sonia Atchison:
What we do is we partner with specific creators. So we’re looking for people who are out there actively trying to build content and invite them to join this program. And then once they’ve joined and understand sort of the terms of being part of the program, then they get access to a form where they can submit their videos to those playlists.

Dane Golden:
So they’ll send you, essentially, it ends up in an email or something and you say either, “I like this for this playlist or I don’t.” And then you decide. You add it to a playlist on your YouTube channel. It’s their video on their channel, but it’s part of your playlist?

Sonia Atchison:
Yes. But they get all of the views, they get all of the watch time. It’s all theirs. The playlist just serves as a wrapper, bringing everything together in sort of under a specific subject.

Dane Golden:
A lot of companies don’t know that … First of all, you don’t need to ask permission to make a playlist of any video. You could do this without asking them and you’re still within YouTube’s terms. But I think you form a stronger bond by creating this relationship with the creators and they’re really excited to make a video that’s going to be featured in your playlist. But technically, you don’t need to ask them.

Sonia Atchison:
No. From a technical perspective, the playlist functionality is there and you can add whatever you’d like to it. I know on my personal account, I use that all the time to curate music that I like to listen to or videos that I thought were really entertaining, that kind of thing. And so, I do that all the time anyway. I’m just sort of a curator. But from a brand perspective, I don’t want to go out and just take things from people. I want to make sure that we have a good relationship and this is something that they would want, they would want that exposure. Because not everybody does.

Dane Golden:
But I also want to ask you, you mentioned that it’s also on your website. Are you saying that you’re taking a YouTube video and making a playlist and either embedding a series of videos on a page or a YouTube playlist within a webpage?

Sonia Atchison:
So we include a link to the playlist from support.office.com pages. So-

Dane Golden:
Could you send me a link to that so I can feature that in our show notes?

Sonia Atchison:
Yeah, for sure. So I’ll give you a link to the VLookup article for example. So VLookup is a function within Excel and we have a playlist full of videos about VLookup. And so when you go to the support article about how to use VLookup, there’ll be a link in there in the US version of the page that will cross link out and pop open a new tab with that playlist on YouTube.

Dane Golden:
And I wanted to ask, we had talked about this previously, but are you create … It sounds like you’re creating a method where they can also have more access to insiders at Microsoft if they have a question or that was a theory anyway.

Sonia Atchison:
That’s right. So we’ve been talking a lot about the curation aspects of the program. There are a couple of other aspects. One is what you’re talking about. So I used to write content for one of our products. And when I sat down to write an article about something, the first thing that I would do is sit down next to one of the product managers and ask them a ton of questions and try to get clarification about how the particular feature worked. And so what I’m trying to do with this program is sort of enable that same opportunity, but for creators out in the wild who are producing their own content. And so we have a teams call series where we will bring on product managers or even sometimes developers of the product to come and say, “Here’s how this thing works.” And give creators an opportunity to ask questions and get clarification on that functionality so that when they go back to their desks and create that content, ideally then it’s more accurate than they would have been able to do otherwise.

Dane Golden:
That’s a real resource for your creators. And I think a lot of companies should do this more. Where does video belong? Is it at the top of the funnel? Where is it?

Sonia Atchison:
So I think it’s everywhere. That’s my perspective. Video, all of the trends are pointing to the fact that video consumption is huge. Lots of videos are being consumed for lots of reasons. And so from my perspective, video kind of belongs everywhere. It’s just a matter of making sure that you’re targeting the right content in the right place. So thinking about who is your audience now and who do you want to attract as customers, where you’re trying to talk to your desired audience in relation to their consumption habits, understanding why your audience is consuming content at any given point and what’s in it for them, what resonates with them, not only the subject, but also the style of video. A video that’s on Facebook might need to look different from a video that’s on your support page, for example. Or that’s on YouTube. Or there might be different types that resonate better. And also, who are your customers actually listening to? Are they listening to you or are they listening to someone else? And if it’s someone else, what are those other people saying in their videos? These are all really good factors to be thinking about.

Sonia Atchison:
And I also think that it’s important to remember that when someone lands at the bottom of the funnel, the content story doesn’t actually end. Because you do need people to renew and continue to use your product. And I’m a big fan of the loyalty loop concept Andrew Davis talks about a bunch and then also huge fan of Brian Solis’ related work on Influence 2.0. They both kind of show, instead of a funnel, it’s more like an infinity symbol, it’s more like a loop. And so I think it’s really important to think about that, that the introduction of apps and subscription models has really changed the dynamic of that funnel. And if your product’s not intuitive or doesn’t solve someone’s problem the way that they were expecting, people move on. And so you need to sort of not just earn that initial sale or that initial install at the bottom of the funnel, but then kind of have continual content that supports continual use and continual renewal.

Dane Golden:
Right. And lastly, I wanted to ask you, Sonia, I don’t know if you can tell me this, but can you describe the studio you’re in? Microsoft has such a commitment to video that they’ve created this studio for you. Could you explain how it works? I think every company should do this.

Sonia Atchison:
It’s funny, every time I talk about this, somebody wants to hear more. So a person that’s on my team developed this. I did not develop it, I’m just sitting in it. But it’s called the autonomous video booth. And-

Dane Golden:
The autonomous video booth.

Sonia Atchison:
Yes. We call them AVBs.

Dane Golden:
Okay. And what does it do?

Sonia Atchison:
And so what it is, it’s a room that’s really just the size of a small office. It’s got sound dampening on all of the walls. It’s got lighting already in here. The mics are already in here. It’s got a couple of different camera angles, and then there are a few different backdrops that you can sort of rotate in and out with a chain-driven system. And a little bit of props. I’m sitting here on a very lovely stool and there’s a table. And you come in and you swipe your badge so it knows who you are and then you press a big red button and start recording. And when you’re done, you hit the big red button again and it dumps out an MP4 and then split audio and video files so that you can go and edit them. And there’s a simple web editor that you can use if you don’t have editing software. So it’s pretty cool. It lets you, as an employee, I work with a video team, but they’re very, very busy and doing very important things for our customers. And so being able to come into a room like this to record things that I want to share maybe internally or maybe with people in the community like you, it’s really nice because I’m not taking up someone else’s time and the message still gets out with pretty decent quality. So that’s where I’m at.

Dane Golden:
I think where you’re at, I think, is the future of our working world where videos become so integral that everyone has to have it and it has to be simple.

Sonia Atchison:
Yeah. Yeah. It’s really effective too. It’s definitely helping tell stories internally here at Microsoft.

Dane Golden:
Now, Sonia Atchison, how can people find more about you and what you’re doing at Microsoft?

Sonia Atchison:
I’m on LinkedIn and I’m also on Twitter. Primarily LinkedIn I would say is your best bet. Please feel free to reach out.

Dane Golden:
And I’ll add those links in the show notes. Thank you, Sonia Atchison.

Sonia Atchison:
Thank you. I really appreciate the time, Dane. Thank you.

Dane Golden:
My name is Dane Golden and I want to thank you, the listener, for joining us today. I want to invite you to review us on Apple Podcasts because that helps people find out more about us and we can help even more people. I do this podcast and the other YouTube videos and speaking because I love helping businesses do YouTube and video marketing better. Thanks to our special guest, Sonia Atchison. Until next week. Here’s to helping you help your customers through video.

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