Social media savvy Microsoft’s new competitive edge – culture change


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The recent Netprospex Social 50 survey ranking US companies on their social media savviness rightly received a lot of air time. It’s an achievement, no doubt, to come out on top for Microsoft

For me, a couple of things stood out in almost all of the coverage which I read:

  • firstly the oft-repeated and accepted view that this was almost to be expected as Microsoft was a technology company and therefore these would “obviously” rank higher; and,
  • secondly the complete lack of any analysis or extrapolation of Microsoft’s social media prowess.

In this post and the next I will explore these issues, as I think that the first is misguided and that the the second is worth exploring.

Do technology companies have a natural advantage? 

Not only did commentators say so – this comment from ReutersNot surprisingly, the list was dominated by technology and software companies, while online retailers such as and eBay claimed two of the top five ranking”  - but the press release itself also said so! They imply by “technology companies” IT technology companies. 

But is this true and why should it be true? Personally I don’t believe that it is obvious that this should true, nor in fact do I believe that it is true.

I would have said that the companies which we might have expected to have an “obviously” higher ranking are the big brands, the marketing companies, and the best of the online retailers. In fact we see The Gap at #25, BMW at #29,Nike at #41 and Coca Cola at #50. EBay, Amazon and Disney are #2,3,4 which “makes sense”, and surprise is Raytheon at #8.

My point with respect to Microsoft is this – we know that for an organisation to transform itself into a social media savvy one is a major task. It takes planning, culture change, organisation, empowerment and operational attention. Mostly it is a very hard corporate cultural change task and most organisations have not even begun that journey.

Therefore I think it says something very important about Microsoft and its culture that it was able to achieve this #1 ranking.

In fact in my experience achieving change in IT companies is often extremely difficult, the folk are very stubborn and just stick their heads down and hope things will go away. It can’t be easy, look at IBM languishing at #49. EMC which has a great social media track record is #16.

But checking the survey scores (by which the ranking is made) gives Microsoft an even more impressive “win” since Microsoft scored 306 and EMC, for example, 123. That’s a big gap. In fact Microsoft scores 50% more than #2-ranked Amazon. 

Why I think it is important is because Microsoft is often lambasted for its inability to change. For its supposed inability to roll out new initiatives globally, because it is said that the geographic structures kill the initiatives.

In fact because of the common negative commentary about Microsoft losing its edge I was originally going to call this post “I have come to praise Microsoft not to bury it” to mix up Brutus’s line. 

I’m now of a mind to say that the results of the social savvy survey undermine those suggestions. An organisation has to capable of change in order to become social media savvy, because it does take change and it takes hard work. 

In summary, I don’t see why we should not have expected the consumer retail “brands” to do better, and I don’t think it is at all natural that technology companies would top the list, and I think Microsoft deserves credit for getting there as it signals a capacity to execute change.


PS we might also reflect on the Altimeter Group 2009 survey which concluded that companies who had the greatest depth and breadth of social media engagement showed significant financial results ahead of those that were not engaged. Microsoft ranked #5 in that survey (Starbucks #1). So Microsoft’s contining high level of engagement may well lead to continued superior financial performance – something which on all counts must concern IBM, for example. 

PSS Not to be overly fawning here but it’s impressive that Boston College Reputation Institute 2009 CSR Index of companies perceived to be strong in the area of ethics, citizenship and workplace practices placed Disney and Microsoft at the top. Disney was #4 in the social savvy survey. Microsoft has it’s challenges, but it has some amazing corporate assets both tangible and intangible.

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Walter Adamson
I help firms create optimal customer experiences by integrating social data, teams & processes with enterprise systems. The much vaunted 360-view of the customer can be a bottomless pit without a clear data strategy. I help you deliver a greatly improved customer experience starting with a "45-degree" view of the customer, fully utilising social data analytics. I clarify your objectives and what data you need to service them, and guide you to operationalise "social at scale" to consistently deliver valuable customer experience at every social touch point.


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