Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Thomas Wakelin, social media marketing manager for Microsoft UK, on social media optimization:

Shaheen Samavati 0:13
Hi everyone, I’m Shaheen from The Content Mix and I’m excited to be here with UK-based Thomas Wakelin, who is social media marketing manager for Microsoft, which is a brand I think we all know very well. Thanks so much for joining us, Tom.

Thomas Wakeline 0:25
Thanks for having me Shaheen. Really excited to be here.

Shaheen Samavati 0:28
Excited to have you. So can you just start by introducing yourself in your own words. Tell us a bit about what you do?

Thomas Wakeline 0:35
Sure. So my name is Thomas Wakelin, as you said. I currently live in the UK, about 30 minutes away from London is probably the easiest way to describe where I live. I suppose to give a really brief overview of my career, I’ve worked both in agencies, multiple agencies over the years and also in-house. So it’s a nice mix of what does a client want and then what can an agency provide. How does the agency world work? It’s very, very different, as I’m sure a lot of your listeners would agree, depending on where you work. So I like to have both backgrounds. But yeah I’ve been working in social media specifically now for about five or six years I think. So a little while, I’ve seen it grow over time for sure.

Shaheen Samavati 1:22
Okay great. How did you get into social media as a specialization?

Thomas Wakeline 1:27
So my first experience of marketing as a whole was actually at an agency in London, where I used to prepare press kits, come up with ideas that instal displays for video games actually, was one of our clients. We would have to go, how are we going to set up a retail space? How are we going to set up a website? How are we going to set up all of these different things to make sure that the customer understands that the product is even available, but also it entices them to buy. Social media specifically, I was actually doing a internship, funnily enough at Microsoft and it wasn’t even in a social media role. I picked it up, met one of my previous colleagues in that role and he asked me, did I have an interest in social media? I must have been about, I don’t know, 19 or 20 years old at that time. I said, “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of this thing. Social media, it sounds so interesting.” I was just doing work on the side almost, like in my own time, at the weekends. Eventually, it turned into like a summer placement in the social media team around the time when Windows 10 launched globally. So there was obviously a lot of work to be done. They said, “Could you stay on potentially and help us launch Windows 10?” Ever since then, it’s been graduated from uni, back to Microsoft, I did a little bit of a stint at an agency. I’ve learned so much over the past few years and in social obviously every single year changes with platforms or features that are available. So yeah, it’s been really, really exciting to be a part of it and see it grow over years compared to just doing a Facebook post and a tweet, which is what it used to be.

Shaheen Samavati 3:22
How did you get your foot in the door for that first internship with Microsoft? I think that’s something people would be interested to know in our community.

Thomas Wakeline 3:29
Yeah so Microsoft has a really fantastic global intern scheme basically. If you search for careers at Microsoft, I believe “Early Careers” is one of the key tabs, right at the top of the page. In the UK, specifically, we also offer apprenticeships, which some of your global audience might not be aware of. That is people who are coming out of, I suppose the equivalent in America might be high school. So you would finish high school and instead of going to college, you will do a work based program where you still earn your qualifications but you’re gaining that work experience. Just with how my career worked out, when I was an intern at Microsoft, that was the first year that we had apprentices. So I’ve had a really nice ability to be able to see so many different early in career candidates grow. I think Microsoft’s a fantastic place to be able to actually give people that opportunity to discover what they’re really passionate about and then to have this really supportive network to actually help people achieve what they want to from a career perspective. I think it’s really nice.

Shaheen Samavati 8:03
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I was curious how your agency experience has influenced your approach now? Has it changed your perspective on the work?

Thomas Wakeline 8:11
Yeah, oh, 100%. So your listeners, I’m sure they might rejoice, they might cheer, when they hear me say the next thing I’m going to say. I’ve really learned the value of an in-depth brief, actually providing a real brief which has all the information that the agency needs in order to do the work, because it’s so important to remember that your agency isn’t part of everyday operations in your company, right? They need that extra bit of guidance. Agencies that I work with, as long as you give them that guidance, they’re absolutely fantastic. They’ll find opportunities that you might have not even considered in house. We have a fantastic internal marketing team at Microsoft but there’s never an excuse, in my opinion, to work with, especially our agency partners who we work with, to go “Okay, well, we think that this might be the best angle to tackle this problem, or come up with this campaign. But is there something we’re missing? Do you think there’s a different opportunity somewhere else? How do you think we could breathe a breath of fresh air into this idea? How would you scale this up and make it a really engaging campaign?” I don’t think there’s ever an issue with trying to include as many people, especially from a creatives perspective, Shaheen. I think creatives work best when they’re all together in a single environment and they’re bouncing ideas back and forth. So I think being able to build and explain to people why they need to give as much information as possible in a brief is definitely something that I picked up throughout my various years in agencies, both big and small.

Shaheen Samavati 9:59
Awesome. Could you tell us a bit more about what you’re doing now, your day-to-day in your role?

Thomas Wakeline 10:05
Yes. So my role, day-to-day, you’ve had a fantastic connection there, because it’s working with our agency partners a lot of the time. I am responsible really for the social media strategy, when it comes to some of our key social channels, whether that is consumer, commercial, education, or developer. Really what my role focuses on is making sure that all of our social content or all of our digital content, whether that is okay, how do I socialize to use a brand new word that I’ve just come up with off the top of my head, a blog, for example? How can I best amplify that blog on LinkedIn versus Pinterest versus Instagram versus Twitter? Obviously, a few years ago, you would just create, probably what a lot of companies would have done, is create a single still image, and you go brilliant, I’ll put that on LinkedIn, I’ll put that on Twitter, we’ll put it on Facebook, just paste it everywhere. Whereas now a lot of my day to day is how can we best optimize each social media platform for the stories that we want to tell. We want to make sure that everyone is aware of how Microsoft technology or services can really help them, but how can I do that in a way that puts the customer first, that really uses our community and makes them feel special. So some of the work that I’ve done in the past, I suppose, is things like the my surface campaign, which we launched for one of the anniversaries for Microsoft Surface in the UK. We were suddenly going right, we could really highlight the product and the specs and how great it is. Or we could actually showcase the people who use the products wherever they are in the world. In the end, we ended up with some authors in the UK who use it to write children’s books, we featured some artists in Europe who were using it just to draw really fantastic pictures, they’re so much better than me drawing, I’m still using Microsoft Paint whenever I try and actually draw things on the computer. But also like video game developers as well, there’s so many people out there in the world and what we really wanted to do was work with our agency to create this fantastic campaign, which just highlighted all these different stories all over the world. My role is obviously to make sure it’s on brand, to make sure that no ones going to get into trouble. But also to make sure that we’re using the right language, that we’re really making sure that people feel that they’re actually able to reach a company like Microsoft. That they’re able to connect with us, they’re able to ask questions, they’re able to share both things that they love about our products and services, but also things that we might need to work on. So actually give that feedback to us so that we can escalate it to product teams so that we can improve the way that our products are made.

Shaheen Samavati 11:15
That make sense. You’re specifically responsible for social media in the UK. I wanted to know, do you have a separate strategy for different key markets? Or how does that work? Are you making unique content? It sounds like you’re making unique content for the UK market?

Thomas Wakeline 13:19
Yeah it’s a lot of content. So obviously, if we do things like a product launch, as a global company we’ll try and use similar techniques, we’ll try and use similar copy, other than localizing it here and there. But especially the strategies that I put together, it’s mainly UK bespoke. So we will have a separate strategy depending on which channel we are making that strategy for. So our education strategy, for example, is completely different to our commercial strategy, which is completely different to the developer strategy and each one has different focuses. For our education audience, for example, it’s so much fun to talk to people in the education sector. I think a lot of people would think, “Oh, teachers aren’t on social media, they’re not going to want to talk to brands.” We learn so much Shaheen, honestly from just talking to teachers on platforms like Twitter. This was a fantastic idea from one of our agencies, which was to do a teachers often in the UK do something called “Pupil of the Week,” which is who is the student who has behaved the best. What would happen if we flipped that on its head, and we did a “Teacher of the Week.” So what we do now on Twitter is we highlight an educator in the UK, who is part of our education community who’s done a really fantastic job, they might have done a really cool YouTube video, they might have shared a picture of how they’re doing remote learning, for example. Actually, it’s really, really nice to share that story and then see the reaction from educators all over the UK. So I suppose it’s campaign ideas like that which makes me feel that I’ve made the right shout in terms of the strategy of, “Hey, let’s be community first. Let’s really try and put the focus on the community itself.” Then we’ll see where we go, basically. And being able to best help people, we’ve had to be so flexible over the past 12 months with the pandemic and everything that’s happened. It’s really nice to get those messages of thanks from teachers to stick with this example. To say, your remote learning content has been so helpful, I’m actually confident in using all these different software and tools, my kids love it, they engage in my lessons, could you answer me this question or I’m thinking of using this, what do you think? And that’s where our community team do a fantastic job of really trying to make sure that we can help as many people as possible.

Shaheen Samavati 15:55
So it sounds like obviously for different Microsoft products, you have different audiences, do you use different channels to reach the different audiences or what’s your approach to that?

Thomas Wakeline 16:04
We have some core channels. So most communities have a Twitter page and a Facebook page. But what we’ve really tried to do is explore as many new platforms as we possibly can, we have accounts like most brands, on Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, you name it and we’re probably there. But you’re right completely Shaheen, in that sometimes, depending on the message, you have to pick the right social media platform. So a lot of our commercial content, for example, yes we could put it on Twitter but actually, if it’s specifically, I don’t know, the finance industry, for example, using something like LinkedIn might be more appropriate. We’re talking at the moment from an organic perspective, right? Paid, obviously, you can target people and different demographics and interests, I suppose. But really, from an organic perspective, you have to be really careful where you put your message in because really, each network and social platform is so different. Each algorithm is so different from the last. Actually publishing your content on it can really impact its performance and impact the people who might really want to know about content. If they’re on Twitter, for example, they might not be exposed to it, they might follow a lot of different channels, they might not actually be exposed to your content to then engage with it. Whereas if I put it on LinkedIn, for example, and they’re particularly active on LinkedIn, they might be more likely to be served the message, I suppose, is the right way to say it.

Shaheen Samavati 16:15
Do you know off hand how many different pages you’re responsible for?

Thomas Wakeline 17:47
I probably should know off the top of my head.

Shaheen Samavati 17:50
Possibly indirectly, some of them, I guess.

Thomas Wakeline 17:53
Yes, I think it’s really important to note that we have these, what we call communities. So we have education, we have developer, we have commercial, but each of those has a different number of accounts within it. So education, for example, we have a Facebook account for Microsoft in education in the UK, we also have it on Twitter. The messages that we put out on each platform are very, very different. Our agency do a fantastic job of working with Microsoft to be able to work out, do I put this message on Facebook or do we put it on Twitter. We have LinkedIn, which obviously everything can be put into and we can make sure that we’re using targeting to make sure that if you’re a developer, you’re not being served education messages, because you might be like, “Well, I don’t have anyone to teach, so why would I need to be shown this content? It wouldn’t make any sense.” Whereas our Microsoft UK channel and the comeback community I suppose is split, probably most broadly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, because that is our flagship channel where we can bring everything into it. So we have a really nice platform mix and as a social marketer it’s really nice to be able to go well brilliant, this might not work on Twitter. But this would be fantastic on Pinterest, this would be fantastic on Instagram. Being able to be that creative and being able to move your ideas back and forth I think is really, really important. It allows most ideas to be changed or adjusted in such a way that you can make it fit on the best platform that’s going to give you the best chance of success.

Shaheen Samavati 19:36
Absolutely. Do you have a favorite social media channel right now?

Thomas Wakeline 19:40
For me personally?

Shaheen Samavati 19:41

Thomas Wakeline 19:42
For me personally, it’s gonna be TikTok at the minute. The main reason is completely different than what most people say. I honestly think Shaheen, that social has changed considerably in the past 12 months. If you think of the way that people use social media, especially platforms like TikTok, platforms like YouTube, we’re using it as a way to entertain ourselves, especially in lockdowns across different countries and across the world. Social media used to be used, three, four years ago as a way to connect with people, to connect with your family. On Facebook, for example, you might be like me, you might have your family, you might have your friends, you might have your work colleagues, you might have someone who you met in a bar, who you were like, let’s be Facebook friends. But actually, I look at my TikTok account and I look at my YouTube account and actually, there are community elements in there, I can comment on TikTok, I can join the community feed on YouTube and hear from the creator themselves. But I’m using it very differently than the way that I’m using, say Twitter where I’m going,” Okay, well, what is the latest news?” What stories have I missed? Whereas I’m going to TikTok and YouTube because I have 30 minutes downtime and I want to be entertained. I want to see how people are reacting. So I think it’s going to be really, really interesting to see how social evolves over the next few years. I would say TikTok right now for me is ticking the boxes when I’m trying to find things to do when I’m locked inside the house.

Shaheen Samavati 22:10
What about experimenting with Reels? Have you done much of that? That’s kind of Instagram’s response to TikTok?

Thomas Wakeline 22:17
So when Instagram first started, I mean can you remember when Instagram used to just be pictures? Because it feels like so long ago. We’ve explored Stories. Reels isn’t something that we’ve used yet in the UK. I think it’s really interesting to take a step back and think about Instagram as a platform. There’s so many options now, what it used to be four years ago was, how can we put really high quality, beautiful imagery on Instagram, and people would respond really well to it and they still do. Now we can use Instagram Stories where we have this 24 hour period to suddenly engage people to say “Swipe up to learn more!”, “Share with us your feedback,” “Vote on two buttons,” “Tell us how amazing or beautiful this device is” by using a slider to vote for example. You’ve got IGTV, we have Reels. There’s so many different elements that now I think, like I said previously, your social media strategy for Instagram needs to be so robust and so innovative compared to other platforms, because you’re offered so many things. I do think you look at Twitter when they introduced tweets. I think a lot of social networks over the next few years are going to be adding more and more features. It just makes the job more exciting, right? It gives you more opportunities to explore these features and think how could I best use these new options to highlight the brand or highlight my customers if you’re working in an agency, for example. Which is I think what marketers really enjoy, this ability to create new work and showcase it in different ways. Instead of just giving a download link and a hyperlink. There’s so many different ways you can now bring to life a blog post, for example, that it can make the brain boggle, it really can.

Shaheen Samavati 24:20
You were talking about how it’s necessary to optimize for every platform. Now it’s even necessary to optimize for just different types of posts within the same platform?

Thomas Wakeline 24:28
Yeah, for a single platform. For just an image, should we just post it or should we animate it, should we put an audio narration in? It’s crazy the amount of things you can do!

Shaheen Samavati 24:42
Totally agree. So I wanted to ask you a few of your tips as we’re getting towards the end of the interview. So I just wanted to know what’s your best productivity hack?

Thomas Wakeline 24:53
I’m really old school, I like to try and think that I’ve portrayed myself as this youthful “Hey, I’m going to be really innovative with all of this technology!” But actually the past few weeks, I bought a planner, which has the whole week laid out over two pages. So you just open it each week. The left-hand side is always my personal tasks. So it might be things like call home, you need to call the plumber, you need to sort out this bill, you need to call your friend who you haven’t spoken to in a month, because you’re really bad at managing your social calendar. But at the same time, on the right, I have my work tasks. Especially with everything going on in the world right now, I found that to be a really good productivity hack, which is I’ve got all my work list which is something that I’ve always done. I’ve always, whether it’s been a digital list or a physical list, had a to do list at work. Actually introducing that social element to it, to twist your question a bit, for me has been a fantastic productivity hack because suddenly, I’m now reaching out to people who I haven’t reached out to in months because I’ve been so focused on work, or I’ve been focused on something else. Or I’ve been watching something on Netflix, for example. I honestly think actually building in that time in my to do list or my planner or my diary, whatever you want to word it, to actually reach out to people and say, “Oh how are you doing? How’s work been? How are the kids?” for example, it actually gives me a lot more energy to once I get off the phone with them go right back into work. It feels a little bit fresh. It’s almost like these little micro breaks that I can put in the work day, which is lovely, because it’s reaching out to people who I might have not been able to speak to for a while or I haven’t seen since we’ve been put into lockdown. Getting all that energy and all that feel good buzz, then going right, let’s go back into work. It’s really helped me, as cheesy as it all sounds.

Shaheen Samavati 27:01
That’s a really cool one. I really like that and it’s a unique one. Nobody has said that yet.

Thomas Wakeline 27:07
I’m glad, everyone’s going to get so frustrated with people calling them out the blue. But honestly, my friends haven’t had an issue with it. Maybe my friends are just alright with getting calls out the blue. So maybe check with your friends first before you do it.

Shaheen Samavati 27:23
That’s a really good one, a reminder of prioritizing those things that sometimes get put on the back burner. So next, I just wanted to ask, any professional role model or source of inspiration?

Thomas Wakeline 27:39
Yeah. So I found this question really interesting because I don’t have a specific individual role model. I’ve been really fortunate over the years to work with some really fantastic marketers who have worked for companies like McDonald’s, they work for Vodafone, they worked for so many different companies. One of my previous colleagues is called Gareth Crew who has actually been on your podcast before. A little plug for you, I recommend listening to his episode because I’ve listened to it so many times. He is the head of social for EMEA at Garmin. Actually, if you think about it, I don’t think people spend the time in their day to go well here are all my different connections that I’ve had over the years and how can I reach out to people If I have a question? I think sometimes people, especially in social or digital marketing roles, sometimes people think that they have to know everything, that they have to have an answer for anyone in the organization. Actually sometimes going “Okay, well, this is what my personal view is and my personal solution to your question would be ABC.” There’s quite a lot of the times where I say, “Okay, well, I do think I know how I could help. But let me just reach out to some of my colleagues across the industry, just to see what they would say.” Most of the time, you’re going to have a completely different answer and a completely different solution. I think it’s really, really important for our industry as a whole, to share best practices, to share advice, to be there for each other. I’ve learned so much from so many different people who now work across so many different industries and different companies that I think having that external network is so important. So I feel like I’ve answered your question, but not in a way. But I would say definitely my entire network from the very start of my career all the way through to where it is today. Being able to ask for advice is so important because it’s the only way that we’re all going to keep on learning and going okay, well my friend’s brand has done this. Maybe I could try it but I’ll tweak it by doing this. Sharing those best practices with each other is just gonna help everyone at the end of the day.

Shaheen Samavati 30:04
Absolutely, yeah. So do you have a book recommendation for us?

Thomas Wakeline 30:10
Yes. So mine would be That Will Never Work, it’s by Marc Randolph, I believe off the top of my head. Basically, it’s the story of how Netflix became a big deal. I suppose if I was to give you another one, it would be Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull. Creativity, Inc, how can I explain it in a nutshell, how Pixar and Disney really focus on driving creativity within their teams. How do they think of different solutions to storytelling, for example, those are two books that I really, really enjoyed reading. I think they’re also available on Audible as well, so if you’re not a fan of reading, you can use one of your credits. I’m sure there’s a promotional credit on YouTube or something, there’s usually a free trial, if you haven’t been an Audible member before, where you can listen to the books, but they’re really really fantastic books those two.

Shaheen Samavati 31:18
Excellent. I haven’t read them yet. So I’ll definitely have to check those out.

Thomas Wakeline 31:21
Add them to your list.

Shaheen Samavati 31:26
Then lastly, I just wanted to ask for any other recommendation of resources for marketers, whether that’s an online community, publication, podcast or a software tool or app?

Thomas Wakeline 31:36
Yeah, so there’s so many Facebook groups that you can join, including your own which I find really, really interesting. Just to take a back seat, listen to the questions that people have, sometimes I’ll chip in with my own answer. But there’s quite a few marketing groups that I’m part of, on Facebook. Again, it goes back to what I said previously, I don’t want to say for the sake of our industry, but to make our industry more creative, more collaborative, more fun to be in, share best practices. I just think it helps everyone. In terms of podcasts, I think it’s called Safe For Work and there’s also another one called Business Wars. I think both of them are by a podcast creator called Wondery. They’re all free and they’re really, really fantastic podcast, making you go, Okay, well, this is the story of how, on Business Wars for example, how a business went from just being an idea, all the way to being in what it is today. Wheras Safe For Work basically, the premise of the podcast, I haven’t listened to it for a few months now. But when I was listening to it religiously, people basically wrote in and said, Oh, I have this question. This is happening in my workplace, what would you do about it? Then the two hosts discuss usually quite humorous ways of dealing with it. But actually, it’s a really refreshing take on, it’s great to hear that someone else is having the similar issue that I’m having or I know my friend is having at work. Actually, just by listening to this podcast, there’s some solutions that get shared, but I actually feel more comfortable and more confident, because I know it’s not just me, it’s not me overreacting, someone else is going through this in the world. So I think any podcasts like that are really, really useful to kind of put everything in perspective.

Shaheen Samavati 33:33
Yeah. Sounds very cool. So we’ve reached the end of the interview, I just wanted to ask if you have any parting advice or final takeaways for other marketers in Europe?

Thomas Wakeline 33:44
Yeah. So I suppose my parting advice would be think outside the box, get creative. Encourage your teams to take a chance. We’re in such a fortunate industry, where we have tools available to us to really do some really exciting things. I think to do social media specifically, if you have a blog post to promote, you could just do a still image, you could just put the URL in the copy of a tweet. But how could you make it exciting? How could you use carousels on LinkedIn? How could you use stories on Facebook? How could you use reels on Instagram? Sometimes taking a step back and going, Okay, I’m not going to do 100 tasks, I’m just going to do 25. I’m going to do these 25 tasks really, really creatively and in a really innovative way, you’ll feel better for it, because you’ll get to flex that creative muscle. At least in my experience, your results will also improve because suddenly people are seeing this really engaging content. They’re seeing your brand in a different light. They’re seeing your brand in a really positive creative, innovative light on social and actually it’s making them go wow, this is really cool. I’m going to click this content. I’m going to consume the video, I’m going to read the blog, the e-book whatever, sign up to the event. So let’s think outside the box, let’s get creative. Like we’ve said for this whole podcast Shaheen, let’s share best practices and really support each other in the industry.

Shaheen Samavati 35:13
That’s a great note to end on. Before we wrap up, I just want to ask if anyone wants to learn more about you or reach out what’s the best way?

Thomas Wakeline 35:22
So the best way is probably on LinkedIn and Twitter. So on LinkedIn, I’m Thomas Wakelin, I’m sure it will be in the show notes somewhere. Then on Twitter, it is Thomas_Wakelin. So again, the spelling will be in the show notes. But any questions, feel free to reach out and I’m more than happy to have a chat.

Shaheen Samavati 35:44
Excellent. Well, thanks so much Thomas, for sharing your insights with us today.

Thomas Wakeline 35:48
Thanks so much for having me. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Shaheen Samavati 35:52
Me too. Thanks to everybody for listening in. For more perspectives on content marketing in Europe, check out and keep tuning into the podcast for more interviews with content experts. See you next time.

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