With players spending more time and money on games during lockdowns, Microsoft was poised for success when launching its latest Xbox console. The November debut of Xbox Series X and S helped the tech giant top $5 billion during the December quarter, a 51 percent increase year-over-year. It also saw an 86 percent rise in hardware revenue for the quarter.
During a Socialbakers webinar, Socialbakers head of enterprise solutions Bob Gearing spoke with Ayzenberg associate director, data and insights, Steven Monterastelli, who manages all aspects of social measurement for Xbox, to unpack his team’s learnings from the holiday season.
Microsoft and Sony went head to head for their holiday launches, with the former launching Xbox Series X/S on November 10, and the latter dropping Playstation 5 two days later. Still, Monterastelli says Xbox took a collaborative approach to the launch on social rather than a competitive one, retweeting its post from 2013 that congratulated Sony on launching the Playstation 4.
“We have fans that have both consoles and we need to respect that. We’re not here to say ‘Xbox is better than the competitor.’ Twitter has always been a high paced, real time platform driven by culture and community. Leaning into this and creating content based on shared insights has been key to sustaining mass interest for Xbox,” said Monterastelli.
The Xbox Series X/S launch turned out to be the most successful debut in the brand’s history. In the first 24 hours of launch, more new consoles were sold than any prior generation, with Xbox Series S adding the highest percentage of new players for any Xbox console at launch. During that same period, 70 percent of Series X/S consoles ended up tied to new and existing Xbox Game Pass members.
Part of this success can be attributed to the brand’s strong social presence. With users flocking to games to play, socialize, and connect with others during lockdown, Monterastelli says the pandemic has underscored the importance of understanding the Xbox community.
“People are coming to social because they want to engage with the brands they love. They’re looking for brands to amplify their shared values. Because of the pandemic, there are new feelings and emotions that haven’t been present in prior years. Being aware of that is key to staying credible and authentic. That’s been the insight we’ve gained. We need to be the fans. We need to show the fans that we understand them,” said Monterastelli.
To engage fans accordingly, Monterastelli says customizing content for each social channel has been critical, namely creating a presence on channels that service the community instead of your own brand priority. He and his team applied this thinking to Xbox’s foray into TikTok in September. Its first video, which teased the new Xbox Series S, amassed 1.3 million likes and 33,000 comments. Today, it boasts 1.5 million followers and 11.6 million likes.
“Take time to understand who your target audience is on the platform, but also how the platform itself behaves and why people use it the way that they do.”
For Xbox, engaging with its fans doesn’t start and stop with a picture, video or meme. Monterastelli notes that a consistent dialogue and voice carried out throughout every piece of content helps build meaningful connections with fans. To do so, the Xbox React team is constantly in the trenches looking for opportunities to engage fans and connect with them one to one.
As for content that helps the brand reach its marketing goals, social giveaways are top of mind for Monterastelli, but he cautions against the passive nature of such contests as entrants tend to quickly satisfy the entry requirements, then never think about the giveaway again. At Xbox, getting around this means creating lasting experiences for fans.
To promote the Series X launch, Xbox partnered with Taco Bell on a giveaway. Fans who purchased any medium or large drink via the Taco Bell app or in-person received a code on the cup for a chance to win a new Xbox Series X bundle.
Instead of promoting the giveaway with a post that simply asked fans to like or comment, Xbox created a Reels that encouraged its followers to debate on which came first: the cup or the console. The result: 1.3 million views, 113,000 likes and nearly 2,700 comments.
The brand is also famous for its viral memes, which offer players moments of levity.
“The great thing about memes is that you often don’t need to know the origin of the content to understand the insight. When we posted this meme around the K/D ratio, which is regarded as a prestige stat within first-person shooters, we were trying to convey that some fans may not be good at the games, but that we still value them.”