YouTubers are making a residing on movies about Microsoft software program

Kevin Stratvert produces movies at his dwelling in Seattle.

Tara Brown

When Microsoft up to date its Groups communication app with a extra subtle solution to give PowerPoint shows in January, the corporate printed a 500-word blog post on the characteristic. Folks might learn the weblog submit and check out to determine find out how to use it, or they may seek the advice of YouTube.

On the video service owned by arch-rival Google, a former Microsoft worker named Kevin Stratvert printed a video on Presenter Mode to his greater than 800,000 subscribers, garnering greater than 180,000 views and a whole bunch of feedback. Microsoft itself had not printed a video on the subject.

“I’ve constructed a Microsoft viewers,” Stratvert mentioned in an interview with CNBC. “Microsoft content material drives much more viewership than non-Microsoft content material. I’ve completed Gmail and some others, however they have not completed fairly as properly.”

Which may need to do with the attain of Microsoft’s merchandise. The corporate held 86% of the e-mail and authoring market in 2020, in accordance with expertise analysis agency Gartner, with 1.2 billion Office users.

Not each a kind of 1.2 billion is aware of find out how to do all the pieces in Workplace, although, and folks additionally have to sustain with the newest updates that Microsoft pumps out. Movies from Stratvert and his YouTube contemporaries are serving to with that — and generally getting extra eyeballs than Microsoft’s official movies.

Significantly better off

Stratvert arrived at Microsoft in 2006, the identical 12 months Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion. His first YouTube video confirmed footage from a drone flying over a city in New Jersey. Then Stratvert filmed movies of his travels within the Puget Sound and past. How-to movies and gadget-review movies adopted.

In 2017 he posted his first Microsoft-related video, wherein he toured treehouses on the corporate’s campus along with his spouse, Kerry Stratvert, a supervisor on the firm. Within the video description, he included a disclosure saying that he was a Microsoft worker.

Two months after the treehouse video, Stratvert was engaged on the small growth workforce behind, a web site that offers quick entry to on-line variations of Excel spreadsheets and different Workplace paperwork. The location was not well-known, particularly in contrast with Workplace functions for PCs, so Stratvert and colleagues requested their friends in advertising if they may unfold the phrase about The entrepreneurs did not have sufficient sources to assist, Stratvert mentioned.

So Stratvert produced a video exhibiting how individuals might use to get most options of Microsoft Workplace freed from cost. It carried out properly, and his supervisor advised him he had completed job.

He went on to make movies about Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Groups, Home windows and Phrase. Microsoft staff on different groups observed and began asking him to make movies about their merchandise. They noticed how many individuals had been watching and acknowledged that getting him to speak about their merchandise might usher in new customers, which in flip might imply extra favorable worker opinions.

“It is nearly like groups admire that there is this different outlet that is sort of unofficial,” he mentioned.

Then, in July 2020, months after the pandemic despatched the Stratverts dwelling, he gave up his place at Microsoft and started making 5 occasions as many movies as he was earlier than. He not wanted to incorporate disclosures in movies that he was a Microsoft worker, and he might discuss extra freely about competing merchandise equivalent to Slack and Zoom.

YouTube customers have hit the subscribe button. As we speak he has 85% extra subscribers than the official Microsoft 365 YouTube channel centered on Groups and different Workplace functions, which he mentioned has a workforce of 20 to 30 individuals producing content material.

“Economically I am significantly better off,” he mentioned. His spouse nonetheless works at Microsoft.

Selling exterior creators

Traditionally, creating and sustaining merchandise has been the core of Microsoft. As we speak practically 50% of staff work in engineering. Advertising and marketing is a significantly smaller a part of the enterprise, and staff work on adverts, supplies for Microsoft’s web site, occasions and different strategies of promotion.

Previously few years, a gaggle inside Microsoft started focusing extra on YouTube.

“On YouTube particularly, we’re beginning to discover the idea of what it seems love to do one thing native to YouTube,” Sonia Atchison, a market analysis lead who labored on the Microsoft Creators Program, mentioned on a podcast final 12 months.

Folks typically flip to YouTube after they need to get a greater understanding of Microsoft software program, and whereas Microsoft has loads of its personal movies accessible on YouTube, they do not all the time come up on the high of the positioning’s search outcomes, Atchison mentioned. Movies from outsiders can obtain greater rankings.

Generally a video from a Microsoft worker could be there. The corporate does have staff with massive audiences, together with Mike Tholfsen, a 26-year firm veteran whose movies present how lecturers and college students can use Groups and different functions.

Microsoft needed extra individuals like Tholfsen. The corporate shaped a gaggle to assist individuals engaged on totally different merchandise learn to construct sizable YouTube channels, mentioned Jon Levesque, who posted YouTube movies as a senior platform evangelist at Microsoft earlier than taking a job at DocuSign in March. There have been points at occasions. Some staff requested why they had been concentrating on a service owned by a high competitor, and groups did not all the time agree with all the pieces that employee-creators mentioned in movies, Levesque mentioned.

The hassle did not get far, and Microsoft started selling movies from non-employees as an alternative, with the institution of the Microsoft Creators Program. The corporate began together with outsiders’ movies in its video playlists, and it supplied to make use of their movies for buyer assist. That led to some further video views, mentioned Jason Sele, whose YouTube channel goes by the title Sele Coaching. In late June, Microsoft introduced plans to place this system on pause.

Among the many dozens of people that joined the Creators Program, the preferred is Leila Gharani, a software program teacher in Vienna, with over 900,000 subscribers. After selecting up abilities in Excel and different software program on the job, Gharani started instructing courses in particular person and on-line. She made her YouTube debut in 2016, with the hope of enhancing her filming abilities.

The channel took off, and that introduced in cash, plus it drew extra college students to her premium programs, which her firm, XelPlus, continues to supply. With the corporate rising, her husband left his place as a chief monetary officer to hitch her. They introduced on an editor and a author, too.

Lots of Gharani’s YouTube movies element elements of Excel. That does not imply she utterly ignores the competitors. Certainly one of her extra well-liked movies in 2020 was known as “Google Sheets BEATS Excel with THESE 10 Features!”

Like Stratvert, Gharani has heard from Microsoft staff. After she posted a video on the Whiteboard app, a program supervisor mentioned the workforce cherished her video and supplied to indicate her updates that had been coming quickly. This system supervisor did not inform her to make a video however as an alternative needed to see if she thought the enhancements could be video-worthy, Gharani mentioned.

She mentioned customers may ascribe better authority to YouTube creators who work at Microsoft, not like her.

“Folks admire that they are at Microsoft,” she mentioned. “‘They have to know what they’re saying. They don’t seem to be going to say it if it is not true. That authority factor does include it. However not lots.”

Jason Sele makes YouTube movies from a high-tech RV.

Jason Sele

It hasn’t stopped Gharani from rising into a significant entity. She boasts extra subscribers than nearly all of Microsoft’s YouTube accounts. The Xbox channel stays a high attraction, with over 4 million subscribers.

Sele would love the kind of YouTube success that Gharani and Stratvert have had. Movies of his that include suggestions and tips on Excel and different functions have acquired greater than 1 million views, however he isn’t an on-camera star. Sele, who makes movies from his RV after 25 years of publicity to Microsoft merchandise as a director of data expertise, narrates whereas giving all of the visible consideration to the video feed from his pc. He mentioned he spends time fastidiously writing and enhancing scripts earlier than hitting file. The YouTube cash is sufficient to dwell on, he mentioned.

He mentioned he is not anxious about competing with Microsoft. “They will crank out all this coaching, but it surely actually is not coaching you may simply hand to your staff,” he mentioned. “It is both too high-level or low-level.”


Whereas YouTube has no scarcity of software program walk-throughs, YouTube is greater than only a vacation spot for cautious studying. It is a venue for leisure. Gharani will get that.

“It is extra passive, they do not have to actually focus,” she mentioned of people that watch her movies. “They’ll let themselves additionally take into consideration different issues and are available again and simply watch and nonetheless get one thing out of it. You’ll be able to’t get that out of writing.”

She strives to maintain her YouTube movies shifting alongside at a quick tempo. She would not need the movies to be too boring. In any other case she will not have many individuals watching.

“It is not obligatory that they really study one thing, however they only see the potential that they may study one thing, or they really feel like they’ve realized one thing,” she mentioned. Her on-line programs have a special goal. There isn’t any background music, they’re slower, and there is much less of her speaking on digicam.

The thumbnail pictures for her movies on YouTube all the time present her face, and her channel makes use of her full title, relatively than some jumble of phrases equivalent to OfficeIsSuperGreat, which helps her work stand out in search outcomes.

The identical could be mentioned about Stratvert’s channel.

However his movies could be longer. Some run properly previous 20 or half-hour. He retains them from changing into tedious by speaking about how he makes use of software program inside his made-up company, the Kevin Cookie Company. In a single video about holding webinars in Groups, Kerry Stratvert made an look, posing as a Kevin Cookie Firm worker who needed to air her considerations. Because the particular person working the assembly, he turned off her microphone and digicam, demonstrating what webinar hosts can do in that state of affairs in actual life.

For years she had known as Stratvert’s YouTube channel a interest and identified that he hadn’t recouped the funding in manufacturing tools. She did not suppose he might ever go full time. Then, final 12 months, he did.

“It is completed extraordinarily properly,” he mentioned. “My spouse seems at that — ‘Oh, man, working at dwelling, cranking out a video a day, perhaps I ought to do that, too. Possibly I ought to pull collectively movies.’ Similar together with her sister, too.”

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