Kevin Stratvert produces movies at his residence in Seattle.

Tara Brown

When Microsoft up to date its Groups communication app with a extra subtle option to give PowerPoint displays in January, the corporate printed a 500-word blog post on the function. Individuals might learn the weblog put up and check out to determine tips on how to use it, or they might 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 tons of 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 finished Gmail and some others, however they have not finished 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 response to know-how analysis agency Gartner, with 1.2 billion Office users.

Not each a kind of 1.2 billion is aware of tips on how to do the whole lot in Workplace, although, and other people additionally have to sustain with the most recent updates that Microsoft pumps out. Movies from Stratvert and his YouTube contemporaries are serving to with that — and typically 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 together 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 improvement staff behind, an internet 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 purposes for PCs, so Stratvert and colleagues requested their friends in advertising and marketing if they might unfold the phrase about The entrepreneurs did not have sufficient assets to assist, Stratvert mentioned.

So Stratvert produced a video displaying how folks might use to get most options of Microsoft Workplace freed from cost. It carried out properly, and his supervisor informed him he had finished job.

He went on to make movies about Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Groups, Home windows and Phrase. Microsoft workers on different groups seen and began asking him to make movies about their merchandise. They noticed how many individuals have been watching and acknowledged that getting him to speak about their merchandise might herald 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 form of unofficial,” he mentioned.

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

YouTube customers have hit the subscribe button. At the moment he has 85% extra subscribers than the official Microsoft 365 YouTube channel centered on Groups and different Workplace purposes, which he mentioned has a staff of 20 to 30 folks 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. At the moment almost 50% of workers work in engineering. Advertising and marketing is a significantly smaller a part of the enterprise, and workers work on adverts, supplies for Microsoft’s web site, occasions and different strategies of promotion.

Up to now few years, a bunch inside Microsoft started focusing extra on YouTube.

“On YouTube particularly, we’re beginning to discover the idea of what it seems to be 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.

Individuals typically flip to YouTube once 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 at all times come up on the high of the location’s search outcomes, Atchison mentioned. Movies from outsiders can obtain increased rankings.

Generally a video from a Microsoft worker could be there. The corporate does have workers 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 purposes.

Microsoft needed extra folks like Tholfsen. The corporate fashioned a bunch to assist folks 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 workers requested why they have been concentrating on a service owned by a high competitor, and groups did not at all times agree with the whole lot that employee-creators mentioned in movies, Levesque mentioned.

The hassle did not get far, and Microsoft started selling movies from non-employees as a substitute, 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 help. That led to some further video views, mentioned Jason Sele, whose YouTube channel goes by the identify 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 most well-liked is Leila Gharani, a software program teacher in Vienna, with over 900,000 subscribers. After choosing up expertise 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 expertise.

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 components of Excel. That does not imply she fully ignores the competitors. Certainly one of her extra standard movies in 2020 was referred to as “Google Sheets BEATS Excel with THESE 10 Features!”

Like Stratvert, Gharani has heard from Microsoft workers. After she posted a video on the Whiteboard app, a program supervisor mentioned the staff beloved her video and supplied to point out her updates that have been coming quickly. This system supervisor did not inform her to make a video however as a substitute 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, in contrast to her.

“Individuals admire that they are at Microsoft,” she mentioned. “‘They have to know what they’re saying. They are not going to say it if it isn’t true. That authority factor does include it. However not rather a lot.”

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

Jason Sele

It hasn’t stopped Gharani from rising into a serious 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 comprise suggestions and tips on Excel and different purposes have obtained greater than 1 million views, however he is not an on-camera star. Sele, who makes movies from his RV after 25 years of publicity to Microsoft merchandise as a director of knowledge know-how, narrates whereas giving all of the visible consideration to the video feed from his laptop. He mentioned he spends time rigorously writing and modifying scripts earlier than hitting file. The YouTube cash is sufficient to stay on, he mentioned.

He mentioned he is not frightened about competing with Microsoft. “They’re going to crank out all this coaching, however it actually is not coaching you possibly can simply hand to your workers,” 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 will 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 transferring alongside at a quick tempo. She does not need the movies to be too boring. In any other case she will not have many individuals watching.

“It isn’t vital that they really study one thing, however they simply see the potential that they might study one thing, or they really feel like they’ve realized one thing,” she mentioned. Her on-line programs have a distinct function. There isn’t any background music, they’re slower, and there is much less of her speaking on digital camera.

The thumbnail photographs for her movies on YouTube at all times present her face, and her channel makes use of her full identify, fairly than some jumble of phrases corresponding to OfficeIsSuperGreat, which helps her work stand out in search outcomes.

The identical may be mentioned about Stratvert’s channel.

However his movies may 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 issues. Because the particular person working the assembly, he turned off her microphone and digital camera, demonstrating what webinar hosts can do in that state of affairs in actual life.

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

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

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