Microsoft’s Bringing ‘in-house’ ads to the Teams Activity Feed

Last year, Microsoft announced that it was going to turn its popular Teams application into a consumer communication tool too. This is accomplished by linking your Teams app to a personal MSA and thanks to the magic of fast account switching, the idea is that you can switch between work and personal accounts to quickly access all of your communication needs insides a single application.

Following the announcement of the features for Teams to entice consumers to use the service, the noise around the use-case has been rather quiet since that event. So quiet in fact that I have been loudly wondering on various podcasts if Microsoft was giving up on the idea but that does not appear to be the case.

Announced this week and starting at the end of April, Microsoft is going to ramp up its efforts to convince you to add your personal MSA to your Teams app. The company is going to do this by adding a new banner in the activity feed for Teams Mobile users telling you about the feature.

There is a way to stop this banner from showing up, but it is not elegant by any means. Microsoft says that if you do not want your users to see this banner, you must submit a help ticket in the Microsoft 365 admin tenant and your org can be excluded. But, this will not stop your users from adding another account to their app, to do that, you need to follow the instructions here.

But the bigger item here is that Microsoft is using the Teams activity feed as a new location to push its own products. This is the first time, I believe, that the company is using this feature to push additional products and services; I also suspect that it won’t be the last time we see an ad show up here too.

The “in-app” advertising model is one that we see frequently and many are on the fence that if it’s a company advertising its own solution, is that really advertising? That’s for you to decide but I am of the opinion that pushing consumer services inside of an enterprise application crosses that line.

You could also argue that this is similar to a ‘tool-tip’ where the app is showing you additional functionality that is already included. But with more than 115 million business customers logging into Teams each day, the intent here is clear: boost the consumer engagement of the service. To me, this is different than Excel letting you know that X-Lookup is now available.

The rollout timeline for this banner is starting at the end of April but runs to the end of December – that’s quite a large timeframe. I would expect this to mean that the company is going to start slowly and monitor conversion rates and likely A/B test the text that shows up in the app.

It’s important to note that this is only going to show up in the mobile app, desktop escapes the banner (for now). Aside from the initial release, Microsoft has not done a good job at communicating why you would want to use Teams for your personal life but maybe that starts to change with this new ad.