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Unlock the Potential of Real-Time Marketing

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In this article you will learn...

  • What measurements matter for real-time marketing, and how to use the data
  • How to create a process that doesn't hinder real-time marketing efforts
  • Pitfalls to avoid when deploying a real-time marketing program

Real-time marketing isn't necessarily new, but Oreo's blackout ad at this year's Super Bowl highlighted the power of this strategy. Marketers are now scrambling to understand how they can integrate it into their marketing mix. In fact, 53% of marketers say they plan to make greater use of real-time data in their 2013 marketing campaigns (Infogroup and Yesmail, 2013).

And there is good reason to take notice: Regardless of product or category, marketers who engage in real-time marketing can expect a 21% increase in positive brand perceptions and 18% increase in likelihood to buy (Golin Harris).

Real-time is not some marketing fad, but a natural progression of social media marketing and a great way for marketers to capitalize on the immense volume of social conversations. And a key part of unlocking the potential of real-time marketing is implementing social analytics that can help guide your media strategies.

Here are a few tips to get started.

Measuring and Using Data

Establish a baseline

Real-time marketing is all about tapping into the excitement around an event or cultural experience. If you are planning something around an upcoming event, start tracking the social conversations in the weeks leading up to it. You will gain a sense of the conversation volume, which will make it easier to identify spikes in conversations and interest. You can also start to uncover the hot topics within the community so that you have time to research them and be poised to respond quickly during the actual event.

Know your audience

You can start to inform your real-time strategy by identifying and getting to know who is driving the conversation around a topic or event. As you start to understand your various audience segments, you can determine whether a one-to-one or one-to-many approach is warranted.

For example, are people all reacting to a big event (as they did during the blackout at the Super Bowl), where one message can address the general sentiment being expressed? Or are people reacting with their own unique questions that require a more tailored response (like the Old Spice campaign, where Mustafa responded to questions asked by fans on Twitter)?

Tap into the larger conversation

What makes real-time marketing different from other strategies is that the content is based on an audience's reaction to something as it happens. Accordingly, you should look beyond just your campaign hashtag and Tweets to see what else people are talking about. After you have a sense of what is resonating with your target audience, see whether there are other hashtags or topics that are appropriate to use to participate in the conversation.

Making Real-Time Marketing Work

Remove the hierarchy

There is no room for a strict organizational approval process in real-time marketing; it could be your greatest hindrance in deploying a program. Real-time marketing will be most effective if you empower employees or your agency to make creative decisions on the fly. The reason Oreo was able to make an impact during the Super Bowl was that the agency running its campaign had free rein to create and approve content. This type of swift movement allowed Oreo to be part of the conversation as it was happening.

It takes time to build that level of trust in employees and partners, so start putting a structure in place for it now, so that when the time comes you are well-positioned to take advantage of an event in real time.

Create customer-centric content

Make sure that your customers are at the center of any content you develop for this campaign. Real-time marketing isn't any different from any other marketing effort, so think about what matters to your customers and create content that includes that.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) made fans an active participant in its real-time social media efforts during the Golden Globe Awards earlier this year. Since the red carpet is one of the most popular parts of the night, the HFPA wanted to capitalize on it and find ways to include fans in the event. Prior to the show, it asked Twitter followers to tweet who they wanted to see on the red carpet with the hashtag #GlobesCarpet. On the day of the show, the HFPA made sure to post photos of celebrities their fans and followers had requested.

Avoiding Pitfalls

Don't be late

Focus on real-time marketing and not just-a-little-bit-later marketing. If you cannot capitalize on an event or cultural meme at the right time, you risk looking outdated and out of touch. For example, Gangnam Style may have been widely popular in the summer of 2012, but the song was pretty old news by 2013. So when Wonderful Pistachios revealed its Super Bowl campaign "Crackin' Style" set to the tune of Gangnam Style, it felt stale and tired.

Don't sacrifice ingenuity for speed

Real-time marketing isn't only about speed. Brands still must maintain a sense of authentic identity and post appropriate messages. Don't insert yourself into a conversation if it doesn't reflect your brand personality or isn't relevant to your customers.

For example, Stella Artois decided to latch onto this year's Oscars and produced a series of tweets that featured the winners' names on a frosty glass of beer. Sure, Stella nailed the timing, but what did this campaign do to build brand equity? It didn't really add any value to the conversation, and it seemed at odds with its core customer base.

Don't exploit a tragedy

It might seem common sense not to exploit disasters or other devastating current events, but someone invariably takes it too far in an effort to react in real time. A recent case of real-time marketing gone wrong was when Epicurious jumped on the Boston Marathon bombing and suggested we "honor" the city by making scones.

Tragedies are not the time to test your real-time marketing strategies: Either don't do anything at all, or post a simple and thoughtful message of support for the victims.

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Jenn Deering Davis is a co-founder and the editor-in-chief of Union Metrics. She holds a PhD in organizational communication and technology (the University of Texas).

LinkedIn: Jenn Deering Davis

Twitter: @jdeeringdavis

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  • by Melissa Wed Nov 6, 2013 via web

    Nice article, Jenn - and great tips! A quick comment that I have is that real-time marketing isn't just about social media - real-time web personalization is also a hot marketing topic these days! I would recommend checking out Evergage's blog post on real-time marketing (RTM)

  • by Jean Borgman Wed Nov 6, 2013 via web

    Jenn, great and useful tips on real-time marketing via social media! I'd like to offer up that real-time marketing is also a great way for marketers to leverage dynamic personalized content across channels and across the customer lifecycle.

    In fact, you may find this post "real-time marketing isn't what you think it is" of interest. It uses Google Trends to see when terms like "real-time marketing," "real-time analytics," and others truly came onto the scene and gives strong rationale for opening up the definition of real-time marketing to include "marketing to your audience in real time with dynamically personalized content and offers:

  • by writerroxanne Wed Nov 6, 2013 via web

    I'm excited about the marketing potential of real-time marketing ( #RTM ). Being able to initiate and respond to fast breaking events and adapt the message on-the-fly is what will keep marketers and their brands relevant.

    But, one question: how does this bode for those who work in highly-regulated industries wtih compliance officers lurking about who need days to review, analyze and confirm every customer-facing communication? Can compliance officers and real-time marketers ever get along?

  • by Gracious Store Wed Nov 6, 2013 via web

    Thanks for this great post on real time marketing

  • by Ben Thu Nov 7, 2013 via web

    Jenn - great article. RTM really is becoming the exciting hot topic that everyone's trying to nail. Some are doing it well (I too was sucker-punched by the brilliance of Oreo), others seem all to eager to rule it out as "it doesn't fit our business". I too believe that this has it's comfiest seat in the Socialsphere, but am intrigued by other commenters pointing out real time web personalisation too. I'd be really interested to see any examples of how brands have mobilised their web presence in real-time too, outside blogging perhaps.

  • by Tamar Thu Nov 7, 2013 via web

    Hi Jen,
    Nice article, although I'd like to see examples of B2B companies leveraging real-time marketing with social media. I find B2B much less agile, which is why web personalization is a greater fit.

    It works by segmenting anonymous visitors according to industry/organization, location, and digital behavior. You can see some examples from our customers in this presentation: (specifically slides 13-15).

  • by Jean Fri Nov 8, 2013 via web

    Ben - You'll find some examples of how brands have personalized their web presence in real-time, as well as some best practices here: Many more examples of use cases can be found on under solutions for customer success and solutions for marketing.

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