Real-time marketing — OR the notion of brands capitalizing on newsworthy OR special events — has been around since the mid-nineties, but has only recently become a bit more mainstream with the advent of social media.
When Oreo acted quickly following the blackout during this year’s Super Bowl, it brought brands engaging in real-time marketing to the forefront. Oreo’s witty bit of real-time marketing spawned a host of copy cat activity one month later during the Academy Awards.
Prior to the advent of the Internet and, more importantly, social media, there was no effective way for consumers to spread brands’ messages. Now, though, it takes but seconds for newsworthy information to spread across the entire globe. Marketers realize this but still struggle with a mentality that requires long development times, layers of approval and a healthy dose of second guessing which, many times, sucks the life out of a great idea.
For decades, marketing has been based on the clear identification of a specific target audience, the development of marketing materials that effectively communicate with that target audience and the planning and placement of that material in media consumed by the target audience. This process involved months of planning and once “the buy” was “placed,” no one gave it a further thought until it was time to launch another campaign.
Real-time marketing still involves the definition of a target audience, the development of marketing materials and the placement of those materials. What’s different is the speed at which brands must move to implement this new form of marketing and the tools they use to do so.
Many brands have now set up “newsrooms” or social media command centers which are solely designed to monitor up-to-the-second brand-related activity occurring online and within social media channels. For these newsrooms to be effective, they are staffed by people who have been given the responsibility to make quick decisions without need for layers of approval. This is exactly what Oreo and its agency, 360i, did during the Super Bowl and other events.
For brands and agencies to fully embrace real-time marketing — something they must do in order to relate to the speed at which consumers now communicate — there are seven steps they need to take.
Discover Appropriate Content Streams :
Just like old school advertising where you have to determine your target audience, with real-time marketing you have to determine where conversations relevant to your brand are taking place. Are relevant conversations occurring within a Facebook Group ? Is there a Twitter List your brand’s customers and fans follow ? Is your target audience visual and heavy users of Pinterest ? Are they information junkies who frequent specialized LinkedIn forums or Quora topics ?
Organize Relevant Content :
To grasp a clear picture of conversations relevant to your brand, marketers must consume relevant content and organize it in a useful way. Tools like HubSpot’s Social Inbox can help unify the waterfall of content surrounding your brand. Setting up “as-it-happens” Google alerts on topics relevant to your brand can increase your consumption of content from different channels.
Interpret the Stream :
It’s one thing to identify where conversation related to your brand occurs; it’s another thing entirely to achieve a clear understanding of the tenor and tone of the conversation. It’s a bit like entering a conversation during a cocktail party. Normally, you don’t just walk over to the group and blurt out the first thing that comes to mind without politely listening to the conversation first. You politely listen. You learn. And you gain context.
Determine Influence :
Now that you’ve determined the when, where and with whom elements of the conversation, you have to determine the importance of the conversation. How big is it? How integral to your brand is it? Is the conversation taking place on a scale large enough to warrant brand participation that will be seen by a large number of people? This is the step where a brand has to determine whether or not the content of the conversation allows for brand entry into the conversation. Just like the cocktail party scenario, when you have something of value to add, jump right in. If you don’t, continue to listen and learn.
Paint a Clear Picture of the Conversation :
This is, perhaps, the most difficult step in the process but is especially important in large organizations. At any given moment, relevant and important conversations must be summarized and framed in a manner that can be understood by others on the team in a way that allows them to determine how and whether to act. Framing the conversation brings clarity and helps identify whether or not the conversation is one that lends itself to brand engagement.
Set Up Notifications :
After you have identified appropriate streams of conversation, after you have determined the tenor and tone of the conversation and after you have concluded the conversation is relevant, essential decision-makers must be notified. There are some companies who choose to automate this process, but you can just as easily pass information on to the team via email, text, or chat. Most importantly, this must be done swiftly and all involved must act equally as swiftly.
After you have properly aligned all of the above, after all team members have been notified and properly briefed and once a plan of action has been determined, it’s time to act. It’s time to pull the trigger. It’s time to make use of all of the information you have acquired and for you to implement informative, insightful, or perhaps even witty real-time marketing.
Why should brands care about and engage in real-time marketing ?? Because that’s how consumers are now interacting. They are in “as-it-happens” mode and all signs point to that remaining the norm. The campaign is dead. All that remains is the continuous commitment marketers must make to “being there” when their customers are there.