How to Succeed at Real-Time Marketing

If Oreo's epic Super Bowl tweet (which I've discussed before) taught us anything, it's that social media is truly meant to be a real-time medium. Yes, certain digital marketing tools that allow organizations to schedule Tweets and Facebook updates can be very useful, but real-time marketing should be what brands really strive for with their social media strategies.

Read on to find out why and discover tips on how to succeed with this on-going, narrative approach to marketing.

 Original image by libertygrace0 via  flickr

Original image by libertygrace0 via flickr

Why Real-Time?

Engaging your audience in real-time often makes a larger impact. It's the difference between speaking at your audience and having a genuine conversation with your audience. This is where the value of social media lies. With real-time marketing, you're sharing your take on news or events happening right now - something your followers can relate to and participate in. Real-time marketing helps humanize your brand by creating opportunities for genuine, spontaneous connections. 

Real-Time Tips

Be Agile

As the words 'real-time marketing' suggest, your posts should be as instantaneous as possible. There's really no time to put together a brief, take it to the various internal stakeholders for input and get sign-off from the bigwigs.

Oreo were able to strike gold with their Super Bowl tweet because their marketing agency happened to be in a room with their brand team during the game. As soon as the power went out, they quickly created the 'Dunk in the dark" image, got immediate sign-off and posted it on Twitter within minutes.

Planning to have the decision-makers together with your digital team during these big events is clearly very smart - but it's perhaps not always practical if you really want to make real-time marketing a priority. So, what's the solution? See my next paragraph...

Trust Your Marketing Team

In order to achieve the agility you need to succeed with real-time marketing, you really must hand over control to your designated social media manager/team. With a firm social media strategy in place and a solid understanding of the brand to go off, your team should be fully capable of making smart, real-time decisions.

Keep in mind that scheduling social media updates in advance can be just as risky as giving your social media staff free rein. In the midst of the 'horse meat' scandal in the U.K., supermarket chain Tesco sent out a notoriously poorly-timed tweet that read: "It's sleepy time so we're off to hit the hay!" After receiving complaints from their Twitter followers, Tesco apologized and admitted that the tweet had been scheduled in advance - before news of the horse meat situation had hit. Would this have happened if Tesco simply let its social media team tweet in real-time? Probably not.

Focus on your audience

In other words, don't always make it about you. Though for small businesses and nonprofits, the occasional "Check out how we've decked out the office for our Christmas party" update is charming and harmless, it's important to remember that, for most brands, social media is not an opportunity to chat about life around the office. Sometimes including the names of staff in your real-time updates can make the posts more personal and relatable, but remember to keep the focus on your audience first and foremost.

Real-Time Tools

In addition to the old favorites, Facebook and Twitter, there are a couple of other social media tools/platforms that work especially well for real-time marketing, including:



You may have noticed more and more of these short, 6-second video clips making their way onto your Twitter feed recently. Vine, Twitter's mobile video app, allows users to create and post miniature-length movies to their various social networks. Why is it taking off like wildfire?  Well, just as Twitter posts are restricted by 140 characters, Vine's 6-second cutoff is just enough to grab people's attention without demanding too much of their time. It doesn't leave room for monologues, but rather encourages individuals and brands to start conversations.



 A picture really is worth a thousand words - at least for Instagram users, who socialize and communicate with each other through images alone. The photo-sharing platform, known for its hip image filters that make everything look like a 1970s polaroid, was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion last year after attracting over 100 million snap-happy users. From the 'Insta' prefix in its name to its tagline "fast, beautiful and fun", Instagram was designed as a platform for real-time engagement. It's a fantastic way for brands to become visual storytellers.

What do you think is the key to real-time success? Do you trust your social media team to make smart, split-second decisions? Let me know what you think in the comments.