Getting Ready for Real Time

Social networks and real-time marketing is a classic chicken-or-the-egg scenario: have social networks evolved to support real-time marketing, or is the real-time frenzy a product of social media mania? Either way, as social networks continue to grow at an exponential speed, as illustrated in eMarketer’s “Meeting the Need for Speed: How Social Analytics Support Real-Time Marketing,” it’s evident that real-time marketing is becoming a brand imperative.

In fact, the report cites stats from Infogroup Targeting Solutions and Yesmail Interactive that reveal that 53 percent of marketers plan to make greater use of real-time data in 2013, and 80 percent intend to incorporate social data into their overall marketing efforts. Marketers need to take a proactive stance and act at the same pace as their customers. Users are interacting with each other and brands in real time and marketers need to react quickly both to their customers and to their competitors. Social analytics tools are maturing to accommodate the demand. And it’s not just analytics that are adapting – marketing teams are also evolving to become more nimble and able to react and respond quickly in the social space.

What does “real time” really mean? It’s not necessarily a measure of actual time, per se. Real time doesn’t always equal instantaneous. But, as the name implies, it does mean quick – certainly faster than it typically takes to get a campaign through compliance, legal hoops, and whatever other approval processes most brands require. Real time in the age of social media means “fast enough to still be relevant,” and relevancy, as we all know, can be here one tweet and gone the next.

Some notable examples of real-time marketing are, of course, the notorious Oreo response to the Super Bowl blackout. The “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet was retweeted over 10,000 times in one hour. It may not have been the most brilliantly creative ad of the night, but it was certainly the most relevant and timely. Smart Car’s hilarious infographic response to a negative tweet last year is another sterling example.

So, what does it take to go real time? Do brands have to throw caution to the wind and give the socially savvy intern carte blanche? Hardly. At the risk of sounding terribly ironic, this much spontaneity requires a lot of planning. However, with the right tools and the right team, brands can pull it off.

For starters, brands need a smart social analytics tool that can not only listen to and determine relevant social chatter, but enable them to act on these real-time nuggets. Real-time marketing intelligence tools are finally becoming available. It started with listening tools and now is becoming a class of tools that combines listening with sophisticated algorithms. As I said in the eMarketer report, “What marketers value is insights in real time. But information is only valuable if it’s actionable.” The ability to quickly and efficiently filter through social data to identify and leverage relevant, actionable data to influence core marketing strategies is the key to real-time success.

Again, not to oversimplify things here: a real-time marketing strategy can’t be built overnight, any more than a command center can be assembled in a day, or key stakeholders can be pulled together at a moment’s notice. Oreo’s infamous tweet was allegedly 18 months in the making. Not that they’d actually planned the blackout, of course, but they embarked on a real-time marketing strategy a year and a half earlier, so that by the time the Super Bowl ad aired, Oreo was already a well-oiled, real-time marketing machine.

Are you ready for real time? It’s the next wave, and it’s already begun to storm the social shores. Start thinking about it, because in order to stay afloat, you’re going to need to learn to swim.

Real-Time image on home page via Shutterstock.

Related reading