How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Real-Time Marketing

I joined Spredfast in August last year, and I specifically remember interviewing with Chris Kerns for my current position. In my interview, he asked about my experience with real-time marketing. “Suffering” from extreme jet lag and a lack of RTM enthusiasm at the time, I remember trying to piece together an explanation that real-time wasn’t really a priority for me, that I didn’t have the resources to make it work, that clients were nervous about legal implications. I think I might have said something like, “it’s cool and great, but not my thing.”

In hindsight, this was probably not the thing to say to a guy who was finishing up his book about real-time marketing. Amazing that I was still hired, right?

Now that I’m in a position where I’m empowered to be a little more experimental with real-time marketing, I’m beginning to see the light. Here are a few things I would have said differently, knowing what I know now.

Be prepared

I’m a big proponent of checklists. Sometimes I’ll even add things to my checklists after the fact that I then immediately check off, just because it feels so good. If you are anything like me, you’ll appreciate this bulleted list of things you should have in order to get real(-time) with it.

  1. Solid strategy. Which conversations should your brand participate in? What’s your approach? Think in terms of what is relevant to your audience. The Super Bowl was an amazing opportunity for us to share updates about marketing moments, but it’s not for every brand. You don’t always have to be there.

    Our approach is to post in the moment about what other brands are doing, because we see it as an opportunity to knowledge share. It works for us, but wouldn’t work for a brand like Arby’s.

  2. Brand voice. I believe in the power of a strong social voice. You should have this established before you even launch your brand’s social channels, but since a lot of real-time marketing is improvisation you have to feel solid about the way you’re talking. Define your voice and practice it every single time you post content, so that you can own it when you have to post without a ton of time to write and edit.

  3. The right tools. Make sure your social software works. Does it track what you need to track? Can you publish and respond in the same tool? Can you measure live conversations? Is it going to crash on you? This also goes for your hardware: do you have a charger? Are you getting the spinning wheel of death? Do you actually know how to take screenshots or edit templates in Photoshop? This is a wonderful checklist of its own. Embrace it.

  4. A coverage plan. Right now, I’m a team of one so there’s no concern about who is going to do publishing and response: it’s me. We just hired a new Community Manager who will take over the real-time coverage, so I’ll work with her to decide who does what. The last thing you want is for too many hands in the pot, because then you overwhelm your audience with too many posts or respond over each other. If you don't have social software that allows for routing and collaboration, make sure you have another easy way to communicate with your team: chat, text, emails, Slack, extremely speedy carrier pigeon.

  5. A plan if things go awry. Not to scare you, but there is inherent risk in real-time marketing (the same as anytime you publish on your brand’s channels). Sometimes people confuse the channels they’re managing and post personal messages on a brand’s Twitter account. Sometimes people jump on a hashtag without checking the context first. It happens. Using the right tools will eliminate many of these opportunities for error, but mistakes can still happen. You should already have a crisis management plan in place, but make sure to add in a scenario for a real-time blunder before you're ready to post in real-time.

“War Room”

High-tech "War Rooms" with huge screens are incredible feats for the social marketing industry and can lead to really great real-time marketing (and definitely a good PR story or two). Major props for that.

But some brands can’t make that happen. For example, here’s what my "War Room" consists of:

  • One seven-year-old armchair
  • One one-eyed cat named Wink (she acts as my legal advisor)
  • Several half-drunk cans of La Croix Pampelmousse
  • A comfortable blanket
  • My computer and a charger
  • A 45-inch television
  • Close access to a bathroom, the fridge, and the remote control

Where the magic happens.

War rooms are cool, but not the end-all, be-all determining factor of whether you are ready to participate in real-time marketing. If you’re a smaller brand or a team of a few, don’t feel like your lack of access to a war room hurts you in anyway. I do some of my best work when I’m relaxed and comfortable, and the same goes for Kerns.

Quality over quantity

I have always had this philosophy towards brand social marketing in general: less is more. When it comes to RTM, I especially feel this is the case. If you’re joining a conversation, you shouldn’t be sending out garbage Tweets. (This is the nicest way I can think of to describe posts with no thoughtful or relevant content while using a trending hashtag as a way of trendjacking.) It’s a major turnoff, and consumers will call you out. Post quality content that relates to the conversation and adds value in some way.

There is a caveat to this philosophy: less can sometimes also equate to “never seen.” It’s your job to balance visibility potential. This doesn’t mean that you should save yourself for that one Arby’s versus Pharrell type of post and never participate in real-time conversations otherwise—not every Tweet will be a slam dunk (in the dark). It does mean that you shouldn’t send out 100 Tweets per event in hopes that something will stick.

Check your data

“Is it worth it? Let me work it.” – Missy Elliott

(Bear with me here as I apply this specifically to real-time marketing.)

I am big into stats, and after each campaign or program I run, I always look at the data to make sure it’s worth my time and energy. I consider a lot of what we’ve done as a test and I review to make sure I know what worked and what fell flat each time.

Our RTM posts work exactly the same. I can look back and see that our real-time messages with imagery perform the best and now I never post without an image. I know that one of our best RTM performers was a screenshot of a #SB49 heat map, so I try to find ways to include location-based data in conversations now. And I know that when we get the best engagement when we really nail our brand voice (versus being more dry with our content).

Participating in real-time marketing is now a priority for our social program. Not only is it a great way for us to show thought leadership and talk to our customers, but it’s honestly pretty fun. What are your thoughts about real-time marketing for your brand? Tweet to me @SnackMantis. I’d love to hear from you.

Sometimes you're reacting to a major event. Sometimes you're hosting it. In either case, you can make live events better with great social experiences. See how in the Big Show Look Book.



Laura Baker's picture

Laura Baker

Laura is the Senior Manager of Digital Strategy, leading strategy and analytics for Spredfast's digital channels. A Kansas City native, Laura loves barbecue, Jayhawks, Boulevard Beer and Bo Jackson. In her free time, Laura trains dogs at a local animal rescue, writes for a classic movie review blog and tweets (frequently) at @SnackMantis.