Planned Spontaneity: The Real-Time Marketing Paradox


Real-time marketing continues to be one of the hottest topics in digital marketing. As more and more brands jump in to take advantage of the benefits of real-time, we’re getting more questions about the right way to approach the practice. Do I need to build out a full war room? Do I need to have my social feed open, hitting refresh every thirty seconds? How can I take control of all this trending marketing madness?

Well, luckily for you, dear marketer, real-time doesn’t have to be a roller coaster. As I outline in my new book Trendology, many forms of RTM do require a reactive mindset, but many can be seen for days and weeks in advance. By planning out your content strategy ahead of time for events you know are coming, you can still engage your audience in the moment without having to react. Your audience is seeking relevant content, they don’t care about the fancy process you have in place to deliver it.


As I’ve outlined in the past, real-time marketing doesn’t all look the same. There are two quadrants in the RTM Matrix – Planned and Watchlist – that allow for content creation and approvals before the event ever happens. While this may not sound like “real-time marketing” that you read about during awards season or the playoffs, it’s a great first step for brands to participate in relevant conversations with their audience.

Let’s take a look at an example from each of the “known” quadrants.
 

Planned Real-Time Marketing

In the Planned quadrant, your social team can jump on topics that can be seen coming from a mile away. Depending on events that you believe will resonate with your audience, you can brainstorm and execute ahead of time, and simply schedule the results to post on the upcoming day. A great example of this was this year’s Star Wars Day, May the 4th.
 


#Maythe4th has become a social phenomenon, with Star Wars fans, celebrities, and brands jumping in to celebrate the monumental franchise. Discussions around the topic grew 50% year-over-year from 2014 to 2015, and with a string of new films set to begin in December, this is a trend that should continue to see growth.
 


This year, brands enthusiastically joined the Star Wars Day conversation. I tracked the performance of 17 different brands that chimed in with related content.
 


Of the 17 brands, 14 of them saw performance bumps for social engagement when compared to each brand’s historical norms. The average bump for the RTM content was +138% for Retweets and +115% for Favorites. Some of the top performing brands – including NASA, MLB, and Rolling Stone—enjoyed bumps above +500%.

Again, while Star Wars Day content can definitely be considered real-time marketing, everyone knew the day was coming months in advance. These social teams had plenty of time to plan and execute without having to be reactive, and still felt the force of relevant content on May 4th.
 

Watchlist Real-Time Marketing

With some upcoming events, you can be pretty sure they are going to happen, you just don’t know when and where they will actually occur. That’s ok – there’s still a chance for social teams to not only participate in those conversations, but to be ready before they happen. This is where the Watchlist quadrant of the RTM Matrix comes in. You can plan ahead for an event with your creative team and keep an eye on breaking news to find the optimal time to post. A good example just joined the Royal Family a few weeks ago.
 


The second Royal Baby arrived on May 2nd, and the world went bonkers (in a polite way, of course) with excitement. I saw 16 different brands jump in to congratulate the royals with social posts around the event, and they saw a regal response from the audience. 15 out of 16 brands saw bumps in social performance, with the average Retweet bump at +2,478% and the average favorites bump at +2,988%.

A few of the standout arrivals included posts from the British Navy, Nissan UK, and Coca Cola GB, seeing as high as a 20,000% bump to Retweets when compared to historical averages. Not bad for creative that they could have had sitting around for nine months or so.
 

But Wait, There’s More Real-Time Waiting For You

Want to see more successful real-time performances? Our new Smart Social Report includes an RTM study across 20 brands for Daylight Saving Time 2015.It also includes breakthrough research on top industries and brands in social today, an analysis of Tumblr virality, Instagram media performance, and Social Care KPIs.
 

Chris Kerns's picture

Chris Kerns

@chriskerns
Chris Kerns has spent more than a decade defining digital strategy and is at the forefront of finding insights from digital data. He currently leads Analytics and Research at Spredfast. His research has appeared in The New York Times, Forbes, USA Today and AdWeek, among other publications.