Prepping Your Team for Real-Time Marketing Season

As we enter 2015’s Real-Time Marketing Season, there’s more interest than ever in how brands can take advantage of trending topics to drive relevance. If 2014 was the year that RTM rose from niche to mainstream, 2015 will be the year that every major brand realizes that they need a plan for real-time. Analysts are including RTM on almost every list of marketing strategies that will have an impact this year, and for anyone that’s looked at the data, that’s no surprise.

It’s no surprise that many of the questions I get are about how to get started, and how to get a social team ready for real-time, especially around big events like we’ll see over the next few months. Time and time again we've seen that RTM can make a big splash outside of the big game, still there's no denying that tent-pole events draw in a number of brands that will jump on macro and micro topics at every show—because it works.

So how do you get a social team—one that is experienced and armed with planned, polished, and approved social campaigns—and get them ready for real-time? Here are a few tips.

The War Room Fallacy

First of all, let’s get this out of the way. While there are wonderful tales of pizza-filled social war rooms littered with empty Starbucks cups, adorned with 70 inch LED TVs, and filled with social media managers trying to write the next Oreo Tweet, it doesn’t have to be that way. Sure, many brands will choose to create a fully-staffed war room for the biggest events this year, and many of them will put out some great content—including quick text responses, custom hashtags, and quick short-form video. But if that doesn’t fit your budget, don’t sweat it.

Remember the now-famous Arby’s Tweet? Josh Martin, the Director of Social Media for Arby’s, wrote that sitting on his couch. Many other examples of RTM have been planned well before the event itself.

Don’t Build a Real-Time Team, Just Pivot a Bit

Real-Time asks your team to look for opportunities in a new way. It doesn’t require an entirely separate team, and if you’re a smaller brand, it also doesn’t require you to hire four new people dedicated to staring at a list of Twitter trends, hitting refresh. And as far as keeping an eye on trends, there are tools out there (well, actually right here) that can help.

Have a Gameplan for Each Big Event

Don’t let an event take you by surprise. Each big event is different, and so is the audience and expectations that go along with them. Cover the following four bases to make sure your team is prepared:

1: Prepare

Don’t wait until the Saturday before the Oscars to make sure that you know everything about the show. Get the team together and brainstorm content strategies and potential topics, and have a shortlist of content ready to go when it’s game time (whether you end up using it or not.) Also, make sure you’re covering what’s in-bounds and out of bounds for your social channel. No matter if you’re drawing the line based on your brand voice, legal concerns, or touchy subjects, make sure your team is aligned before the clock starts ticking.

2: Communicate

As the event unfolds, you need to make sure your team has the relationships and means to quickly communicate. That means everyone needs to know the process, and there’s an easy process in place to discuss potential content before posting or tossing each idea. RTM is different than traditional social media in two main ways: first, it’s as much ‘pull’ as it is ‘push’ in terms of topics and messaging, meaning most messages won’t be written until a few minutes before posting. Second, the time to respond needs to be much, much more aggressive than a typical campaign. The key to overcoming both of these challenges is good team communication.

3: Act

The team should be empowered to act, and everyone should know their role inside and out. While every RTM team should include a copywriter, social strategist, creative lead, legal representative, analyst, and program manager, these roles don’t all need to be dedicated (or even different) individuals. The important thing to stress is that these are all roles that need to be represented in some fashion, and having a viewpoint from each will make the content you create better.

4: Measure

As each event is unfolding, ensure that your team is using data to your advantage. I’ve done many posts about the power of RTM, and the performance impacts it can bring to brands of all sizes. But know that every brand, every event, and every tactic will see different results. It’s up to you to measure your efforts to see what works for you.

Your Team is Probably More Ready for Real-Time Than You Think

While I dive much, much deeper into building RTM teams, and a full data-driven methodology for RTM, in my new book Trendology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), here I’ve tried to provide a quick summary to show that getting ready for real-time isn’t as hard as you might think. When it comes down to it, most social teams I talk to are excited to do more real-time work. They love the direction the industry is heading in, and just want to know how to get started while managing their risk.

So follow the above steps, pre-order your pizza, and I promise you'll be sitting pretty come game time. When the big day rolls around, whether you're sitting in a war room or your living room, your preparation will pay off.

Chris Kerns's picture

Chris Kerns

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.