The Word is Spreading: Everyone’s Talking About Real-Time

Last week I was lucky enough to head to sunny Hollywood, California to join other marketers at the WOMMA Summit. WOMMA, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, is an organization dedicated to social and word of mouth marketing. This year's conference brought together a brilliant and diverse set of industry professionals who all shared the same concern: how to share a message in a way that's both effective and authentic to audiences. There were a lot of great sessions (that our Associate Market Director, Meghan Brindley, recounted on the Spredfast blog last week) ranging from return on investment to marketing ethics to content creation that sticks with your core audience.

No surprise, I was there to share the research I’ve been doing on real-time marketing. Fortunately for me, this topic was already a hot discussion across the conference, and it sparked some great conversations. The majority of people I talked to knew about real-time marketing, but mostly through historical examples (like the Oreo Tweet) that started the trend. Hardly anyone knew the scope of what RTM has become since the first few success stories.

On the first day of the Summit, I hosted a talk called “The Moneyball Moment: A Data-Driven Approach to Real-Time Marketing.” In the session, I explained why marketers should ignore the hype and focus on the data behind RTM, while remembering that good content is still key to making the most of every moment. I received a great response to the talk, both in the questions portion of the session, as well as in hallway conversations for the remainder of the Summit. The questions I heard the most included:

  • RTM seems like a big step to take. How to I start? My answer to this was always the same—real-time may seem intimidating at first, but it’s actually quite easy to jump on trends and test the waters. Planned RTM, the practice of joining conversations that a social media team can see coming weeks in advance, is the best way to begin getting your team used to jumping on relevant topics. With a good amount of runway ahead of events, your team can plan content and schedule social posts for certain days when topics (like #BlackFriday or #CyberMonday) will definitely be trending and top of mind for you audience.
  • How do I stay out of the headlines (in a bad way) with RTM? I hear this question a lot, and I can completely understand why. Most of the real-time efforts we end up hearing about are the “fails” that showcase a brand stepping over the line or doing something that wasn’t well-researched. I think that RTM risk can easily be managed with the right tools, processes, people, and data in place. And know that for every RTM mistake we hear about, there are five hundred more that are driving increased engagement and reach for brands, every day.
  • That Spark tools looks awesome, can I try it? For the first time, I included a screenshot of our real-time tool, Spark, in my presentation and as I went to the next slide, the audience immediately asked me to go back. There was a ton of interest in Spark and how it can help identify opportunities for RTM, and of course I was happy to demo it for anyone who asked.

But that wasn’t all the real-time talk at WOMMA last week. There was another session dedicated to RTM with the social lead from Pabst, and real-time was mentioned in a surprising number of additional sessions that were dedicated to other topics entirely. The biggest shift I saw in the discussion around real-time, however, was that the majority of keynotes—including great sessions by Mike Wokosin at Redbox, Pat Donahue at the LA Kings, and John Yembrick at NASA—all featured brands with multiple examples showcasing great success with real-time marketing. It seems that RTM is going mainstream, and just in time for the upcoming awards season.

Overall, WOMMA Summit was a great eye-opener to the shifts that are taking place in the industry. I’ve seen similar shifts happen with data-driven thinking over the years, and I believe that the response to RTM will follow the same path. For example, a few years ago at a few different marketing conferences, I heard many different creative leads talk about how they were sick and tired of hearing about how data should influence their decision making. That data had it’s place, creative lived in a different world, and combining the two puts both in danger. At this year’s Advertising Week, I heard at least five creative directors answer questions on stage about the intersection of creative and data with the response: “Oh, we love data. We’ve always loved data.”

Real-time marketing is helping brands keep up with the changing times our industry is experiencing. Read more about how you can keep up in Trendology.

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.