What is real-time marketing, and how can you use it?

The traditional approach to marketing involves dedicating a lot of time to formulating a well-developed advertising strategy before rolling out campaigns. In this rapidly changing market, however, firms should be launching campaigns in real-time to their customers to capitalize on whatever’s trending in the moment.

Real-time marketing is becoming the new normal

Real-time marketing tosses aside those months of preparation in favor of a much more on-the-fly approach rooted in reactions to current events and other trends. One of the most famous examples of real-time marketing was orchestrated by Oreo in response to the blackout that derailed the Super Bowl XLVII in 2013.

Image credit: Oreo

The company swiftly put together an image of one of its cookies that read, “You can still dunk in the dark” and tweeted it with the caption, “Power out? No problem.” It’s precisely this type of quick thinking that resonates with consumers and allows brands to show they’re plugged in to what their customers are talking about.

The real-time marketing approach works especially well on social media, given the immediacy of the channel and lists of what users are talking about. Twitter’s Trending Topics feature, for instance, gives companies a great place to start.

So, does this mean that prepared marketing strategies are a thing of the past? Not at all. Ultimately, it’s still important to conduct market analysis, create a branding strategy that will engage the target demographic and deploy prepared promotions at previously scheduled times. That said, enterprises need to view real-time marketing as an important supplement to this predetermined outreach or risk being seen as out of touch and behind the times.

Does real-time marketing need to be real-time?

Despite popular opinion, real-time promotions don’t actually need to be conceived on the spot – they just have to project a vibe that makes them seem as if they were.

Real-time marketing is becoming the new normal.
Real-time marketing is becoming the new normal.

Timeliness is the keyword,” asserted Marshall Manson of Ogilvy & Mather’s social media strategist network [email protected], as quoted by eMarketer. “It’s not actually real time that we’re after. What we’re after is taking advantage of something that people are already talking about and participating in that conversation. If that’s created in real time, fantastic. If it’s not created in real time but it has the same effect, great.”

One thing’s for sure – modern consumers are looking for brands that know what they’re talking about and can contribute to the conversation.

How can small businesses incorporate this tactic?

Facebook shows a list of trending post topics.
Facebook shows a list of trending post topics.

It’s easy for small businesses to take advantage of this growing marketing trend if they actively use digital channels as a means of outreach. For example, you could check out Facebook and/or Twitter to see what people are posting about on the social platforms. Want to see even more than that? Check out Google Trends to see what’s happening all across the web.

If you see a topic that pertains to your industry, weigh in. If you think you can come up with a quick promotion to tie into a topic, do it! For example, “Saved by the Bell” is trending today because of the (hilarious) cast reunion on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last night.

Google Trends is also a useful tool.
Google Trends is also a useful tool.

Run a restaurant? Send an email touting your love for the 90’s. Offer a special Zach Morris Meatloaf, or give 25% off to anyone wearing neon clothes or crop tops. In the auto industry?  Get a Facebook campaign going that promotes a special on brakes. Tell customers they don’t have to deal with the “Screech” if they don’t want to. Yes the tie-ins may be corny, but everybody loves a good pun, especially when it relates to something nostalgic.

Don’t be afraid to dip your toes into real-time marketing. It could yield some great results if you do it right. As a general rule of thumb though, steer clear of anything that’s too edgy or controversial. You don’t want to alienate your followers by taking the wrong side on something that they’re passionate about.

Have you ever put together a promotion that made use of real-time marketing?

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