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Last week I had the opportunity to attend Social Media Today’s Social Shake-Up in Atlanta, Georgia. It was an event where the brightest minds in social media marketing got together to discuss, share, and ideate on the past, current, and future state of social media.

While this post is going to be a bit of a mash-up of the things I learned throughout the conference, the back beat consists of Chris Kerns’ (author of Trendology) session on real-time marketing (RTM).

We’ve talked about what makes a post go viral and how to test your posts, but Kerns gave a fresh look at RTM and the numbers which prove it works – as long as you do it right!

What is Real-Time Marketing?

“When a trend is happening at any level and a brand joins the conversation to push it forward.”

A prime example of such an occurrence was on February 27, 2015 when Twitter exploded with House of Cards Season 3, a pair of llamas getting loose in Arizona, and this:

The Dress Phenomenon

(The Dress) Source: CNBC

Each of these examples started as an announcement, a piece of news coverage, or a post on Tumblr, but turned into a viral sensation as it got picked up by more people and brands got in on the conversation.

But before you go jumping in on every trending hashtag on Twitter with the hope of mass engagement, check Kerns’ five facts about real-time marketing:

1. It is really easy to make fun of real-time marketing
As much as brands love to add to a trending hashtag, publishers love to make fun of them doing so. My favorite example is the article from AdWeek, “Brands All Use this Same Tired Joke on Twitter and It Needs to Stop,” which showed 10 brands who contributed to the #5WordDealBreakers trending hashtag.

Seeing brands insert themselves in this conversation that started from a game show is a bit comical, but you have to admit it works. Just look at the engagement numbers!

The truth of the matter is that articles like these are all opinion and no data. So Kerns brought the data since social media marketers love to prove the social ROI of our campaigns.

2. Real-time marketing actually works really, really well
When looking at the Dunkin’ Donuts tweet shared earlier in the article, you’ll see that they had an incredible amount of engagement for one tweet about ‘the dress.’ But, how does it compare to their average engagement?

According to Kerns, @DunkinDonuts typically sees 126 retweets and 132 favorites when he analyzed their last 100 tweets made–which means this one tweet saw an increase of 2,590% in retweets and 3,464% in favorites!

So why does real-time marketing work so well?

Brent McLean from Buzzfeed talked about what makes people share to spark a trending topic in another session.

Usually as marketers we focus on doing something to interrupt an experience so consumers shift to thinking about our product or service (commercials, display advertising, etc.), but real-time marketing is the complete opposite.  Since your consumers’ attention is already focused on these trending topics because they identify with the topic, find it useful, or it just makes them laugh, real-time marketing can just ride the coattails of what is already working to evoke engagement. 

3. Real-time marketing does not require a war room
In other words, not all of your time and resources need to focus on preparing to battle everyone on Twitter for the first response to a trending topic.

In fact, Kerns mentions there is no evidence that the first tweet in will be the winner. Therefore, smaller brands are also encouraged to join the party.

There are many types of real-time marketing; all it takes is choosing the one which will hit the right note with your audience.

Real-time marketing types graphic

– Planned: You’ll know a lot of information about these events before they even happen and can schedule content beforehand. (i.e. The Oscars)
– Opportunistic: You’ll know an event is going to happen, but something unexpected also happened (i.e. the Oreo moment at the Superbowl)
– Watch List: You know something will happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. It may result in one of two options (i.e. the Royal Baby birth)
– Everyday: You don’t know what will happen, but it will pop up in small events (i.e. The Dress)

So if it is that simple, why resort to comparing marketing efforts to war and battle? During day one’s closing keynote, Daina Middleton, Head of Global Business Marketing at Twitter, spoke about how the war metaphor is no longer applicable to garnering marketing relationships. Instead she suggests “the nurturist” marketer who will embrace, test, and learn from participation.  

As long as you embrace the conversation among your audience that is right for your brand, real-time marketing will work. But remember, you should jump in on trending topics all year to test and learn what works best with your audience!

4. Real-time marketing is not a magic pill
These facts make hijacking a hashtag incentivizing. But your audience is smarter than you think and won’t always give the engagement you’ve seen in these examples.

The trick is to talk about the trend and not yourself to add value, utility, and insight.

Do the work to naturally join the conversation and enjoy the results!

5. Real-time marketing is the beginning of a bigger shift
At the heart of creating engaging content is your brand’s voice. If a marketer works hard to know the brand’s voice inside and out, it will become that much easier to join a conversation as a brand and speak directly to their audience to humanize their brand.

This is important since soon an audience will not only welcome brands into their social conversations, but they will expect the brands to be there.

Because as John Yembrick mentioned in the opening keynote, “Today you don’t just observe the news- you participate.”

Have more questions about real-time marketing? Leave them in the comments!

About the Author: Deanna Zaucha is the Senior Specialist of Content Marketing for Webs and Pagemodo, and also manages our social media presence. She can be found on a dance floor, or on her iPhone keeping up with trends in marketing and tech. Get more from Deanna on Pagemodo’s Blog and Twitter.

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