Real-time marketing is all the rage, but what do you need to know to make it work?

Last year was the year that some marketers finally learned how to market their brands at the speed of culture. This is the year that they will get good at it.

As social media has become legitimized, the promise of being a real-time, responsive marketer is something companies have strived for. And, little by little, brands have begun to prove that they can move faster than their bureaucracies. Hopping on a meme as it’s becoming one, reacting to world events minutes after they occur or commenting on cultural movements have become commonplace. Despite the progress, we still celebrate a brand moving quickly with the giddiness and effusiveness of a 13-year-old at a One Direction concert.

So we now know it’s possible for a big brand to move quickly. Now what?

Many marketers are just waking up to their real-time potential, and are undoubtedly looking inward and asking themselves what being more nimble and aware can do for their brands. “Making them more relevant” is the obvious answer. But brands can’t simply become “more relevant” by commenting on the zeitgeist—not when everyone else is doing the same.

Marketers must take a critical look at how they can turn their one-off “real-time” reactions into permanent evolutions of the way their brands behave. And there are several truths to hold self-evident as they embark on their journey.

Really Fast Doesn’t Mean Really Good
Speed is great now, because most brands are too slow to react. But the competition will get faster. And eventually, just as with everything else, quality will prevail. It will soon no longer be “news” when a brand publishes a piece of content close to a cultural moment, or a “fail” when it doesn’t. Being fast andgood/clever/funny/witty/snarky will prevail. And “good” will also mean that the content is being shared, not just a good response to a creative brief.

Real-Time Is Also About the Future
If brands want their content to be shared, it needs to be built that way. In this feed-dominated media landscape, there is more than enough data being generated every second for us to have the ability to make better decisions about what events and what kinds of content (photos, videos, etc.) will actually be shared. Successful brands will have real data inputs that enable them to confidently pre-optimize their content for sharing. Platforms or third-party tools will be integral providers of this data to brands. Cross-platform data will be the most valuable.

Real-Time Is About Reach and Relevance
Data will also inform a quicker decision-making process when it comes to planning and buying media, which must be closer in proximity to the content. Whether that means real-time content publishers are also buying media, or media buyers being more synergized with a publishing platform, time is becoming one of the most important factors when it comes to making real-time content work. As platforms’ native ad solutions mature, it will be integral for media buyers to help ensure that the right content is seen by as many of the right people as possible before the content expires. Furthermore, social platforms have become both publishing channels andmedia channels. We can publish ads and see how they perform before we invest media dollars in them. As we evaluate real-time content’s performance, we will no longer look at the number of retweets; we will look at that content’s velocity andreach. This represents yet another invaluable opportunity for brands to rethink their media-planning and -buying approaches—which must be scrutinized, as consumption habits have changed faster than brands have.

Real-Time Is Mobile First
“Feed culture” has reoriented our media consumption, from horizontal to vertical, and this change may be permanent. Real-time content works best in a feed, as that is typically the point of (re)sharing. One of the best side effects of being a real-time branded-content publisher is significantly improved mobile penetration—the majority of mobile-app usage is social in nature. It may very well be that many brands find that the best mobile advertising strategy is a good real-time content strategy.

Real-Time Is Operational
When brands have their “Marco Rubio moment,” they are expected to have a team of clever Photoshoppers and copywriters standing at the ready. But this is what agencies are for. Brands alone can’t just adopt a more real-time mind-set. Their agencies must evolve the ways they service marketers in an always-on world, and rethink at least part of the creative process. A “creative newsroom,” like we have in the Deep FocusMoment Studio, is one way. Other frameworks will emerge and will separate always-on agencies from those built for campaigns. I never thought I’d say this, but it is actually possible for at least part of an agency to be fast, good and inexpensive if you’re built that way.

While these truths are cornerstones of an effective real-time marketing strategy, the moves needed to make real-time a reality may be different for every brand and agency. But one thing is for sure: The biggest hurdle is the way we have always done things up to now.

Ian Schafer is CEO of Deep Focus.
Written by marcus
Marcus Smith is Digital Marketing Jedi and SEO specialist with Newton Design and Marketing. Marcus helps companies from a wide range of industries to improve their online presence, search engine optimization and branding.