Why ‘Real-Time’ Isn’t Always the Right Time in Social Media Marketing

Real-time marketing, newsjacking, trend watching—you’ve heard the hype.

Since Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” tweet, brands have been touting the new era of real-time marketing. Unfortunately, many brands have tried to replicate the “Oreo moment” with little success.

Instead of offering something meaningful, real-time marketing is often reduced to irrelevant and gimmicky ads that bombard customers during every major event or holiday.

So, how do you get beyond Super Bowl jokes and Oscar night puns to deliver a message that truly matters? Here’s a rundown on real-time marketing and how “right-time” marketing might be a better option for your brand.

What is real-time marketing?

Real-time marketing is when brands react quickly to events, trends, and news happening online or offline. Instead of having a pre-planned social media content strategy with a strict publishing schedule, real-time marketing is based on chasing trends or feedback from followers.

At Hootsuite, we use Facebook for real-time marketing opportunities that we see resonating with our audience. Back in 2016, we jumped on the Mannequin Challenge.

Amanda Wood, Hootsuite’s social media marketing specialist, says hopping on a trend is about joining in on the conversation. “You want your brand to be be part of what’s happening on social,” says Wood. “Being able to quickly react to these trends also shows that your brand is agile and able to keep up with the speed of social.”

Why real-time marketing works

Consider the appeal of viral trends—they’re fun, entertaining, and reflective of what people are interested in. Everyone wants to be part of the latest craze, so when companies align their social media content to what’s happening in pop culture, their product or service can get in front of a new audience.

In 2014 after the announcement that Kate Middleton was pregnant with her second child, Royal Baby Fever swept Britain. Several brands tried hopping on the trend. Warburtons came out with a particularly clever ad.

The baking company hit the mark by connecting the trend to their product.

If you’re thinking about using real-time marketing as part of your social media strategy, check out our previous post, Viral Trends: A Practical Guide for Marketers.

When real-time marketing doesn’t work

You can’t—and shouldn’t—jump on every trend. Make sure your brand can actually add value to the conversation, rather than just making noise or doing it in self-interest.

Just look at what happened with Benefit. In an attempt to capitalize on the trending hashtag #MakeAMovieFatty, the cosmetics company received backlash for its body-shaming social media marketing content.

To make matters worse, Benefit tried justifying their tweet by stating they simply wanted to be involved in a trending hashtag.

Lovely Benebabes. We always get involved in hashtags that are trending. We are not poking fun at anybody. #laughteristhebestcosmetic xx

— Benefit Cosmetics UK (@BenefitUK) July 6, 2015

The Content Marketing Institute points out another problem with real-time marketing is that its success often relies on happenstance. Look at Arby’s tweet at the Grammy’s, for example.

Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs

— Arby’s (@Arbys) January 27, 2014

It’s a coincidence that the Arby’s logo looks identical to Pharrell’s hat. Another brand like McDonald’s or Wendy’s wouldn’t be able to make the same joke.

Why you should try ‘right time’ marketing instead of real-time marketing

While it’s important to stay up-to-date on social media, capitalizing on the latest internet sensation won’t make or break your brand.

Unlike real-time marketing, right-time marketing is about taking a more long-term and thoughtful approach. It involves analyzing your data in greater depth and spending time researching where your content will have the biggest impact—whether that’s in real time or not.

Right-time marketing means you’re doing more listening than talking. You’re forming ideas based on your customers’ needs and interests rather than one-off events that aren’t relevant to your brand or your customer.

At Hootsuite, we like to combine both real-time and right-time marketing. Although we like to hop onto trends like the Mannequin Challenge, all of it loops back into a greater and more consistent social media strategy.

The majority of our social content is created with our audience personas in mind. These are based on our target customers’ needs and interests.

We also identify high-performing pieces of content (like blog posts) and convert them into content for social. This right-time marketing approach requires the same amount of agility and flexibility as a real-time marketing campaign, but it’s based on something that’s already resonating with our audience and providing them with value.

For example, we took our post on 10 Reasons Celebrities Are Better at Instagram Than Brands and turned it into a social video.

Whether or not you’re using real-time marketing for your brand, it’s important to be on-top of what your customers are talking about on social media. Use social listening to find out how to better engage your audience. Try Hootsuite today.

About the Author

Kaylynn is a Junior Copywriter at Hootsuite. She likes babies, needs snacks available at all times, and was disappointed at the way Rory Gilmore’s life unfolded in the Netflix’s revival. #TeamJess

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