How to be Ready for Real-time Marketing

Relevance Has a Deadline: How to be Ready for Real-time Marketing

Real-time marketing isn't just likes on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, or views on YouTube. It's about engaging consumers and driving purchasing decisions by adding value at every touch point. Unfortunately, today’s agency and brand infrastructure is not conducive to the requirements of real-time marketing. Consumers want relevant content and they want it now. Perpetual connectivity, driven largely by mobile and tablet use, has transformed the way people consume and interact with each other. As customers spend more and more time online, real-time engagement has become one of the most powerful methods of storytelling for brands. With new digital trends also comes a new set of expectations. For brands, the two critical consumer expectations for content are immediacy and relevance. In order to start a conversation, a brand needs to understand these two expectations. And to perform, it’s essential to have the right process in place. Not every brand will engage to the same level or extent in real-time marketing or social media, nor should they. But without building a process or infrastructure for realtime marketing, no brand will be able to deliver on, and stay ahead of, consumer expectations. Increasingly, that process looks more like publishing news than producing a TV spot or print ad. Senior brand leadership commitment to this new methodology will ultimately determine the relative success of its real-time marketing efforts. The reality is: real-time marketing is coming your brand’s way. The question is: will you be ready?

Whitepaper by NewsCredJuly 19, 2016

1 Whitepaper / 35 Minutes

Rethinking the way we do Business in Real Time

In its present state, most agency and brand internal infrastructure, as well as external processes, are unequal to the tasks required of real time marketing. According to DigitasLBi’s Eric Korsh, VP/Group Director of Brand Content, here are the four things that need to change.

Teams – Broader Expertise With Fewer People

When a period TV series from the 1960’s closely resembles today’s agency and client staff model, perhaps it’s time for a change. Agency and client teams were built to produce campaign work supporting long gestation efforts such as product launches and brand positioning. The incremental changes that have been made over time do not fully reflect the opportunities created by consumer use of technology. Real-time marketing teams need to be made up of new, hybrid roles where individuals have multiple areas of expertise. That way, you shrink the meeting size and increase the speed of reaction.

Process – Faster and Shorter

By that same token, when a period TV series from the 1960’s closely resembles today’s agency and client working processes, perhaps it’s time for a change. Long lead times for content development and publication across limited channels has lead to a slow and cumbersome gauntlet. Real-time marketing requires the urgency of Broadcast News, not the slow pace of Mad Men – and all parties need to reimagine the lengthy, linear process and work on parallel paths with fewer steps across creation and approval.

Translation – What are we Doing on Pinterest?

It’s one thing to develop a line of communication around a sports or movie sponsorship, but a much more difficult thing to translate brand values, promise, and efficacy across the terrain of modern channels of communication. The possibilities are infinite, so the task is daunting, but understanding how to craft value in an interactive and always-on environment is critical to success. In order to turn real-time moments into long-term success, brands need to be able to translate their assets into consumer value on everything from Pinterest to Vine to Twitter.

Mindset – Fearlessness and Consumer Orientation

No more navel gazing or, more crudely expressed, masturbatory messaging. Brands need to focus on providing value to consumers at every touch point with every statement. In these real-time channels, brands need to be risk-taking and authentic instead of conservative and shallow. This is arguably anathema to our industry and perhaps the most difficult change to make. All parties involved must regularly challenge the older ways of doing things, and work together to keep focus on the consumer.



For this white paper, NewsCred has worked with global marketing and technology firm DigitasLBi to compile wisdom on what it takes to get real-time marketing right. DigitasLBi was one of the first agencies to adopt the real-time model with their signature approach, BrandLIVE. DigitasLBi has done groundbreaking work by implementing their innovative process for some of their top clients.

Newscred interviewed six DigitasLBi executives, reviewed case studies from across the industry, and researched extensively to bring you a comprehensive, up-to-theminute guide on brand storytelling at the speed of social.


A New Creative Process – Setting Yourself up for Agility and Speed

The traffic at night

Real-time marketing has the power to support and drive the long-term narrative of any brand. It’s not just about accumulating likes on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, or views on YouTube. It’s about engaging with your customers and adding value to their lives at every touch point. Permanent connectivity means that there are a lot of opportunities to do so. Each real-time interaction builds loyalty among customers; consumers who engage with brands become its most loyal advocates.

But, success in the real-time space requires a total commitment to new skills and a new creative process: one in which the rules are evolving at the speed of technology and regulation, clients and agencies are working as extensions of each other side-by-side, and the turnaround time from concept to launch is often compressed to days or even hours. That’s a massive departure from the traditional agency-client model, in which each step of the process— from brief to brainstorm, from execution to approval—is measured in weeks or months.

So, where does a brand begin? Whether you’re designating a team to execute real-time marketing regularly or simply preparing for sporadic social media engagement, the first step is to put the right people in place.


Structuring an Agile Team

Norman De Greve Quote on Collaboration.png


Joining the conversations of the moment calls for a level of nimbleness and flexibility that have rarely been applied to brand storytelling before. A new set of skills is required, one more commonly associated with newsrooms than with traditional marketing agencies. The skillset needs to have overlap across team members – no more copywriter and art director silos. But what are those skills exactly? And what does a real-time marketing team look like? While there aren’t established best practices for this fledgling approach yet, a few major changes are certain:

Renaissance junkies wanted. The tools and processes involved in real-time marketing can be learned by anyone. But certain innate characteristics, which manifest in both a deep and broad menu of interests, should be required of all team members. From high brow to low brow, technical to fantastical, team members must be the Benjamin Franklins or the DaVincis of their agency

Collaboration – but really. While a real-time marketing team may have all the same responsibilities as a traditional one, they should not have all of the same players. Those ‘Renaissance Junkies’ are Masters of Many Trades – narrow talent experts need not apply. These individuals will be woven together more tightly throughout the process and working together from the start. In real-time marketing, old siloed activities blur and everyone has a role to play in social listening, mining the conversations, and finding relevant places in which the brand can engage. Formerly linear activities become parallel paths.

Trial and error. Real-time marketing is an ongoing experiment, and team members must be willing to treat it as such. The days of developing a single, precious concept have been replaced with multiple, real-time social content activations – both niche and at scale. You need people who can work with minimal oversight and direction, who are comfortable taking risks and having their ideas killed. Social network half-life and consumer expectations for authentic content make for a terrific Petri dish. It’s no longer just about what is right for the brand, but what’s right for the channel.


Streamlining Your Process

Woman working at desk with laptop

Putting yourself in a position to do realtime marketing effectively, and knowing when you’re ready for it, takes a lot of upfront planning. Success starts not with a single well-timed moment, but a brand’s day-to-day activity.

Purpose. Before anything else, it’s important to make sure all stakeholders on both the client and agency side know the overarching purpose of the content. Why are we doing what we are doing? Without a clear answer agreed upon by everyone, each piece of new content will run through an old gauntlet and risk destruction. The difficulty is in allowing the purpose to manifest according to consumer expectations and behaviors on each channel, and not to force a preconditioned content structure.

Process. Brands and agencies need to understand that while there will continue to be forward-looking calendars with planned content, the high-reward activities are those which are molded or created in real-time. This can only happen, and be approved, with a defined end-to-end process, designed with a “how can we make this happen” end goal. This requires change-management, and brands or agencies that treat it less seriously than that will sit on the sidelines during critical social moments.

Commitment. Brands looking to build an engaged audience on social media must publish quality content on a consistent basis. Just like musicians or authors, brands can’t develop an audience chiming in a handful of times a year for big, publicized events like the Academy Awards, the VMAs, or the Super Bowl. That approach will prove ineffective because you haven’t built any kind of relationship with your audience. Publishing regularly sets a strong social foundation that will help you establish a cadence with your internal team, your client, and your readers. It prepares you for success when the right opportunity emerges.


Understanding Your Digital Community

Social media audiences for brands – and even TV shows and movies – differ from offline audiences watching TV commercials or viewing banner and print ads. They also have different expectations and behaviors on social channels. For an organically built social following, as opposed to a purchased or bribed following, they’ve already opted into your content and need a steady diet of things they love. This often means the interests of your owned community may differ significantly from your target audience in other media.

Eric Korsh The Bachelor Quote.png


Understanding your community requires an exercise in dissecting your followers, their behavior patterns and psychographic qualities. You should align these points with your bigger brand story and social media strategy to determine how to connect your brand to the community in the most interesting way.

For example, take Buick’s #InTheMoment initiative. Buick, in partnership with DigitasLBi, noticed an increasing trend amongst their social media audience: technology fatigue, particularly with smartphones. In response, Buick launched a movement aimed at getting people to put down their phones and live in the moment.

The content was specifically tailored to their digital community: a dedicated #InTheMoment Tumblr page, a content partnership with Buzzfeed, a video produced with popular YouTube singer-songwriters Rhett & Link (which received over 1 million views), culminating in a social media blackout for Christmas—so that people would live #InTheMoment with their families for the holiday.


Establish a Cadence Internally

Just as a news team meets in the morning to discuss the latest news, a brand must designate a time to meet and mine social conversations of the moment. These meetings are integrated across disciplines: expertise in planning, search, media, analytics, creative and account management should be present to discuss the latest content – but with the fewest number of participants possible. It’s up to the team, capability agnostic, to creatively connect the events of the day to the brand. The team should have a ready set of filters that help them translate their concepts to the brand strategy on individual channels.

Establishing the rigor of cadence and of mining, meeting, creating and revising is important. It ensures the team is tightly integrated and sets up expectations for the new creative process. Basically – have the same meetings at the same time about the same things. Moving it to accommodate other work results in missed opportunities and signals a lack of commitment to change.


Norman De Greve Quote on content marketing


Learn From Results and Evolve the Process

Real-time monitoring tools allow you to approach content analytically. Build your content strategy off of social insights, trending topics, and viral content from competitors and customers. You can easily see what’s working or not, and evolve accordingly.


Monitoring the Digital Space

The Creative Newsroom: Does the new creative process call for a new physical environment?

Technology is a prominent member of any real-time marketing team. Whether or not you designate a physical command center to coordinate your efforts matters less than your commitment to the process. Today, advanced collaboration software allows teams to manage project workflow in real-time from just about anywhere. With platforms like the Content Marketing Cloud, marketers can create content teams with varied permission levels, queue content for editorial approval, and even manage freelancers, contracts and payments. Members of your team may be in different countries let alone in separate rooms. However, designating a physical environment within your agency can be a mindset reminder to work in a new way. It also reaffirms your team’s and client team’s commitment to the new creative process.

John McCarus DigitasLBi quote


DigitasLBi Case Study: The Wire 

*Two years ago, Procter & Gamble posed a challenge to DigitasLBi to figure out a way to react in real-time to conversations around the world. The speed of social channels didn’t mesh with the slow-paced agency-client process. The brand and cross-agency team created something new: the Always On Newsdesk. Then DigitasLBi built a physical workspace at its Boston office headquarters designed to drive quick collaboration. The project grew into BrandLIVE, a social nerve center embedded in DigitasLBi offices across six cities, including London. There, execs from certain client teams are surrounded by six plasma screens displaying all sorts of social content and data from which DigitasLBi can mine and then create content in the moment. The ever-present screens, pulsing with social activity data, are affectionately called “the wire.”

*Digiday, “Inside the Digitas ‘Social Bullpen'” 


Anne Marie Kline Quote.png

Always Relevant and Current

Creating Content that Resonates

Consumers have become accustomed to brands in their conversations and even welcome the interaction, if it comes in an authentic, non-disruptive, and useful manner. The key to successful real-time content is finding the intersection of what’s relevant to your brand and relevant to your audience.

Virgin Holidays Same Sex Marriage Tweet

3 Examples of Authentic & Relevant Real-time Marketing*

Getting Political. Within minutes of the bill legalizing gay marriage passing in the UK, Virgin Holidays tweeted this image and posted it to their Facebook and Google+ Pages: Not every brand can celebrate legalized gay marriage in social channels and have it come across as an authentic, relevant message. However, Virgin knows their audience, they offer honeymoon vacations, and founder Richard Branson is an outspoken gay marriage supporter. Therefore, the message itself is relevant and credible. They used the #equalmarriage hashtag to expand their reach and were rewarded with 265 retweets from their community.

Smart Comebacks. Comical responses to consumers can work, if handled expertly. @SmartCarUSA impressively replied to one man’s snarky tweet: “Saw a bird had crapped on a Smart Car. Totaled it” by amusingly debunking the science of the claim with a snarky infographic of its own, diagramming the “weight of bird crap required to damage Smart’s Tridion Safety Cell.” Not only was it funny but it managed to reaffirm the brand’s safety message in a surprisingly delightful way.

Weighing In On Pop-Culture Events. Oreo’s Super Bowl blackout tweet prompted many other brands to put on a real-time show at the Oscars three weeks later. While most of their efforts lacked relevance or pizzazz, this Nintendo tweet stood out for its wry, sardonic take that contrasted nicely with the high gloss of the award show.


Join an Existing Conversation

It’s always a good idea for a brand to share a unique perspective on a conversation that’s already happening, rather than initiate their own conversation. A few reasons:

  1. Existing conversations have built-in audiences. Organic, naturally-occurring conversations are more sustainable than brand initiated conversations, which ultimately are PR events. In general, it’s more useful for a brand to consistently engage with the existing audiences around natural topics than to spend precious resources on creating a topic spike. On Twitter and Instagram, those conversations are often marked by a hashtag. Some hashtags are recurring, like #TBT for Throwback Thursdays, in which people and brands post reminiscent photos from their past. Other hashtags are event-specific and time sensitive, like #NYFW for New York Fashion Week. Hashtags are an effective way to jump into pre-existing conversations.
  2. Live-blogging events ensures your message is relevant to your audience. For example, if you determine your target is young, male adults who watch football, you can bet they’ll be tweeting about a big NFL game on a certain date.
  3. Real-time marketing etiquette is like being at a cocktail party. “At a party, when you first enter a conversation your head is nodding and you’re agreeing. You’re adding value to an existing conversation. But once you’ve been there awhile, you can change the topic. I think this is a helpful analogy for brands doing real-time marketing because you don’t get invited into a discussion if you just show up and want to serve your own agenda. Over time, as you build trust, people are more willing to listen to a new viewpoint from you.”  –  John McCarus, SVP, Social Content, DigitasLBi
  4. Developing an Editorial Calendar. One thing digital agencies across the board agree on is the importance of creating an editorial calendar or content matrix: a loose roadmap for the brand’s social media initiatives each week or month. For any brand, this calendar will contain a mix of planned (proactive) content, and spontaneous (reactive) content. It may seem strange to plan to be spontaneous, but that’s often what real-time marketing requires. Always expect, and prepare for, the unexpected.


The Virtues of Stock vs. Flow


The Virtues of Stock and Flow Hen Diagram.png


“Stock” is the type of content that brands have always been great at creating: glossy campaign-based assets that attract new customers. This content is planned ahead of time and often carefully executed – on TV, in print, online, and sometimes on social media. “Flow” is the lightweight content that brands are creating reactively, in real-time, to engage their growing social audiences: tweets, pins, Instagrams and Facebook status updates.

Right now, brands are awkwardly transitioning from their comfortable place as stock content creators to the new, haphazard world of flow. And in their adolescence, many brands are struggling to make sense of their roles on social media. Finding that sweet spot between stock and flow is tough, but will soon prove to be a worthwhile challenge for any brand to take.

The balance is important because each piece of content you post should ladder up to a greater brand story arc and help drive your narrative, which takes advance planning. But over-planning can cause your brand to appear stiff and inhuman. The whole purpose of real-time marketing is to connect with customers on a personal level—real-time marketing is entirely in the moment. Ultimately, the best real-time marketing will have a healthy mix of stock content (proactive) and flow content (reactive). It’s important for your brand to understand when each approach is appropriate and why.


Stock Content: Planning Ahead

Anne-Marie Kline quote on real-time marketing


There are certain events you know are coming and can plan ahead for: holidays, elections, and award shows. While it’s smart to have approved content ready in advance of these events, it’s also important to monitor the social space in case real-time conversations spark new ideas. Trending topics can provide inspiration and guidance for your next piece of content. Stock includes the idea of “Planned Live,” which involves creating content for known events which happen at unknown times. For example, an insurance brand might have a message they know they want to communicate before or during a natural disaster, so they will keep that content in a repository for a forecasted occurrence. Similarly, a financial institution may keep content on hold for when the Dow hits a new historic threshold. This method helps a brand plan for when, not if.


Flow Content: Thinking on Your Feet

The infrastructure you’ve built with your real-time marketing team will help make the process more fluid when you need to act in the moment. For example, when you know a relevant cultural event will take place on a certain date, arrange for members of the brand and client team to watch the event together to expedite creation and approval.


Case Study: Lenovo, The Onion, & Fantasy Football



Tough Season – Fantasy Draft Preparation – Season 1, Ep. 1 (Brought to you by Lenovo) by The Onion


Some brands are developing campaigns and platforms that utilize both stock and flow content, as computer brand Lenovo demonstrated with their web mockumentary series, “Tough Season,” and the social media program that flowed out of it.

Lenovo launched a new product called the “Yoga 2 Pro” laptop, and leveraged their existing partnership with the National Football League to target the Fantasy Football crowd. Kevin Berman, Lenovo’s marketing director, focused on fantasy diehards because they are the technology “doer’s” of the NFL, and Lenovo is “For Those Who Do.” These fans have scale (over 30M fantasy participants), a 24/7 obsession with their rosters and league standings, and participate in the dominant social conversation that surrounds the NFL.

To position the Yoga 2 Pro laptop as a must-have accessory for the Fantasy Football season, Lenovo partnered with DigitasLBi and The Onion, a popular mock news publisher, to create a digital mockumentary series called “Tough Season.” Tough Season is the story of Brad, the perennial last place finisher in his office Fantasy league. The comedy web series ran eight episodes, released periodically, during the NFL and Fantasy Football season. Consider that the “stock” content. It was scripted and organized and produced in advance. Throughout the course of the season, Lenovo’s contracted NFL Player Talent produced videos, Tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagrams that engaged Brad the Fantasy Football character with real NFL fans and Fantasy Football participants. These engagements – ad hoc content based on week to week events and fan conversations, with players such as Larry Fitzgerald and Andrew Luck, were the “Flow” content. Coach Brad, using the voice of The Onion on his character Facebook and Twitter pages, engaged live during NFL game days.

This marketing initiative, with both planned and real-time content, proved effective because it latched onto an area that people were already passionate about, fantasy football, and used it as a launchpad to engage in real-time conversations on social media. As of mid-January, the web series and accompanying social video content had received over 13 million video views.


The New Client Relationship: Working Side-By-Side

NewsCred employees in a meeting

Real-time marketing is a true collaborative effort. While brands may recognize the need and value of having a strong social media presence, many don’t understand the resources and dedication required to do real-time marketing right – and that it’s the consumer expectations in social that require the real-time effort. Brands also may not anticipate how active a role they will play in creating, approving, and mining content along with their agency partners. Real-time marketing requires that agency and brand teams are extensions of one another; they are constantly in contact, reviewing creative, and evolving the brand together. It’s important for individuals to bring more than a narrow skillset or point of view.

Creatives must be as interested in a relationship with legal colleagues as account leaders must be in sourcing creative ideas from the news and current events.

It’s up to agencies, with their experience across multiple brands, to educate their clients and align the expectations of both teams. Clients needs to get on board with the new creative process, and everything that comes with it, before real-time content creation can begin.

Forming A Cadence Between Agency and Client Teams

The age of big client presentations and the “great reveal” no longer applies. Instead, agency and client teams are communicating regularly— in many cases daily—and their meetings resemble working sessions more than formal creative presentations. Develop a relationship of comfort and trust with one or more point people. This includes the ability to challenge orthodox points of view, and to focus on the needs of the consumer within each channel. Try to streamline the approvals process on the client side. Levels of feedback will slow down the efficiency of the creative process. Allow final decisions to be made by individuals who are available and responsible.

Figure out a way to act more quickly and together, whether it means meeting in person often, providing feedback in real-time over the phone, or using collaborative technology to work in tandem without occupying the same physical space. Scheduling no-miss daily meetings and catch-ups can work, or identifying a client who will respond immediately with yes/no answers within fixed amounts of time.


Expediting Client and Legal Approvals

The approval process often has a way of slowing down the publishing process, making it hard to react in real-time. This can be a challenging hurdle for both the brand team and the agency. The back-and-forth between clients, agency partners, and legal counsel that usually takes place with traditional marketing pieces simply can’t apply to real-time content.

So, what gives?

As with the new creative process, the approval process also needs to change. It helps when expectations are set ahead of time among agency, client, and legal teams. The earlier all parties get involved in the creative process, the smoother approvals will be. There are even things all teams can do proactively to speed up approvals, avoid compliance barriers, and ensure a continuous flow of work

Agency team. You have to do the work upfront to be successful quickly. Account managers, planners, and creatives all need to understand the brand’s legal risks and compliance standards. It’s important to know what you can and can’t say ahead of time to avoid legal barriers while creating content.

Client team. Create a streamlined process for feedback that maximizes efficiency. That could mean sitting in the room with the agency and reacting/revising the work on the spot.

Legal team. It’s not just about approvals and rejections. It’s about looking at the end objective in the brief and helping the creative team arrive there – not through word-smithing but through thoughtful direction. Legal approval should be woven into the creative process rather than tacked on at the end. For real-time events, lawyers are often sitting with the client and creative teams, working together.


Those are proactive measures each team can take to create a more fluid approval process, but when it comes time to monitor social media and create real-time content, a new plan should already be in place.


Plan an approach. Determine who is going to be responsible for interacting with people, who is going to respond to certain types of questions, and when you need to hit pause and run comments by your legal team for approval.

Keep everyone informed. While having every comment, interaction, and response approved up and down the ladder will kill your ability to truly be social, you can keep your team and management in the know with regular interaction reports.

Get senior leadership on board. If you have the consent and support of senior leadership on both the brand side and agency side, your ability to act in real-time will be much smoother. Real-time marketing is not a ground-up sell inside a brand – it requires senior level buy in from the beginning.


How to Measure & Sustain Success: Turning Real-time Content into Long-term Results

Reducing Risks, Maximizing Opportunities

Joining real-time conversations online means opening yourself up to feedback from fans. Brands should see this as an opportunity, but understand the risks. It’s up to a brand team and agency partners to set expectations for both positive and negative scenarios, and together decide how to capitalize on opportunities and minimize risks. The way a brand reacts to feedback, positive or negative, often matters more than the feedback itself. Authenticity gives brands a wide berth for error in the eyes of consumers.

Consider the Wednesday morning in August of 2013, when The New York Times website and mobile app suddenly collapsed. While the Times was inaccessible, several employees took to Twitter to reassure readers that they were aware of the problem and that it was being fixed. Some employees shared updates on their stories over social media; others offered tongue-in-cheek alternatives for readers while the site was down. For important breaking news, the Times took to Facebook to provide a more robust lede with visuals. Clearly, the Times has a stronger imperative than most brands to deliver timely content; that’s their only job. Even so, commercial brands can learn something from the Times’ graceful handling of a negative situation.

Real-time marketing may be new, but it’s been around long enough to see some tremendous success stories as well as horror stories. Brands can learn from those examples and use them to reduce risk while maximizing opportunities in the social space.


at&t never forget controversy

Image: Adweek AT&T Never Forget Controversy


Know the right time to talk. Not every cultural moment deserves a real-time response. In other words, brands don’t need to jump on every conversation happening on the web. Talking too much, too often, or at inappropriate times can really hurt your brand. Realtime works when there’s a legitimate reason for you to participate. Otherwise, a timely social media post does little for you if it doesn’t align with your brand story.

Finding success with real-time content often means knowing when to let opportunities go. Consider the anniversary of September 11th. In 2013, many brands felt compelled to weigh in, and while most social media posts were harmless tributes, few were relevant to the brand or their story. In one case, a well-intended tweet by AT&T caused a flurry of negative feedback from fans.

The post was widely criticized and lampooned by followers who felt that the company tried to capitalize on the somber event by showcasing one of their phones in the image. Eventually AT&T posted an apology, took down the tweet, and moved on. But there is a valuable lesson to be learned from their misstep

On the flip side, some case studies reveal brands that knew exactly the right time to talk. During the launch of Apple’s iPhone 5S, for example, competitor brands Samsung, Nokia, and Motorola bought social ad space to tout the superior features of their own phones. The timing and placement of those ads played off the cultural moment just right, in a way that was relevant to the competitors’ products and brand story


Stand out from the rest. Every brand is now jumping on the real-time marketing trend, so it can be difficult to distinguish your brand through all the noise. As with all marketing efforts, the quality of your content and ideas ultimately defines your level of success.

The personality you establish for your brand on social media will help determine what type of content you’ll post and how you’ll talk about a topic. Is your brand playful? Informative? Irreverent? Quirky? When all stakeholders have a firm grasp of your brand’s social persona, and stick to that persona regardless of the scenario, it really helps your brand stand out. Oreo’s “slam dunk” Super Bowl tweet was as much about style and tone as it was hyper-relevance.


Know when to take a risk. Some kinds of risks are rewarded on social media. Others backfire. How does a brand determine the right kind of risks to take?

In general, the more playful and good-natured the topic and tone, the safer it is the less of a risk your brand faces. If people are talking about Miley Cyrus at the VMAs and you have a pithy one-liner, you’re probably on solid ground. If you want to weigh in on an incident in which people have been hurt, like Superstorm Sandy, you’re probably better off staying on the sidelines. If you feel compelled to comment in those cases, keep it simple and brief.

One area that seems like a safe (and fun) place to take risks it interacting with the social channels of other big brands. Perhaps because those brands are not tied to any single person, getting sassy is unlikely to offend followers.


What to do when something goes wrong. Every brand will have missteps— it’s part of the process of seeing what sticks. However, brands can often turn mistakes into opportunities to show their human side and make improvements by staying authentic and sincere.

Consider JCPenney’s “Hitler Tea Kettle” incident. In May of 2013, a billboard was erected in Culver City, Los Angeles advertising a designer tea kettle that bore a striking resemblance to Adolph Hitler. This caused a flurry of negative commentary and caught the attention of some high-profile celebrities on Twitter. JCPenney immediately tried to diffuse the negative publicity by responding to the tweets in a calm, human, and sometimes humorous manner.


Don’t delete it, deal with it. Unless someone is violating community guidelines it’s important not to delete a person’s post. Doing so would violate the understanding that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are open forums for dialogue, and can make fans skeptical of the authenticity of your brand’s other content. If it feels appropriate, you might even engage fans who are expressing negativity and use it as an opportunity to open the floor for constructive feedback. But remember, most of your followers aren’t visiting your page to view negative commentary; they’re viewing the content you push out into their feeds. The exposure to negativity may not be as great as you’d expect.


Fusing Creativity and Technology

NewsCred Employees Working in the Office

Creativity at the Core. The digital tools available today encourage dynamic thinking and open up possibilities for engagement. But at the core, real-time marketing is contingent on creativity and good ideas. The key is to use technology to your advantage to help you create a diversity of content at scale. Brands have a tendency to think linearly about their content in relation to their products and/or ad strategy. But more dynamic thinking is usually rewarded. Forget your products for a moment; who is your target audience and what do they really want from content? Brands that answer this question first, and back into their advertising strategy second, tend to maximize creativity and optimize results.

Stay True to Your North Star. With all the new digital platforms, social spaces and devices, it can be tempting to veer away from your traditional voice and adopt a persona that doesn’t normally fit your brand. In some cases that’s okay, but it requires everyone on board committing to the new, established social media personality. The better bet is to stay true to the brand you’ve built offline and bring it to life on social media.

Use Innovative Technologies to Create Better Content. Every brand has advanced tools at their disposal to plan, discover, source, publish, share and measure content at scale. It’s worthwhile to find the right technology for your target and goals.

Planning & Workflow. Plan ahead with an editorial calendar and track content approvals. Easily organize and archive all owned, licensed and social assets, in one place with asset management.

Content Discovery & Social Listening. The ability to surface and curate the most relevant content in real-time based on socially trending topics, your brand’s target audience and marketing goals.

Publishing & Social Sharing. Publish content to hosted landing pages and share across social channels. Amplify distribution through paid campaigns.

Measure ROI. Measure content clicks, shares, social engagement and conversions, page views, unique visitors, time-on-site and bounce-rate.


Turning Real-time Moments into Something More Lasting

Real-time moments, even when successful, are fleeting interactions between a brand and its followers. How can brands turn these instances into opportunities to build deeper, more meaningful connections?

Finding Hidden Insights in Consumer Responses. If you’re only talking to people on social media channels, and never with them, then you’re missing out on the social part of social. Fans and followers can provide valuable content and insights if you let them. The next step to publishing real-time content is soliciting real-time participation and feedback.

For example, what if Oreo had asked fans at the Super Bowl to show them how they dunk in the dark? They would have likely received hundreds of responses that provide valuable insight into Oreo’s audience. Are the images clever? Sentimental? Silly? The feedback can help the brand shape the tone and nature of future content. It can also serve as a springboard for more real-time interaction in the moment.

Turning a ‘Like’ Into Loyalty. Continued engagement with consumers is what will ultimately create loyalty and purchasing power. In the end, “Likes” and “Follows” do not drive sales, but brand loyalty certainly does.

Creating a Sustainable Relationship with Fans. As in any good relationship, it’s important to take notice of a consumer response and assure customers that they’ve been heard. The simplest example of this is when someone tweets a question at your brand on Twitter, tweet back at them. Write as though a person is on the other end, and not an automated machine or corporate headquarters.


So, what’s next?

This white paper can serve as a guide to any brand on how to go about structuring their organization for optimal success. The following are key points to take away:

Embrace a new creative process.

  • Structure a nimble, multifaceted team that’s not afraid to experiment with their ideas.
  • Identify the communities relevant to your brand and listen to what that community values before you start to speak.
  • Establish a cadence of content creation internally and with your client.
  • Monitor the social space for topics relevant to both your community and your brand.
  • Generate high volumes of content that live at the intersection of stock and flow.

Set expectations for a new kind of client relationship.

  • Narrow the agency/client divide by working as extensions of each other.
  • Present new ideas regularly and often, establishing a workflow cadence.
  • Put new processes in place to speed up the approval process. That could mean integrating client, legal, and agency teams from the start.

Learn from past examples to reduce risk and maximize opportunities.

  • Know the right time to talk and when to take a risk.
  • Have a contingency plan for if something goes wrong.
  • Stay true to your brand’s narrative in order to stand out from the rest.
  • Build a sustainable relationship with consumers by finding hidden insights in their responses.

Real-time marketing isn’t a fad; it’s a natural evolution of the social age. These moments, when fueled by social media, give brands an opportunity to achieve cultural relevance and an engaging, ongoing dialogue with their audience. Those that do it successfully will continue to surprise and delight their fans and the industry. But brands that jump into the game before they’re ready– before they’ve embraced the new process and set up a strong foundation–risk their reputation.

The real challenge for brands is successfully structuring their organization to capture these moments on a sustained basis without losing sight of their overall strategy and goals. To keep up with consumer expectations, all brands will eventually need to use social media – whether for daily engagement or sporadic responses to consumer requests. The only way to be ready is to put the right processes and infrastructure in place. Doing so isn’t easy and takes time, but the outcome will prove worthwhile and become more important as social media plays an increasingly prominent role in brand vitality and health.






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