Last month's Business Marketing Association Global Conference in Chicago was dominated by discussions about social media best practices, with numerous examples of how marketers are implementing them. One of the most compelling sessions focused on how the quickest reactions to current events can have a disproportionate impact on social marketing.
The consensus: The concept of real-time marketing isn't just about automated ad bidding and retargeting. Its social meaning—near-instant communications to key targets—is an important new way of doing business.
“The idea of real-time communications—the intersection between Big Data and instant communications—is the most interesting thing going on in b-to-b marketing right now,” said marketing consultant and conference presenter David Meerman Scott, in a session titled, “In the Moment: How and Why to Do Real-Time B-to-b Marketing.” “If you spend all your time focusing on the future, on campaign planning, you'll forget what's going on right now.”
Scott cited Wall Street trading desks, where analysts view multiple screens to track rapidly evolving financial trends. “Similarly, modern marketers must analyze audiences and the news in real time to take immediate advantage of trends.”
An example of real-time marketing in a social context was offered by Rich Jurek, CMO at Inland Real Estate Group of Cos. Previously, the company's marketing plan had been focused on campaigns lasting from 90 days to 12 months. Now, it focuses on sending out quick responses to current events via social channels.
In response to breaking news concerning real estate or financial services, the company's in-house staff of former journalists develops stories pertaining to its various member companies. The stories are rapidly distributed through social media complete with an Inland perspective, and are also delivered to member companies for their own marketing use.
“Now we run the event marketing team like a newsroom,” Jurek said. “Everyone shares stories and recent events that can be pushed out to our network. This helps create evangelists in the business and transforms our group members into valued partners.”
GolinHarris is taking this approach internationally. The agency has developed central news commands, which it calls “The Bridge,” in 13 sites around the world, with access to multiple types of news feeds. Bridge employees—former journalists, publicists, social experts and visual artists—hold daily editorial meetings to discuss events that have a bearing on their clients. They then put together an action plan and present ideas to the clients.
“A myth about real-time marketing is that it's a seat-of-your-pants, extemporaneous thing,” said Jeff Beringer, global practice leader at GolinHarris. “The opposite is true. You need to plan with clients in advance, thinking about fundamental stories you want to and should tell, and the things you want to stay away from.”
One GolinHarris client doing that is Cisco Systems. The systems networking company maintains some 400 social media properties and needs to fill those channels with content. GolinHarris' Bridge teams monitor what Cisco customers are talking about and shapes those insights into story ideas with a Cisco twist.
Cisco stories are also developed around key holidays and events, such as Valentine's Day and the NCAA's March Madness, with Cisco-oriented technological overtones.
“The real impact of real-time marketing isn't when you get lucky once during the Super Bowl,” Beringer said. “It's all the other days where you show up with relevant content. It's lots of singles, not so much home runs.”
Matt Petitjean, VP-corporate marketing at Automatic Data Processing, which processes payrolls for about 25 million workers, said the company uses this large data set to create monthly reports about employment trends in the U.S. ADP releases the information through multiple channels two days before the federal government sends out its own monthly unemployment statistics.
The result, predictably, is the cachet that comes with breaking news ahead of an official source.
“We'll release these numbers on CNBC, our website and social channels simultaneously,” Petitjean said. “We do lots of different things at ADP beside payroll; and, by producing this content, people know more about us. We become part of the consideration set.”