Real-time marketing looks to revolutionize the digital marketing industry by increasing engagement. What exactly is it? And can you do it wrong?Take a lesson from the Oscars -- you can.

From its earliest beginnings, marketing has been about drawing in the customer, finding an approach that will get customers and prospects attention and improve conversion rates. At the onset of digital marketing there have been a variety of tools added to this repertoire, such as email marketing, social media and analytics.

Overall though, marketing has still mostly relied on historical data to see how well campaigns and product releases are doing. Despite this being successful in the past, customer characteristics are changing.

The Available Anywhere, Anytime Customer

Nowadays, customers are not browsing the internet for a few hours a day, but are spending more and more time on the web, since they have both mobile and desktop devices. By always being connected to the internet, customers are spending more time searching for information on products and services, and therefore companies have to be readily available to meet this demand.

For example, if a person sees a product they like on a television show, they may start searching for that product through social media and search engines. In doing this they want to know how the product works, where to get it and if there are newer versions available. The person may post this question to a company’s Facebook timeline or to Twitter, and in doing so they want an instant response.

With this mind, companies need to reach out their audience and show their potential and current customer base that they are always trying to improve their communication and engagement skills. This is where real-time marketing comes in.

Real-Time is Go Time

According to David Meerman Scott, a marketing and leadership strategist, real-time marketing is:

When companies develop (or refine) products or services instantly, based on feedback from customers or events in the marketplace. And it’s when businesses see an opportunity and are the first to act on it.”

Therefore, real-time is a type of a marketing that made up of a system of engagement tools, insights. It is a multichannel approach that is based on as it happens data, instead of data that is hours or days old and it requires faster campaign release, engagement and reaction timing.

Taking a Careful Approach

To be a successful real-time marketer a business not only has to use certain tools, but has to have a content sharing strategy that is timely and relevant. One way to do this is to post something that's interesting and relevant following an ironic situation.

An example of this is Oreo's tweet during the Superbowl blackout. The company tweeted a photo of the cookie stating that while there wasn't much else to do, Superbowl watchers could still eat and dunk Oreos. Not only was this tweet done immediately following the blackout showing that Oreo was paying attention to events that were happening, but they found a interesting way to make light of the situation and promote conversation and their product. The tweet ended up 16,074 retweets and 6,193 favorites.

Thumbnail image for rtoreo.jpg

The Oreo ad that was tweeted during the Superbowl blackout

While the Oreo-Super Bowl tweet was well-received, not all real-time marketing attempts have been as lucky. During this past Sunday's Oscars, companies were using Twitter in an attempt to engage with their audience during key moments in the broadcast.

A lot of tweets appeared lazy, like Mr. Clean's. The company tweeted a photo showing the product's namesake dressed in a tux. It didn't offer users anything they'd want to retweet because even though suits are worn to the Oscars, they aren't talked about as much as the dresses. It received three retweets and nine favorites.


A company that was moderately more successful was JC Penney who promoted a pair of flip-flops saying "Dear Stilettos, #Oscars." Fashion is one of the most talked about parts of the award show, and this tweet was humorous and relevant -- especially following Jennifer Lawrence's fall on the stairs, addressing a topic that would continue to be talked about for weeks to come. It received 60 retweets and 70 favorites.

Analytics: The Secret Weapon

While social media, email, real-time search and other forms of engagement are a key part of the real-time process, it’s with analytics that this marketing format shines.

As Emarketer says, “Marketers must walk before they run; as tempting as it is to explore real-time engagement, they need to have a solid social analytics infrastructure in place first," and there are a variety products out there to help with this task.

Webtrends recently released Webtrends Webstreams, a real-time analytics tool that monitors as little or as much data as a company needs. For example, with Webstream's Traffic Sources Stream, data that is collected for a stream is based around campaign traffic. Data can be broken down into ages, gender and other defining categories and sources that are reported including phrases that have been searched and the search engine used.

Pagelever has PageLever now, a tool that can be used to manage and monitor a variety of information in real-time and lapsed time, as marketers can receive data that has just been collected or as far back as 48 hours ago. And  Google has its own real-time analytics tool: Google Analytics Real-time, which is a charting tool that presents data and activity as it happens.

Analytics in a real-time capacity prove to be an essential part of digital marketing because by seeing trends as they happen a marketer can respond immediately and alter campaigns to fit consumer demand.

Without Real-Time Marketing

Many companies may feel that their digital marketing approach is successful, as they may have a lot of followers, fans and have had positive feedback, but as real-time marketing begins to make an impact they will have to adapt or be left behind.

RTM [or real time marketing] should no longer be regarded as “icing on the cake” for modern marketing plans, but rather an integral ingredient for lean-forward communication with impact,” says a report from Golin Harris.

Overall, real-time marketing gives both smaller and enterprise businesses the chance to improve engagement, as those who respond more quickly to analytics data will show customers they are readily available to address their issues.

Real-time marketing provides demonstrable value for companies that apply it. No matter your brand or product category, RTM helps reach customers at the right place, at the right time, with the right message,” says Golin Harris “ In so doing, marketers can create meaningful connections that help move consumers closer to purchase.”