Within hours of Brazil’s heart-wrenching 7-1 defeat during the World Cup, our CEO Dan Kelly posted a Yarn about it. It was the most shared piece of content on any of our social channels for that week. We’ve had similar results since with the other pieces of real time marketing. Planning and executing real-time content marketing is an emerging, somewhat dark, art. This is our hit list for leveraging those social spikes to deliver marketing hits that your audience will devour and re-share.
Step 1: Create an events calendar
The magical ingredient of great real-time marketing, is opportunism – being plugged in enough to what is going on to be able to swoop in on trends as they happen. In other words, it’s not really possible to plan content very far in advance. The amazing moments of happenstance that you just happen to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of (such as Oreo’s legendary real time marketing reaction, ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ to the Superbowl XLVII power cut), just can’t be foreseen and there’s nothing you can do short of hiring a fortune teller.
What you can do however, is create a list of the real-world events relevant to your business, that you think are likely to result in large spikes of social activity (you can download the one we’ve created for Yarnee 2014 Q3/Q4 here). You might not have been able to predict that Miley Cyrus was going to bring the word ‘Twerk’ kicking and screaming into the public lexicon during last year’s VMAs, or what was going to happen in the final episode of Breaking Bad, but both events could be predicted with certainty. Knowing ahead of time what chatter to listen for and when can make sure you maximise the potential of being ready to react when something trending-worthy transpires.
Step 2: Find the right keywords and hashtags
Once you know what you want to listen for, you need to find the best keywords and hashtags about that event and track them. We use hashtagify.me to help us find the most relevant twitter hashtags ahead of time and then store them in the event calendar.
Try to stick to official hashtags where Twitter and Facebook are concerned – you can often find these either on the official event website or on the official event Twitter account. That way, you can be sure you can track the hashtags that cover the largest quantity of relevant content.
Sometimes, new highly relevant hashtags will emerge close to the event (or even during). For example, if at a sporting event an underdog competitor unexpectedly mounts a serious challenge for their opponent, a hashtag cheering them on could emerge during the event.
Social media marketing drill sergeant Gary Vaynerchuk characterised this perfectly in his now famous piece ‘Ride the hashtag, don’t create it’ where he said “Social media has much more upside when you’re actually listening and responding and reacting.”. Those words weigh even more heavily on the realm of real-time marketing.
Step 3: Track your hashtags and start well in advance of the event
Five days or so ahead of the event your hashtags and keywords relate to, start tracking them with Mention. Mention is basically a supercharged, real-time version of Google Alerts that scrapes both web and social media content to give you a comprehensive picture of what people are talking about.
The reason you need to start in advance is the thing you react to with a piece of real-time marketing content may not necessarily even occur at the event itself. There is a buzz window starting about a week before and reaching it’s peek during the event itself, during which time, anything can and does happen so you need to be ready to react.
Step 4: Create your marketing content
I’m not going to go into any great depth about what your real-time content should actually be, as it’s highly dependant on the service you are using and the product you are promoting (in Yarnee’s case, the service we use to create the content is the product we are promoting).
It may be a tweet, a Vine, a clever image shared to Facebook. Or it could just as easily be a longer form blog post or video. One general guideline is it should arrive as soon as possible after the event that inspires it occurs (and by that, I don’t mean the event planned in the calendar itself – I mean the things that happened at the event that are worthy of a real-time marketing reaction, such as the Superbowl’s power-cut).
To that end it should also be clear that the content itself could not have been planned in advance – the best real-time marketing (according to our own modest metrics) is content that relates to something that could not have been predicted ahead of time and which arrives with lightening speed after that thing happens.
Step 5: Share aggressively and with laser-point precision
Share more aggressively than you ordinarily would for other, more evergreen kinds of social media marketing content. Real time marketing has a shelf-life – you can’t re-share the content next week as the recency effect will be absent and your content will cease to be real-time by any generous definition.
Get it out there on every network you use. Share it several times in the first 24 hours and then frequently throughout the next 2-3 days, depending on the residual buzz that lingers after the initial explosion. That’s the blanket sharing taken care of but for content that you worked so hard to create and which naturally is deserving of a pan-dimensional audience, you’re going to want to target it too.
The benefit of having an event calendar is it can help you to identify potential relevant influencers in advance, that might be interested in your content (don’t forget to also send your content to the official FB/Twitter/Google+ etc. of the event itself – see spreadsheet). It’s a labour intensive process so we use Manage Filter to help identify influential people grouped by topic. FollowerWonk is also worth trying out for this task but it has fewer options in the free version than Manage Filter.
Tweeting links at people, submitting links to prominent Facebook pages, or even just mailing your links to social sharers that invite that kind of thing, can dramatically improve the performance of your content if even one bites. If what you are sending them is of real value (which for all social media marketing of any kind, it always should be) then you won’t run the risk of annoying anyone.