10/03/2013 01:46 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

How Real-Time Can Be a Real Success

'Real-time' has recently taken on greater importance and a new meaning in the world of marketing. Brands are recognizing the value of engaging with customers through active dialogue, identifying relevant conversations and reaching out to specific audiences in the moments when those conversations are happening. Companies from startups to global corporations are leveraging creative, contextual and timely content to deliver value to consumers while interacting with them more personally. To stand out in a content-saturated world, brands must keep up with the rapid pace of conversation by building their marketing infrastructure to enable quick responses, executing activities that take advantage of current interests and events, and tying in real-time analytics to identify new opportunities and measure results.

Be Prepared
Just because real-time marketing happens on the fly doesn't mean that brands can eschew careful preparation. Oreo made a splash at this year's Super Bowl with its "You can still dunk in the dark" tweet, an example of a nimble and creative response to a real-life scenario: a power outage in the Superdome. While the power outage could not have been anticipated, Oreo had the infrastructure, personnel and agility to take advantage of this memorable opportunity. Before the game began, Oreo recognized the opportunity to connect with an already attentive audience and set up a control center of brand and agency members poised to design, create and approve social media content in real time. According to 360i, the agency that worked with Oreo on this campaign, the now-famous image was shared more than 20,000 times via Twitter and Facebook. It also gained traction with media, earning 525 million impressions. The buzz generated by Oreo's tweet demonstrates the value of a bold yet simple piece of timely content and the importance of having the resources and processes in place to execute quickly. I would not be surprised if an uptick in Oreo sales followed!

Rally Your Audience and Tap Into their Creativity
GE created its own unique campaign on February 11 to coincide with Thomas Edison's birthday, which is also Inventor's Day. GE asked people to submit their invention ideas via Twitter using the hashtag #IWantToInvent, then coordinated the drafting of digital blueprints from the best ideas, which included a horse SCUBA suit and edible cupcake liners. This all occurred over the course of seven hours, a condensed campaign that engaged consumers in real time. At the end of the day, 70 total blueprints were created, and GE expanded the reach of this campaign by encouraging people to rally around the Inventor's Day conversation and share their favorite ideas on Twitter and Facebook. According to DigiDay, GE garnered 2,600 #IWantToInvent mentions on Twitter in addition to 1,400 combined retweets and replies — a 4x increase in GE brand conversations on Twitter — plus more than 6,700 Facebook Likes, comments and shares.

Offer Something Exclusive and Targeted
PC company Lenovo took advantage of an industry event to connect with key audiences on Twitter, promoting exclusive offers and driving revenue. During Gadget Show Live, the UK's biggest consumer electronics show, Lenovo used Promoted Tweets and Accounts to extend its reach to specific audiences, geo-targeting tweets to people located near the show. Prior to Gadget Show Live, Lenovo built its follower base by giving away tickets via Twitter, and over the course of the four-day show provided exclusive discounts that were unlocked through retweets. In addition to targeting and offering exclusive deals, Lenovo drove success by integrating rich content into its messages in the form of videos and photos from the show. Lenovo also timed its messages with the show's cadence and adjusted its strategy in response to what was happening in real-time. The results were staggering: a $27,000 bump in revenue, a nearly 7x increase in brand conversations and more than 2,500 new followers.

Measure Your Results
Analytics are crucial for devising smarter campaigns. According to McKinsey, companies that use a data-centered approach stand to improve their marketing return on investment by 15-20%. Data can help brands determine when to connect with consumers, what type of content to create for optimal return and which channels are best suited for delivering that content. These insights are particularly important for real-time marketing activities, because marketers must be armed with up-to-date information in order to make informed decisions on the fly.

An optimal data-driven real-time marketing approach has three parts: 1) harnessing big data insights from social analytics tools to identify target audiences and opportunities to participate in conversations where the brand can both add value and enhance the customer's experience, 2) leveraging this information to capitalize on trends and live events, and 3) measuring the performance of specific pieces of content across channels and devices, including search, social and mobile, to evaluate the best course of action and adjust strategy accordingly.

It's clear that real-time marketing offers brands new tools to stay relevant in a world that's overwhelmed by content. Ideally, a real-time marketing strategy is informed by data at every step of the way. Today's technology delivers these insights so that marketers can develop campaigns that get people talking... and clicking, and buying... during the Super Bowl and beyond.