How to Use Realtime Marketing To Deliver Value to the Right Customer at the Right Time.

It's Time to Go Realtime: our article from the Social Media Monthly September issue

===== This article originally appeared in the September issue of The Social Media Monthly, the first print magazine focused on social media.  We are sharing it here with permission from Bob Fine. Look for more articles and extended case studies from The Realtime Report in future editions! =====

It’s Time to Go Realtime.

If you think social media is about being friends with your customers or winning more followers, you’re missing the point.  The social graph is the conduit that allows brands to create real business value, rather than the value itself.

With the rise of social, mobile, geolocation and realtime services, brands have a massive opportunity to solve the two age-old problems of advertising:

  1. How do you get a customer’s attention when they don’t really want to be interrupted?
  2. How do you get the right message in front of the right customer at the right time?

Traditional advertising strategies involve bullhorns, 30-second spots, pop-ups and pre-rolls—all designed to interrupt consumers and force them to pay attention to your message.  Demographic profiles are ineffective when consumer needs, behaviors and interests change. Context and timing are even trickier: I may be a gadget geek, but that doesn’t mean I will pay attention to your ad for a new cell phone while waiting for my movie to start if I’m distracted or just not interested at that particular time.

Realtime marketing solves these problems.

Social consumers can be targeted based on an expression of interest in realtime.

Today’s social consumers publicly and willingly share information about themselves.  Through status updates, comments, video uploads, check-ins and “Likes,” social consumers provide actionable information about their location, preferences, mood and specific interests.

These fleeting, time-and context-specific expressions of interest provide the opportunity for brands to get attention by creating value.  Social consumers are engaging in behavior that is unstructured and not necessarily directed to a specific outcome.  Brands can interject themselves into that conversation and become a part of it, influencing and redirecting the consumer’s interest or behavior.

Do this inappropriately, and it’s spam.  But if you do this correctly, the customer will welcome the interruption, thank you and possibly even share their enthusiasm with their friends.

The Realtime Marketing Formula: 

Value = Time + Location + Shared Interest

Realtime marketers are not interrupting when they reply to a Twitter message with a solution or an offer for help, reward a Foursquare check-in with a special offer, or add a customer-produced video to a branded Facebook page. They are offering something of value, in a way that consumers are likely to find interesting, relevant and worth paying attention to.

That’s saying, “Thank you for telling us something about yourself. Because we know what your problem is, we can help solve it.  Because you’ve shared your location, we can serve you better. Because you’ve shared something that we think our other customers will like, we’re going to promote you and make you feel good about being part of our brand.”

In each case, the marketer has identified a shared interest—a need, desire, customer service issue, geographical proximity, useful or entertaining content—and found a way to create value for that specific customer, in realtime.  And because the marketer’s message is personal, immediate and relevant, it is going to earn the customer’s attention.

Realtime marketing solves the traditional advertiser’s dilemma because you are targeting a customer based on an expression of interest, and you are reaching out to them in a way that’s time- and context-appropriate.

Realtime marketing lets you target customers based on an expression of interest.

Let’s look at some concrete examples of how realtime marketing can create value, from the customer’s perspective:

  1. I arrive at my hotel on the first day of a trip and check in via Foursquare. I see a message saying that there’s a special nearby, and learn that the Mexican Grill on the corner is offering half-priced beer with a meal. Done!
  2. I’m on my way to the airport, and share this information in a tweet. I receive a reply message from an airline account Twitter account—not even the airline that I’ll be using—giving me a heads up that there are weather-related delays and a link to check flight status information. That’s a level of helpfulness and service that I’ll remember the next time I’m choosing my airline.
  3. I’m a sports fan, and have “liked” my team’s Facebook page in order to receive early notice on ticket sales.  I see a special on tickets for tomorrow night, but already have plans for a big date, so I share the ticket information with my Facebook friends, and one of them ends up buying two tickets.  Now he owes me!

In each case, the social expression of interest—sharing information about what I’m doing, about where I am, or about my interests—has allowed a business to create value for the customer, and to win new business in exchange.

Realtime Marketing is simple and scalable. The time to start is now.

Note that none of these examples require the marketer to deliver a personalized, individual message.  Today’s platforms and tools allow brands to create and manage realtime marketing campaigns that touch millions of potential customers.

It all boils down to three simple activities:

  • Define a potential expression of interest for your product, service or brand.
  • Listen—actively, by monitoring content, or passively, via a location-based service or mobile network—for customers to share information that will let you recognize and identify that interest.
  • Deliver an offer or a service, in a format that is easy for customers to respond to, and make it easy for them to share your offer with their social graph.

How you do each of these things for your brand is going to vary dramatically based on the type of business you’re in.  But the time for you to start becoming a Realtime Marketer is now.

Because somewhere out there, a customer is expressing interest.