Does Real-Time Marketing Work On Social Media?



Social Media Week is a leading news platform and worldwide conference that curates and shares the best ideas and insights into social media and technology's impact on business, society, and culture.


Access exclusive SMW+ content by marketers whose careers you can emulate with a free 30-day trial!

Big brands love real-time marketing particularly newsjacking, the art of getting your brand involved with the latest news story. Does real-time marketing on social media really work? Absolutely – it works even better on social media because you can get your message out there much quicker than any other medium.

Brands Rocking Real-Time On Social Media

When I think of real-time marketing or newsjacking, I always think of Oreo’s post during Superbowl XLVII. The Superbowl is perennially the most watched television program is the United States. Superbowl XLVII was interrupted by a power cut, and as viewers flocked to social media to talk about what happened quick thinking brand Oreo released this:


The tweet was retweeted over ten thousand times received eighteen thousand Facebook likes, and over five thousand people shared it on Facebook, at the time of the event. It seems real-time marketing is almost a part of the Oreo brand. Lisa Mann, VP of Cookies at Mondelez International said:

 Oreo is a real-time brand, a real-time marketer, and we are a part of our culture and the fabric of our community. It is our objective to be as relevant today as we were 100 years ago when we launched.

This single post gained Oreo countless press mentions and more than 525 million earned impressions, the equivalent to over five times the number a Super Bowl commercial would have.

KitKat has also been hugely successful at real time marketing. Shortly after news broke that the iPhone 6 plus could bend in your pocket the brand tweeted the following:

KitKat reaped the rewards; their tweet was retweeted over twenty-five thousand times.

Real-time marketing is becoming increasingly popular on social media. Do you remember the debate over the color of “the dress” earlier this year? Some saw black and blue while others saw white and gold. It was probably the most talked about dress ever. The Salvation Army responded by newsjacking on social media, and their post was genius:

This social media post also earned a considerable amount of publicity online, and it even spilled into offline.

Real-Time Does Not Always Work

Brands do not always get social real-time marketing right. This is understandable because real-time marketing gives you far less time to consider what you are putting out there. You have to rush which sometimes causes slip ups.

Delta decided to engage in real-time marketing during the last World Cup, but it did not go to plan. The airline posted a tweet congratulating the USA soccer team on their 2-1 win over Ghana, West Africa. The tweet pictured the final score as well as the Statue of Liberty representing the USA and a giraffe representing Ghana.

Delta’s real-time social media marketing efforts turned out to be a fiasco when Twitter users informed them there were no giraffes in Ghana.

The company later apologized for their mistake:

Real-time marketing is challenging, and it can be risky but also very rewarding.

The Best Social Network For Real-Time

Real-time marketing goes down well on most social networks because people like to see what is current, but Twitter is the king of real-time social media marketing. Twitter is based on the principle of real-time. The feed you see is comprised of the latest updates from your following. By using Twitter, you can make sure that your post is seen instantly, exactly what you want for real-time marketing.

Another significant benefit of using Twitter for real-time marketing is the excellent organic reach post gain. A major part of real-time marketing is virality and Twitter has that ability. Added the fact that Twitter is the social media site of choice for people to go and discuss television programs, sports and live events to name a few.

Chris Kerns, Director of Analytics & Research at Spredfast and author of Trendology analyzed the Twitter accounts of 106 major brands that engaged in real-time marketing and found:

Brands tweeting about unexpected occurrences during major events saw a 1,200% lift in retweets per follower.

This massive increase in organic engagement highlights the immense effect real-time social media marketing can have when it is done well.

Real-Time Planning

While you might think brands come up with incredible content on the spur of the moment a lot of planning goes into real-time marketing. More than likely all the brand mentioned have a real-time strategy. Although the content is released in real-time, it is not necessarily made in real-time. While you can not predict a power cut during the Super Bowel, you know what World Cup matches are being played ahead of time. You can also probably guess a couple of likely endings to the latest popular television series that everyone is watching and create unique posts based on each of them.

There is more to real-time social media marketing than meets the eye you can at least prepare for real-time social media marketing if not plan it. The fundamental principles of real-time marketing apply to real-time social media marketing. Traditional newsjacking should happen just after news breaks and as or before writers scramble for information.

(Graph: David Meerman Scott)

The same applies to real-time social media marketing. You should try and get your content out there as soon as possible after the event has taken place as people begin or are talking about on social media.

How To Get Real-Time Social Media Right

To get real-time social media right, you need an active follower base that regularly engages with your brand on social media. Without an engaging following or fan base, nobody will know about your real-time marketing efforts.

Below The Belt Grooming did a pretty good job with their real-time outdoor advertising at this years Wimbledon Tennis Championships. The outdoor advertisement was not just noticed by London motorists but also by the press. This real-time marketing gained a relatively weak response on social media. The size of the brand’s social media following was probably the main contributor to the downfall.

Planning ahead is vital. You should research upcoming events that your fanbase will be talking about. These events do not have to line up with your industry for example KitKat has nothing to do with the Super Bowl but their fans watch it. Just avoid controversial events that could lead to an adverse response on social media.

Do your homework prior to the event you are aiming to generate real-time content on. Know the people involved with the event, whether they are actors or singers, celebrities or other brands, engage with them as part of your real-time marketing efforts, they might even help spread the word!

To engage in real-time marketing you do not need to reinvent the wheel. It can be as easy as checking out the latest topics in the ‘trending’ section of Twitter and joining the conversation!

Do you have any thoughts on real-time marketing social media marketing? Has your brand ever engaged in it? I would love to hear what you think – let me know in the comments below or send me a tweet @oconnorpadraig.

Padraig O’Connor is a business student and Irish marketer specialising in digital marketing. Klout listed him as being in the top 1% talking about marketing and social media online. To read more of his thoughts visit his marketing blog

Newsletter Subscription

Get the latest insights, trends and best practices from today's leading industry voices.

Learn More

Write for Us

Interested in sharing your ideas and insights with the world? Become a SMW News contributor and reach 300k readers each month.

Apply Here