Historically, the marketing world is known to change particularly quickly. Trends come and go and audience responses turn on a sixpence – never has this trait been so clearly illustrated as during the digital revolution of the last decade or so. We now have marketing channels that simply didn’t exist before: pay-per-click marketing, social media marketing, viral marketing – the list goes on. The latest addition to this canon is real-time social media marketing, and it’s a potentially lucrative avenue for businesses such as your own to explore.

Real-time social media marketing involves marketing teams employing a social network – usually Twitter – to comment on a current cultural event, tying the company’s products or services in with the event in question. The concept behind real-time social media marketing isn’t a complicated one, but pulling it off effectively is notoriously difficult – and there is ample scope for things to go disastrously wrong. Here’s what you need to know…

Choose your events with care

Not every event is suitable for real-time social media marketing. Of course it’s necessary to choose events that are at the very least tenuously related to your company, but it’s equally important to choose only those events that are appropriate to associate your brand with. Remember that this is marketing you’re engaging in, so certain things are well and truly off-limits. Many brands learned this the hard way when tweeting about Martin Luther King Day in January 2014. Naturally, Twitter users didn’t take too kindly to the idea of chemical companies and even porn websites attempting to capitalise on the assassination of one of America’s pre-eminent civil rights leaders. Be warned…

Be fast, fearless and funny

The marketing fails of others shouldn’t encourage you to take a timid approach to real-time social media marketing, however. This is a marketing avenue that rewards the brave and the bold. Twitter users like it when companies shake off their über-professional personas and show that they have a sense of humour. It pays to poke gentle fun at popular cultural figures, sportspeople, politicians and events, but don’t be too mean. If you can say something funny, unexpected and pertinent about a current event while linking to one of your products or services, you’re doing real-time social media marketing right. Don’t take too much time about it, though – this is something that must be done in the spur of the moment.

Know what you’re talking about

If you’re choosing to live tweet about a sporting event or a political announcement then you’d better make sure you know what you’re talking about. It’s no good choosing to tweet about the Super Bowl in the manner of the famously successful Oreo real-time social media marketing campaign if you don’t know anything about American football. Social media audiences aren’t passive like print, TV and radio audiences – if you make a mistake they won’t hesitate to let you know all about it in no uncertain terms.

Get a marketing team to help you

Real-time social media marketing is notoriously difficult to get right, and potentially damaging if you do get it wrong. However, the rewards for a successful campaign can be significant.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.