Is Real Time Marketing Actually Worth The Time? Finally An Answer



It seems like everywhere you turn these days, you’re reading something about real-time marketing.

Whether it’s yet another mention of Oreo’s Super Bowl moment, or a marketer poking fun at brands trying to capitalize on the latest trend, RTM has been a hot topic in digital and beyond over the past few years.

Kitkat’s tweet about #Bendgate showed an 65,000% bump in retweets and 31,000% bump in favorites vs. Kitkat’s previous 3,000 tweets. As I looked through all the press about real-time from every big event, I realized something was missing. Everyone had an opinion about RTM, but nobody had any data.

Real-Time Data > Real-Time Opinion

As a Director of Analytics & Research, I spend my days knee-deep in social data from all different types of sources. I look at patterns and trends to find insights that will make us all better marketers, and connect us with our audience in new ways.

So naturally, I started diving into the data and analytics behind RTM to figure out if it’s worth the hype.

I looked at real-time marketing trends across 100+ of the world’s largest brands and how they take advantage of all types of events—from big events to daily topics. And the data shows that RTM doesn’t just work, it works extraordinarily well in almost every situation when executed correctly.

Here’s a recent example to show you what I’m talking about.

Happy Little Trends

Last week, a daily trending topic appeared on Twitter around the hashtag #MakesMeHappy.

It was a trend that got people tweeting about things that brightened their day, and in addition to all the Twitter users out there joining the conversation, I saw 22 brands jump in with their take on the trend. That’s right, 22.

Now at this point if we were to believe the critics of real-time marketing, we’d expect to see 1, maybe 2 brands that “won” the trend and saw a bump in social performance.

That should leave about 20 brands looking silly for trying to be relevant.


But those critics never bothered to run the numbers, so we’ll fix that.

Breaking Down The Numbers

Let’s pull the data for each of these 22 brands (each brand’s last 3,200 Tweets) and see how their audience responded to their #MakesMeHappy tweets vs. their normal levels of performance.

Here’s what the distribution of success for retweets looks like:


Each of these bars represents one brand, and it shows how well their #MakesMeHappy Tweet did vs. their own historical averages.

As you can see, 17 out of the 22 brands that joined the trend saw increased performance.

On average, they saw a bump in retweets of 143%.

And what about favorites?


Favorites saw roughly the same performance, with 18 out of the 22 brands seeing a bump by leveraging a trending topic, almost doubling their average favorites numbers vs. normal levels.

That’s weird, right?

This isn’t what we’ve been hearing, in fact it’s the exact opposite.

Real-time marketing isn’t a winner-takes-all event, it has a huge long tail of success when you look at the data behind it.

Sure it’s kind of weird and new, but it works.

Universal Success

It doesn’t just work for a few types of brands, either.

Brands that saw success with the #MakesMeHappy hashtag ranged from Applebees (almost 1,000% bump in retweets) to Orbitz (557% bump in retweets) to the TV show Portlandia (who saw a 200%+ bump in retweets).

In my research, I’ve found a wide opportunity for success across almost every vertical and business model out there.

I’m seeing this same pattern of success not only for daily trending topics, but also big events like the Super Bowl and the Golden Globes. And for planned events like the iPhone Launch announcement and (yes) National Cat Day.

When brands jump on relevant conversations that are top of mind for their audience, the audience loves it and responds by sharing and engaging with that content like crazy.

Solid Planning Results in Great Spontaneity

But RTM doesn’t happen on it’s own.

Brands need a solid data-driven methodology and team in place to seize the real-time opportunity while managing the risk of a fast-paced process.

I believe that having a solid approach to people, process, technology, and analytics can help keep your real-time program constantly learning and aware of every opportunity.

I believe that the shift to more relevant, real-time messaging for marketers is just beginning.

The data shows me that audiences respond with incredible enthusiasm to brands joining public conversations—brands that are making themselves more topical, more relatable, more human.

Relevance is Just Starting to Trend

Don’t believe the critics when they say that real-time marketing is a winner-takes-all event, and that you should throw in the towel because “there will never be another Oreo moment.”

Social trends, both big and small, are a huge opportunity for brands to join a relevant conversation with their audience.

And the data tells me this trend isn’t stopping anytime soon.


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