Real-Time Marketing Requires Patience and Listening - eMarketer

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Real-Time Marketing Requires Patience and Listening

October 24, 2014

Joe McCaffrey
Planning Director and Head of Social

The definition of real-time marketing continues to evolve, leaving marketers unsure just how swiftly they should be hooking into major cultural moments. Joe McCaffrey, planning director and head of social for digital agency Huge, spoke with eMarketer’s Danielle Drolet about keeping up with real-time events in an authentic way, and more.

eMarketer: This year, real-time marketing has become less about being quick to latch onto a topic and more about being timely for your consumers. How are you defining it?

Joe McCaffrey: The challenge is that there’s such a wide range of definitions for real-time marketing. It means something different to different people. Another part of the problem, relative to social media, is this notion that you need to be first in order to win the moment or win the internet. That’s something that is completely fabricated and exacerbated by marketers.

From a consumer’s standpoint, nobody’s asking a brand to be first to comment on a cultural moment or event, or even asking them to win the marketing game. It’s completely something that is internal within agencies and marketers that’s not that interesting for a consumer.

The other problem is in that rush to be first, mistakes get made, and context goes misunderstood, unnoticed or overlooked. A brand can have a lack of empathy for what the channel context and the conversation context really is. And then, publicly, really seeming out of touch with what is going on.

In a lot of these instances of newsjacking or jumping on trending hashtags, when marketers are trying to ride the coattails of a major topic of conversation to gain impressions, it often backfires.

It’s also uninteresting when you see the social or community manager at the brand or their agency using their idle time to act in real time. They are acting on a moment that might not be necessarily calling for that brand naturally, or the audience isn’t necessarily inviting that brand to participate in a particular moment or topic, because it simply might not be relevant.

eMarketer: How should marketers be approaching real-time marketing?

McCaffrey: Real-time marketing requires patience. The majority of a brand’s time relative to real-time social marketing needs to be spent listening and evaluating opportunities. It goes back to the old saying, “The devil will find work for idle hands.” That’s a problem. I would love to see more brand restraint and patience and less forcefulness into conversations that might not be ideal.

“When marketers are trying to ride the coattails of a major topic of conversation to gain impressions, it often backfires.”

eMarketer: Are most brands beginning to think this way?

McCaffrey: Yes. For example, a number of brands started to recognize this around this year’s Super Bowl. Progressive Auto Insurance came out on Super Bowl Sunday and said on Facebook, “What do car insurance and football have in common? Nothing. We’ll talk to you after the game.”

This was an interesting take on a day where every brand out there was waiting and foaming at the mouth to get themselves in there, following the previous year’s Oreo blackout tweet. In fact, this year, Oreo also did something similar to Progressive. The brand was smart to recognize that they won the marketing lottery last year and that it probably won’t happen again. They tweeted, “Hey guys ... enjoy the game tonight. We’re going dark. #OreoOut.”

These examples showed an understanding of the notion that these things are great for a brand when they happen, but you can’t force them. You can’t fabricate them. You can be prepared for them, but it’s OK to sit a play out.

eMarketer: Determining return on investment has been a continuing struggle for marketers. Is any ground being gained there?

McCaffrey: Yes, and there are two schools of thought there.

The first one is considering the cost of not participating. Marketers can explain why they should invest in social media and marketing. Are you willing to see your brand fall into obscurity, lose share of voice to the competitive set and basically have no control over the feedback that consumers are already talking about your brand in this environment? If dollars and cents can’t be proven, then how much are you getting in return? Marketers should think about the risk and all that you have to lose by not [contributing].

On the flip side, take a pragmatic look. How do we measure our return on investment? And what are some of the new ways of thinking? What are some of the attribution models that we can and should put into play? This is very interesting because some types of business are inherently easier to measure.

eMarketer: Can you share an example of this?

McCaffrey: For example, if you are an ecommerce site, where web traffic is a great indicator of attribution, then it’s not so difficult because you can map how you’re driving traffic to your site from social channels. And then, with that traffic, ask, “What is actually converting?” There, it’s a much, much easier equation to determine.

On the other hand, it requires a lot of collaboration to come together to identify what certain behaviors and activities are worth and putting an actual dollar value on what those things are worth to better attribute the effect that social is having—and it’s not easy. It could be a painstaking collaboration, where you’re partnering with your clients, their research departments, their analytics departments and their sales teams.

An example of this could be an automotive brand. What is a test drive worth? Or what is it worth for someone who visits your website and finds the phone number to a dealership? In that instance, it requires much more collaboration. We’re finally starting to see these attribution models mature, but it takes time, effort and some new thinking.

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