As news cycles become shorter and attention spans follow suit, it becomes increasingly difficult for brands to stay relevant. The instantaneous nature of communication in this lightning-fast, mobile-first world has largely desensitized the public to marketing messages—so when it comes to real-time content, brands are going to all kinds of lengths to grab their audiences’ attention as fast as they can.
These efforts are with good reason, because we know that real-time content marketing works. It’s shareable, garners lots of engagement, and is often easier and less expensive to produce. Real-time content boosts purchase intent by 14 percent and increases interest in a brand by 18 percent. 76 percent of marketers report that it has heightened audience engagement, and 56 percent say it has increased customer satisfaction and positive brand sentiment. But the stakes are high, so how exactly can your brand make sure it’s creating content that makes sense and is relevant while avoiding backlash—or worse, getting “cancelled”?
1. Listen to your audience.
As our co-founder Dave once said, “Listen first and never stop listening.” Use resources like audience insights and other demographic tools to equip yourself with the knowledge of when your followers are most active, what topics they’re interested in, and what they’re talking about. Be in tune with your audience, but also have your ear to the ground and listen to what’s going on in the world—news, trending topics, etc. These are the foundations for your real-time content. And when you do create real-time content, use language and visuals that feel natural to your followers and are in line with what they respond well to.
2. Plan ahead.
This might seem counterintuitive, and it definitely won’t work in all cases, but it actually is possible to plan real-time content ahead of time. Create a real-time events calendar on a monthly or yearly basis that showcases lesser-known (and sometimes unusual) holidays—ones like National Zucchini Day on August 8 or Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17. Being able to see what events are in the coming months allows you more time to brainstorm campaign ideas and create one-offs that are more complicated than what you could make on short notice. So, plan ahead, but recognize that you never really know what’s coming next—so be ready to react quickly to current events, memes, and the like.
3. Don’t do it just because other brands are.
We can’t stress this enough: Stay in your (virtual) lane. As tempting as it may be to join a trending conversation, it will come off as forced if you force it. If you’re an electronics brand with an audience comprised mostly of men, perhaps you shouldn’t post about The Dress. But, if you’re a fashion brand, it absolutely works. Similarly, it makes sense for food brands to post about the Instagram egg, but it may seem forced if a software company tried to leverage that meme for content. Know your brand, know your place, and only jump on trends when they completely make sense.
Here are a few recent examples of brands that created real-time content that worked:
When Ariana Grande released her latest album with a song called “NASA,” it was a no-brainer for America’s space agency to tweet at her.
The “Where y’all sitting?” meme is believed to have started when a Twitter user posted a photo of a cafeteria with each table labeled as a different group of Justin Bieber songs. It then evolved into a meme where the tables were separated by various topics like songs, television shows, movies, etc. Entertainment company Redbox saw the opportunity and jumped on it.
*Redbox is a Likeable client.
If you didn’t hear about the recent #ChickenWars that nearly broke the internet… well, now you’re going to! In a nutshell, Popeyes released a brand new chicken sandwich, Chick-fil-A got defensive, then Wendy’s got involved, and things truly got out of hand. While those brands’ social media teams were working around the clock (or shall we say “around the cluck”?), Yelp played the role of Switzerland by taking a neutral, data-driven stance on the popular menu item.
Who says you have to be a brand with a “fun” product (like snacks or movies) to participate in real-time content? In the below Instagram post, IBM shows its fun side with a punny Halloween post. B2B companies can hop on the real-time content train too!
At the end of the day, marketing is all about telling stories and connecting with audiences in a more personal way—and few strategies do both of those things quite as well as real-time content does. From tweeting a trending hashtag, to commenting on viral stories, to creating custom images relevant to a current trend or meme, incorporating real-time content into your social marketing strategy is an exciting and effective way to lift the corporate veil and make your brand part of a larger conversation.