real-time marketingReal-time marketing is touted as the wave of the future and many brands are working hard to implement processes for quickly connecting marketing messages to news and events.

Not too long ago, long-term planning drove marketing strategies. That may not be ancient history, but social media has certainly upended long-term planning of marketing communications. Proponents of real-time marketing advocate delivering near instantaneously-developed marketing messages with cutting edge creativity and personalization connected to a news event.

About half of marketers surveyed believe responses must happen within minutes. About a quarter say within seconds. However, 46 percent of real-time marketers need 30 or more minutes to respond to breaking news and events on social media.

Marketers see many benefits from real-time marketing, reveals the new Wayin Real-Time Marketing Report. Fifty-six percent of the senior-level marketers interviewed believe real-time marketing helps build customer relationships; 55 percent cite event promotion as a benefit; and 51 percent cite content strategy. The vast majority (89%) say they have a good or excellent ability to tie real-time marketing to overall business goals. Most (89%) also report a positive impact on revenue from real-time marketing. Over a third of companies report a revenue return of more than half.

Real-time marketing can deliver enormous benefits for brands, agrees Gregarious Narain, co-founder and CTO of Chute. Oreo achieved the as-yet-unequaled real-time marketing success with its tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl black out – “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark.”

Attaining such benefits, worth probably millions of dollars in brand awareness and positive sentiment, requires creativity and fast reflexes. It also requires a large amount of luck, Narain writes in a Content Marketing Institute blog. Few brands have even come close to Oreo’s success. Brands are allocating huge resources to be ready for the right moment that might never arrive. That’s a risky investment.

Roadblocks to Success

Despite their faith in the concept of real-time marketing, marketers agree they’re facing numerous challenges in implementing the strategy. Most brands haven’t figured out how to operate in real time. Real-time marketing is the antithesis to the established process of long-term planning. Top challenges marketers cite include limited budgets or resources, inability to respond fast enough because of resource limitations or multi-layered review processes, and lack of search analytics tools.

For many, real-time marketing is only an occasional affair. Forty percent do not respond to timely news and trends on social media regularly. In addition, 60 percent execute content creation and customer engagement on social networks without integrating content into other marketing channels.

Most (59%) plan to increase their real-time marketing budget in the coming year, and 66 percent will increase social media spending. Real-time marketers value social media marketing. About a third say they employ at least five people to manage social media conversations and respond in real time. More than 78 percent have three or more dedicated employees for social media.

Real time marketing, it turns out, can be costly. It can also result is serious mishaps.

Better Strategy & Tools

Marketers are turning to technology for help. Over half, or 52 percent, say having a social media listening tool is important. Half say a social media analytics tool is crucial — an interesting finding, researchers note, considering that 40 percent say they lack this type of technology.

In addition to social media listing and analytics tools, success in the area requires a carefully planned strategy, finding the right audiences and targeting them with the right content at the right time, the Wayin research concludes.

A better strategy is responsive marketing, a strategy that incorporates customer insights to create and deliver relevant, engaging marketing, Narain argues.

“Responsive marketing conceptually leverages the best of traditional campaign-based techniques without necessarily going fully real-time,” Narain explains. “Responsive stands apart from other strategies in that it relies on a real-time understanding of the customer, creating opportunities to align a brand’s marketing message to both prospects and customers.”

Successful responsive marketing, he adds, calls for listening to customers to learn when and how to interact with them, and scrutinizing the structure and strategies of marketing organizations.

Bottom Line: While many marketers see substantial benefits from real-time marketing, most struggle to respond fast enough to news and events on social media with messages that resonate with their audiences. A responsive social media marketing strategy that incorporates core elements of long-term planning with reactive marketing that’s carefully considered (and therefore not real-time) may be the most effective approach in today’s social media environment. The timing, then, will be a few hours to a few days, not minutes — providing a margin of safety to align messages and prevent misfires.