Why We Shouldn’t Confuse Real Time Marketing with Data Driven Marketing

When I was a teen, back in the 80’s – yes, I’m old – there was this bakery just off my local high street.

It was a family-owned bakery, and had a mix of fancies, pastries, bread and sweets (candy, in North America). While the goods being sold were a great mix, and kept the bakery successful, it was what the owner did to keep it that way that interested me (and probably instilled the first concept of marketing to my subconscious).

If there was a sports match on, he’d make small cakes in both team colours. Nothing new there. Except when a team took the lead, he’d quickly put little sad faces on the cakes of the losing team, and sell those at a discount to cheer the losers up.

It didn’t hurt that the bakery was two doors down from a pub, and he’d send his help into the bar to sell the new cakes, with the challenge to make the other team wear the sad faces.

When the game finished, he’d invariably give the remaining cakes away to the losers, and he’d have baked a bigger cake in the shape of the winning team’s mascot for them to eat for free when leaving the bar (for afternoon games).

This is just one example of some of the cool things he’d do on the fly. Royal weddings? Check. Huge charity events like Live Aid? Check.

For every major event, as well as local sporting ones, he and his bakers would be on the ball, making something essentially on the fly to take advantage of the occasion. Sound familiar?

Real-Time Marketing or Old School Initiative?

In February 2013, the lights went out at the Super Bowl. Oreo Cookie famously took advantage of it with a quick creative that they posted on Twitter.

Twitter   Oreo  Power out  No problem. ...

As you can see from the image, it received almost 16,000 retweets, and was favourited 6,400 times. It received praise from various publications, and was used by many social media consultants as the dawn of real-time marketing.

Except, it wasn’t really real-time.

While there’s no doubt it was a masterful stroke of quick thinking and marketing on the day, it was more than just that. The Oreo team and their social media agency had been strategizing for the previous 18 months on how to effectively use the medium, in order to celebrate the brand’s 100th birthday.

Cue the power outage, cue the result of being ready to act and the ensuing praise.

Yet as deserving as Oreo and their team was of the praise, it wasn’t the start of real-time marketing, despite the best efforts of those consultants trying to capitalize on the new darling phrase and charge clients more for the benefit.

Real-Time Marketing, Before Social Media

The funny thing with social media is it often makes marketers – or at least, digital marketers – forget there was ever a time before 2006, when the words “social media” and “marketing” were beginning to be used together more.

Yet for those purporting real-time marketing as the latest new child in the social media-led school of business firsts, they might want to look a little bit further back.

Over at the evergage blog, Rob Carpenter shares his thoughts on where real-time marketing first became more visible, based on search terms and traffic spikes on Google Trends.

Real time marketing web search

The blue line relates to “real time marketing” while the red line relates to “web personalization”, or the ability to personalize your business website based on traffic, demographic, cultural offers, seasonal specials and more.

As digital marketing via e-commerce and landing pages was growing (personalization), so was the need to be able to quickly put together offers that would initiate your desired call to action (CTA). This speed to create was the same as today’s real-time marketing, except today we have better tools to do it with.

As the blue line shows, there was a huge initial spike back in 2005, then a steady rise since 2007 (as social media filtered its way to the mass market).

Real-Time or Data Driven Marketing?

You only need to look at the clamour by brands to offer the coolest celebration of the Royal birth of Prince William and Duchess Kate’s baby to see how big the “business of real-time marketing” has become.

Yet the problem with real-time marketing – or at least, the version brands are trying to emulate but often failing at – is it’s too fast for its own good, and is simply trying to take advantage of a major news story without thinking through how that brand fits.

The beauty of the original Oreo tweet at the Super Bowl is it had been planned meticulously. Perhaps not the tweet itself, but certainly the message, the way it appeals to Oreo aficionados, and the execution.

Because it was based on data the brand knew about its audience.

And this is where the real value of real-time marketing comes into play, and has been used for as long as the first business owner thought on their feet on ways to beat their competition, and bring customers to their store versus a competitor’s.

It’s exactly the point David Meerman Scott makes in his book, Real-Time Marketing and PR, published in 2010. In both the book and on his blog, Scott shares examples of the best types of real-time marketing that don’t hype themselves by using the phrase.

Just look at how the airlines adapt to ensure there are rarely empty flights, and how they can change pricing on the fly to sell unsold seats. Or look at the way Amazon has redefined the customer experience to ensure every visit is optimized to offer products and services that truly interest the visitor.

This isn’t the result of some buzzword – instead, it’s taking years of data and research about customers, their buying patterns, their purchase life cycles, and their value to a brand, and utilizing it into offers and timely promotions that make sense.

It’s like my hometown baker with his winning cakes, regardless of the victor on the sports field that day.

There’s no doubt that real-time marketing, when done well, can provide a mix of viral buzz and sales success. But let’s not be mistaken that it’s a new tactic, nor is it the saviour of marketing today.

The saviour of marketing today, much like the saviour of any business strategy, is and will remain simple – know your customer, understand what makes them tick, use the data you have on top of the data you’re continuously gathering, and integrate all of that into something called “marketing strategy”.

You might be surprised at the results, real-time or otherwise.

image: evergage

Six Simple Ways to Measure Owned, Earned and Paid Social Media ROI

There’s a popular misconception that it’s difficult to use targeted metrics to measure your social media ROI. Not true.

Nor is social media only good for measuring an increase in brand awareness, although that’s definitely a measurement gauge.

The fact is, social media can offer some of the best metrics for measuring your ROI. All you need to do is set your success guides—what you want to achieve and how long you want to spend achieving it—then measure your results against that.

Here are six simple metrics for the main networks  to measure your social media ROI – financial and brand – across earned, owned and paid media.

Blogger Outreach

A key component of many (if not most) social media campaigns, blogger outreach programs can offer some of the best mileage and results of any marketing tactic. Measuring your success isn’t too difficult, either. All you have to do is determine the answers to the following questions:

  • How many bloggers wrote about you?
  • How many comments did these posts receive?
  • How many social shares did the post get?
  • What was your traffic pre- and post-outreach?
  • How much product did you have to provide for bloggers versus how many sales you received?


One of the stalwarts for any product launch, service or business, Twitter not only offers instant eyeballs but great returns as well. Again, measuring your impact is relatively simple:

  • What was your retweet value (cost of manpower/resources versus follower who takes action)?
  • How often was your hashtag used?
  • How many times was your vanity URL used?
  • How many new (genuine) followers did you get while your promotion was on?
  • If you used something like Sponsored Tweets, what was the cost versus the click-through and conversion?


Although it has its critics (including me), Facebook offers some great built-in tools as well as demographic options to help gauge a campaign:

  • How many new worthwhile fans did you make versus how many you targeted?
  • How many times was your promotion message liked/acted on?
  • If you built a Facebook application, how many times was it installed or shared?
  • Were you successful in reaching your target demographic? (Facebook Insights can help you here)?
  • How much did you spend on a Facebook ad, and how did click-throughs and new sales/customers compare?


While brand pages are still being judged on their effectiveness on Google+, and in-line Google Ads are complementing Google+ content, there are ways to measure your current activity there:

  • Has your profile on search, and resulting traffic to your site, been raised because of your use of Google+?
  • How many Circles have you been added to?
  • How many Plus Ones are your comments and discussions receiving?
  • How active is your community?
  • How many Ripples are your discussions creating?
  • How many attendees are taking part in your Hangouts?

YouTube and Other Video Sites

More than just a fun place to see kids hurt themselves on bikes, YouTube is a key tool in any marketing campaign now—just ask the companies that used it to such effect during this year’s Super Bowl.


Here are the questions you should be asking:

  • How many views did you get?
  • How many Likes/Upvotes and Favorites did you receive?
  • How many downloads did you get (on video sites that allow downloads)?
  • How many embeds has your video seen elsewhere on the Web?
  • How many subscribers did your channel attract?
  • If your video had a call to action with a vanity URL, how many times did people click through?
  • How many social shares did you get across networks your target demographic use?


As marketing evolves, the different ways to reach an audience combine to create new outlets. Mobile marketing is the perfect complement to social marketing, and measurement can easily be achieved:

  • Did you use a push SMS system to drive traffic to a mobile-friendly site? If so, how many views did that account for?
  • Did you use QR codes, and if so, how many times were they used?
  • How many downloads did your mobile app receive?
  • How many check-ins were used on Gowalla and Foursquare?
  • What was the most popular operating system? (This can tell you a lot about your audience’s demographic and buying options.)

These six metrics offer just some of the immediate ways you can measure how successfully your social media goals were met. There are more still, including monitoring tools and more defined analytics. Which ones you use will  depend on the goals you’ve set and how you define success.

No matter how you collect the information you need, it all comes down to comparing man hours and financial outlay to your return to see how successful you were.

It’s important to remember that a lot of marketing can come down to luck and circumstance as much as brilliant strategy—timing and a welcoming audience are key.

But the one thing you can control is measurement, and with social media and mobile marketing, measuring the metrics has never been easier.

So what’s the excuse?

Facebook for Android and Why Zuckerberg Now Owns Your Ass

A little while back, I wrote about my concerns with the Facebook Messenger app, and the Permissions it needed demanded to function. It was these Permissions that saw me uninstall Messenger and ultimately close down my Facebook profile.

I’ve since activated a very stripped down Facebook profile, where I share a lot less than before and have it locked down to a very small number of family and friends – a very different experience from my “pretty much share everything” use on the deleted account.

Since I commute a lot, I installed the full Facebook for Android app. Usually, I have my apps to manually update, but because I had been testing the beta version of the new Android app before switching back to the “official” one, I’d neglected to change my app update settings.

This let Facebook download the latest update yesterday. And, originally, I was impressed – the new UI was slick and the experience far superior. So impressed, I shared a couple of screen grabs of the new interface.

Facebook for Android profile Facebook for Android newsfeed

As you can see, it’s a clean, easy-to-navigate experience. Finally, Android users had the app they deserved, right? Not quite.

The Devil Gives Better Choices than Facebook

You’ve probably heard the term “making a pact with the Devil”. Essentially, it allows you to have anything you want, in exchange for your soul being the property of the Devil when you die.

Facebook’s new Permissions kinda reminded me of this, given that they’re forcing you to give up any semblance of privacy you may have thought you still had left.

When I shared the pictures on Google+, Al Spaulding made me immediately regret the fact I was on auto-update. From his comment on the post:

It looks great. However I refuse to download it and am still using the older version from 2 mth ago. Why? Because the new one says pretty clearly that they can access your phone for anything. They can read your texts – take them off your phone and upload them to their server, place phone calls on your behalf, and even disclose your location without you wanting them to.

While I’m used to Facebook’s Draconian privacy settings, the part about accessing my SMS and MMS messages caught my attention. I don’t recall this being as explicit before (although it may have been), so I uninstalled the app and set about re-installing to check the Permissions out fully.

The results were a mix of scary and extreme.

Facebook SMS

Facebook contactsFacebook calendar Facebook call numbersThe Calendar I’d seen on previous Permissions, and the Calls (while annoying) I’m pretty sure had been there too. But check out the exact wording of the SMS/MMS Permission, and that of the Contacts one.

Doesn’t that alarm you as a user? Read that wording again, especially this statement:

This allows the app to read all SMS messages, regardless of content or confidentiality.

Wow. Just… wow. Not even my wife gets access to my SMS messages (and no, Jacki, I have nothing to hide!). What honest and useful reason can Facebook have to get access to my texts? Seemingly they’re running with the “It will help us target better” message.

I call bullshit.

Target Publicly and Respect Privacy

I’m a marketer. I get that data helps us target campaigns better, and (in an ideal world) meet the needs of our customers and audience by that very targeting. Yet as I say time and time again, this has to be opt-in, and publicly available data.

The moment you track data beyond public access, you’re moving into both immoral and – you’d like to believe – questionably legal areas.

Facebook requiring access to my SMS messages, as well as the friends I speak with privately on the phone, sets off major alarm bells, and this from someone that benefits from the amount of data publicly available.

I’m not naive enough to think anything we put on the web is private. And, since the NSA-Snowden affair, I’m even less naive to think that we don’t face the prospect of being snooped on by our respective security forces.

But it could be argued it’s in the interests of public safety for this level of monitoring (though some of the arguments are very tenuous). Facebook doesn’t protect us, nor does it seem to have our interests at heart. All it wants are numbers, pure and simple, and the data that comes with these numbers to sell to the highest bidder.

These Permissions for their Android app merely confirm that, and is why my use of Facebook will now be restricted to the web version.

Your privacy, and how you place it in the Facebook ecosystem, is something Facebook is counting on you to ignore. The choice is yours.

The Three Metrics Your Business Needs to Answer on Social Media

If you Google the question, “Where do I start on social media?” you’ll be greeted with approximately 1.4 billion results. 1.4 billion.

While many of these results will be duplicate versions, it’s clear that getting started on social media is a question many people are looking for an answer to. Add the word “business,” and run a similar search, and you’ll find around 1.2 billion results.

Blog posts, news articles, corporate videos and more—again, everyone is looking to find out the right way to do social media.

The secret, if it can be called that, is simple: You need to start out right and, much like everything else you do in business, have a plan with measurable milestones and results.

Step One: “Why Do We Want to Be Here?”

From monitoring conversations online to discussing with clients, the overarching theme that prevents successful business use of social media is a lack of understanding of why they want to be on social media.

Typical responses include, “Our competitors are on there,” “Because everyone’s doing it,” and “We don’t want to be left behind.” The problem with these answers is they don’t dig deep enough into the bigger questions that you need to answer:

  • What are your competitors doing on social media, and are they doing it well?
  • Are you able to identify your competitor’s brand impact—share of voice, awareness, leads, etc.—from their participation on social media?
  • Does your core demographic match the core demographic of those social media users your competitor’s are trying to connect with?

These are the three basic questions that need to be asked if you’re using the competitor comparison as a reason to be on social media. Having the answers to those questions will allow you to move to the next stage.

Step Two: “Where Do We Need to Be?”

Once you’ve analyzed and answered the “why” behind the decision to be on social media, the next stage is the one that will more often than not determine how successful you are—where you need to be.

There are literally hundreds of social networks online, and these are the platforms that are actually recognized as bonafide social networks, along the lines of power hitters Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Add in forums, niche networks, community blog networks and more, and it’s no wonder so many businesses have trouble finding the right path.

This is where smart passive use of social media is needed.

  • Prior to becoming actively involved in social media, use a passive approach with tools, keywords and data mining.
  • Use simple searches with the likes of Social SearcherSocial Mention or Trackur to find out if your target audience is actually using social media and, if they are, on what platforms they’re on.
  • Compare the amount of chatter and, more importantly, the level of opportunity for your brand to be active on each channel.
  • Identify two or three channels that have active participation, with a good level of questions your brand can answer, and use them as your starting point for actual social media participation.

By starting out slowly, based on analytical evidence on why you should be on your chosen platforms, you set yourself up for a far better chance of success than jumping in blindly. This allows you to create the third stage.

Step Three: Map Out Goals and Success Metrics

Of course, this entire preliminary work means nothing if you’re not going to set goals and success metrics to measure your social media use. Every brand has different needs and requirements. Here are a few to consider:

  • Brand awareness;
  • Share of voice;
  • Market perception;
  • Customer experience;
  • Lead generation and customer acquisition;
  • Loyalty and advocacy.

Social media is a fantastic resource for truly connecting your brand to your customers, both existing and potential. But it also takes a lot of time, experimentation and investment to pay off—so you need to make sure you have certain metrics in place to measure how you’re doing.

  • Set up a calendar and break it down into your usual results pattern—monthly, quarterly, biannually, annually, etc.
  • Highlight goals for each milestone—percentage shift in brand awareness, impact on competitors, website traffic, social network growth, inquiries to your sales team, customer satisfaction, etc.
  • Determine acceptable growth vs. ideal growth, and compare how the former is trending to the latter.
  • Analyze the cost of implementation (manpower, hours, technical resources) to the investment return (market share, brand perception, increased customer loyalty, word of mouth marketing, sales and reduced churn).

The ability to measure how you’re doing is crucial when it comes to buy-in across the company. Having a clearly structured plan to measure success will help pave the way for further investment.

To compare milestones, technologies like Pulse Analytics can help you identify your successes, your weaker areas, and which customers/advocates are driving the most interaction and profit.

As you can see, it’s not a quick or simple jump to make, contrary to popular advice. But by being smart when it comes to why you should be on social media and, more importantly, how you measure your effectiveness, you’re setting yourself up for success rather than failure.

image: Steve Garfield

Can We Say Goodbye to These Social Media Buzzwords in 2014?

When it comes to social media, 2013 was a pretty watershed year for brands and platforms alike.

Oreo won widespread praise for the way it took advantage of the power outage at the Super Bowl with its “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet; Google’s nascent Google+ platform broke the 500 million user barrier; and social channels continued to play key roles in political uprisings, as witnessed in Brazil this past summer.

However, with all the positive steps of a maturing social media comes an inevitable byproduct: overhyped buzzwords. From prefixing (and suffixing) the word marketing, to feel-good soundbites that had little real-business benefits behind them, 2013 will be remembered as the year that social media became home to some of the most annoying and overhyped buzzwords online.

Here are the top five as crowdsourced from across the Web.

1. ‘Lessons Learned From’ Blog Posts

Whenever there’s a crisis on social media channels—or an offline crisis that’s amplified via social media—you can pretty much guarantee that within 24 hours there will be a batch of blog posts published with titles such as, “What Crisis X Can Teach Us About Business” or “Lessons Learned from the Brand X Social Media Crisis.”

While some of these posts may offer value, many are simply jumping on the bandwagon to drive traffic to their blogs, without actually offering any deep or insightful lessons. This has led to a strong feeling of apathy and sarcasm directed toward the authors of these posts.

“Everything is not a lesson, especially natural disasters, terrorist threats, and anything that happens to a bunch of people at once. Stop exploiting tragedy for profit.” Tinu Abayomi-Paul, chief visibility officer at Leveraged Promotion

2. Everything Is Dead!

You’ve probably heard the conversations online: SEO is dead. Print is dead. Advertising is dead. PR is dead. Email is dead. And so on. It’s almost impossible to browse your Twitter feed or Google+ stream and not come across a blog post or update with one of these statements being made.

And yet, here we are. SEO is still here; print still has its audience; advertising continues to profit; PR is still a core part of any brand’s strategy; and email continues to lead the way as the preferred communication channel for business. Despite the naysayers—or perhaps, in spite of them—it would appear the demise they write of hasn’t quite happened.

“We need to stop implying that a certain practice is dead. Nothing really dies, it either adapts or recycles. The adoption curve goes from innovators to laggards and all need something at different stages.” —Ann Marie van den Hurk, principal at Mind the Gap PR

3. Go Viral

Perhaps it’s no surprise that brands want a viral hit, whether that’s a YouTube video that gets millions of views, or a piece of content that gets shared across every channel. After all, if you can come up with the next Old Spice Guy sensation, everyone can retire.

The problem is, the allure of viral—mass uptake by your target audience and those not yet aware of your brand—is the very thing that’s made viral overhyped, and hurts your chances for success.

“The allure of going viral is ultimately a distraction for brands because it focuses on marketing to the crowd. When you chase an elusive crowd you have no connection to in the hope of going viral, you’re setting your business up for failure. Viral campaigns tend to be one-offs with limited shelf life, and quickly fizzle out.” —Allyson Kapin, founding partner at RAD Campaign

4. Social Business

One of the most overhyped and overused social media buzzwords in 2013 was the term “social business.” A complete industry seemed to appear overnight, with agencies and consultants offering multiple definitions—a business that places equal value on employees as it does stakeholders; the culture, connections and participation of a brand; and being part of a “collaborative economy.”

However, this merely diluted the definition of what it means to be a true social business—one that is created and designed to address a societal problem, and is a non-dividend company where profits are reinvested in the business or used to start another one with the aim of increasing social impact. That’s a far cry from the corporate definition being touted in 2013.

“A hijacked phrase, and nobody can agree on the definition of the new version.” —Doug Haslam, senior account director at Scratch Marketing

5. Brand Storytelling

People like stories. From early cavemen sitting around a fire to the likes of Hans Christian Andersen, stories have the power to captivate audiences and keep them lost in that moment. It’s into this arena that brands have started to promote their own history and goals through the medium of storytelling. At least that’s their attempted goal.

The problem is, storytelling needs that emotional impact to truly connect. And many brands who are now telling their stories miss that key tenet, and instead of captivating an audience, drive it away through clearly forced and weak attempts to connect.

“Storytelling is a true art, an essence that’s hard to capture. You can’t expect others to see it or feel it unless you deliver it properly. When we try to market through storytelling, I don’t think many know what that really means—storytelling is not interchangeable with copywriting.” — Julie Pippert, founder and director at Artful Media Group

Saturation Before Maturation?

When polling for this article, there were many other popular phrases that people consider overhyped: Web 3.0, content marketing, influence marketing—pretty much anything marketing that wasn’t simply marketing—big data and more.

While social media matures as a business solution as well as a societal one, it continues to go through growing pains. Overcoming overhyped buzzwords is clearly going to be one of those pains.

How about you – what buzzwords got your gander in 2013? Share them below!

A version of this post originally appeared on OPENForum.