Real-Time Marketing: The Questions I’m Pondering

I’m getting caught up on posting things to this blog … the holidays sucked away all my time and then I got deep into researching a report. I’m looking at how marketers are using social analytics to support their real-time marketing efforts, and how the analytics vendors are evolving to help them. It’ll be my first foray into covering real-time marketing as a report topic and I’m excited, if also a bit overwhelmed by all there is to think about. Turns out real-time marketing is a topic with a lot of moving parts to it.

Here are some of the questions I’m pondering, not just for this report but on the larger topic of real-time marketing and what it means:

How real is real time? Is it milliseconds, minutes, hours, same day, tomorrow? An ad that is targeted on the fly in milliseconds is considered “real time,” but so is the idea of latching onto a trending topic an hour or two after you notice it’s trending. Is real time defined differently depending on your marketing goal?

Is there a role for humans or is real-time marketing completely an automated function? Yes, humans write the code and run the analytics, but to what extent humans should be involved is interesting to ponder. Humans have a unique capability to steer machines away from making a misguided decision (such as latching onto the wrong trending topic).

What role does social data play in real-time marketing? Primary role? Secondary? Essential? Nice to have but not necessary? Companies are collecting myriad datapoints in their efforts to get more responsive. Social data is enormous in quantity, difficult to interpret and extremely ephemeral. Plus it’s hard to know if the insights you are getting from social media are real or not. So how much should marketers really rely on social data as they plan out their real-time marketing efforts?

Are marketers prepared to do real-time marketing yet? I’m guessing that on an experimental basis, yes, but as a regular part of their marketing plan, no. Most of what I see are one-off campaigns. There’s social CRM, of course, but while that activity is real-time in the sense that marketers try to respond as quickly as possible, it seems to fall more in the category of customer care and less in outbound marketing.

So, what questions do you have?

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