When the lights went out at 8:38 PM in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during Super Bowl XLVII, Oreo’s message that “you can still dunk in the dark” took advantage of the situation to promote the brand. The short message received more than 500 million earned media impressions and garnered digital agency 360i numerous awards for social media digital marketing.
For all the hype around the notion of real-time marketing and the potential to leverage social media, you would think that it’s something new. In some sense, it is. Social media provides another platform that brands can leverage to reach consumers, as well as delve into their interests and personalities. But, the underlying marketing principles are the same. It’s about delivering the right message to the right consumer at the right time. From non-profits seeking donations and politicians seeking votes to telecommunication providers trying to cross-sell products and retain subscribers, customer-centric marketing focuses on identifying those individuals where marketing efforts are expected to have the biggest impact. That is, it’s about identifying the right consumer.
What about the message and time at which to reach this consumer? Here’s where marketers can take advantage of social media chatter. For example, travelers ranting online about their horrific holiday experiences provide an opportunity for brands to make inroads with their rivals’ customers who are already dissatisfied. Consumers soliciting advice from social networks prior to making a purchase are a ripe target for brands to reach out to, tailoring the message based on the information being sought by consumers. Brands monitoring social media conversations can not only engage with their own customers, but also take advantage of social media data to identify other consumers to whom they should reach out. Beyond finding the right consumers with whom to communicate, social media offers a potential avenue through which marketers can reach these consumers at opportune times using the message content that is likely to be the most effective.
This may provide some explanation for Apple’s recently announced acquisition of Topsy, a social media analytics company for which Apple paid in excess of $200+ million. One explanation that has been proposed is that the insights derived from analyzing social media conversations could be used to support Apple’s advertising platforms. Another rationale that has been offered is that mining the social media conversations would support the recommendation systems in Apple’s App Store and iTunes.
At their core, these are doing the same thing: aiding Apple in understanding what will appeal most to its customers at a particular point in time. If I’ve purchased a season pass to Scandal or albums by Justin Timberlake in the past, algorithms can be used to figure out what should be recommended based on the purchases made by others with similar tastes. Add in signals from social media conversations, which research has found to be a leading indicator of offline activities, and such recommendations can be made dynamically. This same line of thinking would hold for serving advertisements within mobile apps. Just as there is heterogeneity in terms of the topics that are of interest to different individuals, resulting in some advertisements being better suited for some individuals compared to others, there is variation in when advertisements will be more or less effective.
The data available on social media have ushered in a new wave of what’s possible for marketers. We still need to find the right customers. Once we’ve figured that out, the analysis of social media data can provide direction for fine-tuning message content based on the context in which an organization is operating. Marketing is about the same thing it’s always been about: right customer, right message, right time. We’re just in a better position to implement it now.