Real-Time Marketing: How to Best Join the Conversation on Social Media / Sales / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Extending your brand into natural conversations online is important in building your customer base and lifetime advocates.

Real-time marketing. Some brands do it and some brands shy far away from it.

Whether or not you believe that it's effective in driving new customers and revenue, that's still up for debate. The theory is still the same though—conversation marketing and online community management do help brands establish relationships with customers, brand advocates and influencers.

And in today's world with brand trust becoming more important each decade, being authentic, developing trust and engaging with your customers won't happen by ads. It happens with brand-to-customer engagement via social discussions. 

So how do you effectively manage your brand online? Do you participate in real-time marketing or not? There is no silver bullet here and no one guideline or guidelines that work for every company.

One thing is clear though: factors such as brand voice and tone, industry, and even resources available to manage online community engagement will impact your approach. 

The tips below can help serve as a guide if or when you engage in real-time. 

Related Article: Don't Be That Guy: Bad Social Media Habits to Break 

Know Your Audience

Understanding your target audience is a crucial part of any digital marketing strategy. With endless data insights, it’s more crucial than ever to understand who your consumers are and where they engage on the web. From Google Analytics, you can determine where your site visitors are currently coming from and use that as an initial guide. Be willing to go where your customers are already engaging in real-time conversations.

Know Platforms and Stay Within the Social Norms

Customer conversations are happening all the time online. Understand the nuances of the platforms in which you are engaging in conversation. For example, the information-sharing platform Reddit has unique communities each with their own set of rules and culture. It’s important to stay within the social norms of any platform. Optimizing content using hashtags if appropriate, is essential in making your brand relevant. When planning any content, whether it is planned or part of real-time marketing online, consider how it will impact your audience and convert them into customers.

Related Article: Resurrecting the Consumer Buying Cycle: Creating Compelling Content that Converts

Be Authentic

Remember that online rules of conversations are an extension of offline interaction best practices. Think of walking into a room, strolling up to a complete stranger, and then divulging nothing but yourself. This is the same mistake that so many brands make.

Rather than listening and finding appropriate ways to engage in conversation, they are overly self-promotional and neglect the interests of their network. Truly powerful conversations are one where the customer has invited the brand in, and a two-way conversation takes place. This builds trust and brand loyalty.

Stay True to Your Brand

While it’s important to stay as relevant and engaging to users as possible, stay true to your brand. If your brand is quirky and fun, make sure that same tone is carried through to real-time conversations online. On the flip side, if your brand has strict policies and a more traditional tone, make certain that you stick to conversations that are more serious in nature.

Don’t Recreate the Wheel—Join Existing Conversations

Often when jumping into social media, businesses focus heavily on building their own following. While this is important aspect of any social media strategy, it’s often more effective to engage in existing conversations online. Chances are, regardless of your product or service, there are communities, groups and fan pages dedicated to these topics.

Select the Right Team

Those managing your brand online have the ability to do elevate your brand and also destroy it. Online community brand management has been known to create lifetime followers and brand advocates. However, too many cases of ill-advised tweets or inappropriate responses to Yelp reviews have led many brands in hot water.

Trust the individuals managing your brand. Use the power of your staff to be the voice of your brand online, leveraging their existing networks. This strategy has worked for many major brands, including IBM who turned their employees into brand advocates.

Here are great examples of social media guidelines from Walmart and BestBuy.

Use the Right Tools

Social listening and engagement software tools like Radian6, Hootsuite or others allow you and your brand to monitor not just mentions of your company, but also those of your competitors.

Beyond this, make sure to engage in conversations related to your industry. Keep in mind that these conversations are better if they are not overly self-promotional but informative and authentic to natural discussions.

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