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Real-Time Social Media Engagement

Inbound Marketing

What Is Real-Time Social Media Engagement?

Real-time social media engagement is the tactic of distributing a relevant marketing message over social media at the actual time of an event. This has been taken to mean everything from up-to-the-second and seemingly spontaneous comments on immediate happenings to making sure relevant messages are timed for particular events or holidays.

The main example of the former seems to be the oft-cited tweet from Oreo during a blackout at this year’s Super Bowl. Opinions differ on the effectiveness and value of that particular tweet. Those in favor say it’s the epitome of brand-consumer engagement. On the other side of the argument are those who ask what impact that tweet really made on the bottom line.

There is agreement on one thing: when RTSE is done badly, it really reeks. You must approach the concept with planning, ingenuity, and a high emotional IQ for what should and shouldn’t be said.


"When it's good, [RTSE] represents our industry at its powerful, populist best," says Grey London CCO Nils Leonard.

"Doing it well is about being prepared and tooled up for fame. It's a way of looking at the brands you work with and [collaborating with] them ahead of time [on] the cultural calendar. Political campaigns get this. It's about media, genius, craft and energy all being together, all the time."

The above quote was included in a piece that takes the meaning of RTSE to include what are essentially planned messages that are scheduled for an expected event such as a holiday or other scheduled occurrence.

Real-time social media engagement can be the seed of strong relationships between your business and its customers. Good RTSE shows the humanity behind your brand. Humorous or helpful messages at the right time can spark positive emotions in your target audience.


As mentioned before, when RTSE is done badly (which is very easy to do) it really stinks. Even mediocre RTSE comes across negatively. One of the areas in which marketers run afoul are memorial days or events.

Many, many brands felt the need to offer solemn condolences on the anniversary of 9/11. Unfortunately this tactic just seemed opportunistic; just another way to get in consumer faces without consideration of the emotional impact. Even if the marketers were being sincere, these types of messages are in poor taste.

Another way RTSE fails is when the messages are lame. Every comedian knows it is hard to be consistently funny. If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say it. If it has already been said, why say it again?. Being genuine means not forcing things.

Messages that are not easily understood don’t help brands either. Especially for social media channels that limit you to a certain number of characters. Messages must be sharp and self-explanatory, hashtags and all. If there is even a chance that the audience won’t get it, the message will fail.

Nail the Implementation

Now that you know some of the pros and cons you can start thinking about ways to implement real-time social media engagement as part of your overall social media strategy. It may seem like you need a bullpen of social media experts at all times to be able to keep up, but good RTSE doesn’t need to be all that complex. Follow these guidelines:

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Customer’s have taken to social media to give brands real-time feedback about their products and services. Be prepared to respond quickly to both positive and negative feedback. It doesn’t take long to turn brand advocates into evangelists, and detractors into promoters by being responsive on social media. Conversely, it’s very easy to let a single negative comment spawn an army of detractors by not responding quickly enough, or by showing a lack of empathy.

Don’t wait to address issues on your social media channels. Proactively engage your audience. Ask how you can help, offer solutions, and follow through


Holidays are great times for RTSE. They are predictable, anticipated events that occur every year. Set your team to work on something relevant that ties into your product or service offering. A real world example is Lowe’s Independence Day celebration which included video of animated fireworks explosions made entirely of tools.

Don’t confine yourself to the big holidays. There may be a lesser known one that fits in perfectly with your brand identity. Did you know January 3 is Festival of Sleep Day? If you sell mattresses, pillows, or bedding, you could put together a campaign to help everyone sleep off the effects of New Year’s Day.

Special Events

If you work in the tech space, staying on top of this one is a must. Product releases, big tech conventions, and other cons are ripe for RTSE. If you don’t work in tech, don’t fret, almost every industry has its share of trade shows and events during which you can and should.

Anniversaries and Politics

Just. Don’t. Do. It. Ever.

Catastrophic Events

Unless you’re the Red Cross (or another disaster relief organization), a non-profit, or an institution providing public aid/services STAY AWAY. Nobody wants to hear your brand message right now; move along.

Get Busy

real-time social media engagement is an excellent way to capture the attention of prospects, and allow your brand to show that there are actual humans behind it. Do what works for you and your business, but be sensitive, be responsive, and be responsible.

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