I don’t care much for football. But I do care about this:
An average of 114.4 million American TV viewers watched the Super Bowl in 2015.
And that’s a conservative depiction of potential viewership when you consider how many people are going to stream the event this year and the flood of tweets that'll come from those following along on Twitter.
It’s not just the Super Bowl—the Grammys, the Oscars, and other high-profile events all present great opportunities for brands to be part of big conversations.
But the reason you should follow these events, even if you've got no interest in them, is because they tend to produce some of the best opportunities for real-time marketing, or “moment marketing”, where brands race to position themselves to be part of the buzz as it happens.
Why are these events so good at creating viral conversations? Because we expect something buzz-worthy to come out of them. In a way, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Whether it's the ads or the half-time shows or something a celebrity did or, on the off-chance, something to do with the main event itself, we look forward to having something to collectively talk about.
We look for things to blow up and out of proportion, and it's become such a reliable cultural phenomenon that brands are positioning themselves to react to whatever we collectively choose to focus on.
And the best part is, you can be ready for it too.
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How to ride the trend of the day minute
The people of the Internet have a much shorter attention span than we used to. Or rather, there's just way more information being thrown at us now.
Either way, what was once 15 minutes of fame now seems like barely 5.
But with the advent of social media, and now live streaming services such as Periscope, that brief spike of interest is sharper than ever and brands are trying to jump on board.
Speed is the name of the game, but luckily you’ve got a not-so-secret weapon in your pocket:
All the tools you need to react fast are there: Twitter, Facebook, Hootsuite, Periscope, Snapchat, Instagram, Meme Generator, etc.
But it’s not just about how fast you can fire off a tweet or come up with a clever Facebook post.
Speed is about how fast you can get traction for your impromptu content or ad to take full advantage of the timing.
It's not about who's first— it's who gets seen first.
That's why having a sizeable audience is a huge competitive edge—especially when you’re up against big brands with a lot of resources for just a small piece of the spotlight.
The good news is that you can still earn engagement, be relevant, and cast a wide net to capture people's interest by being part of these conversations as they happen.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
Being quick and nimble: Oreo’s famous tweet
The go-to example of real-time marketing at its swiftest comes from Oreo and its “Dunk in the Dark” tweet, which famously went viral during the Super Bowl blackout in 2013.
With over 15,000 Retweets, this tweet took less than 34 minutes (the duration of the blackout) from concept to publishing—an impressive turnaround for a tweet of this quality.
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
Although they had a well-equipped agency on standby ready to pump it out, it goes to show the potential that exists in these opportunities and what you can do when you're ready for them.
But while the Super Bowl seems to create these moments like nothing else, what matters more is how you seize them.
Be more coordinated than Katy Perry's left shark
Just after Katy Perry finished her halftime performance, Twitter saw a whopping 284,000 tweets per minute about it.
Why? Because of a particular shark out of water who upstaged Katy Perry. Left Shark became an Internet phenomenon overnight.
Left Shark's uncoordinated moves may have won the hearts of people all over, but it won't work the same for brands who try to shoe-horn themselves into trends like this. The connection you draw between a moment and your brand has to make sense—or things can get awkward.
Here's an interesting tweet from PETA that earned eyeballs and engagement at the cost of really turning off some people who weren't part of PETA's audience.
#KatyPerrySuperBowl: PROOF u DON'T need real animals to amaze a crowd.— PETA (@peta) February 2, 2015
RT if u agree!
Because of the high-profile nature of these incidents, much of the exposure you get will be to people outside of your target audience. Keep that in mind when you decide to jump into these waters.
At its worst, real-time marketing can result in some incredibly cringe-worthy moments watching a brand try too hard to be part of a conversation it doesn't really fit into to.
It's important to exercise tact when doing so and establish an authentic presence—otherwise you'll just be an awkward Left Shark standing out on stage in all the wrong ways.
Bet on humor like Arby's
Humor is usually a good way to insert your brand into a conversation and win some love without overtly selling yourself or trying too hard.
Burgers and music awards have nothing in common, but that didn't stop Arby's from chiming in about Pharell's hat, which went viral after the Grammys and was still being referenced even months after.
At the time, Arby's generated a ton of Retweets with their one-off joke. No image or fancy design like Oreo's. Just pure wit.
And Quaker, spotting the opportunity, got involved as well.
Hey @Arbys, did @Pharrell give you that hat back? Still haven't heard from @Madonna about mine. - Larry #Grammys— QuakerOats (@Quaker) January 27, 2014
Humor lets you compete with the big brands because it's super-shareable on social media. Being funny can be a good way to get exposure if you can nail the digital equivalent of comedic timing to ensure your joke takes off.
Like Quaker, don't be afraid to jump into the conversation and engage with others who are attracting attention if you see an opportunity to do so.
Remember that you've got a link to your website in your profile and your bio describes what you're about, so there's really no need to sell in the conversation itself.
Be an active participant by live tweeting/streaming
We live in a time when anyone can cover an event and share it with the world.
Live tweeting and streaming under your brand is an effective approach regardless of the scale of the event because when you're actively participating in it, you've got more chances to be seen.
In fact, if you can be a part of an event in your niche, it's probably better to do so since the people you reach will be more relevant to your brand.
Live tweeting is easy to do and every retweet using the appropriate hashtag expands your reach further while giving your existing audience something to follow along with.
With Twitter polls you can even elicit feedback from others who are following the hashtag and engage people in a more interactive way.
Imagine you've got a business that sells gear for gamers and you live tweet the #GamesDoneQuick conference where gamers gather to watch people do speed-runs of popular video games for charity.
Just being active and authentic on this hashtag earns you a presence and maybe even some followers and click-throughs to your profile from all the right people.
Consider using Hootsuite for live tweeting, so you monitor several hashtags or profiles on different channels in one dashboard, engaging with these conversations in real-time at a scale that most casual tweeters won't.
Look for real-time opportunities on the horizon
Sure, these events are usually noisy but they afford you the chance to be in the right place at the right time when people from all over are watching.
While you can ride hashtags, viral trends, and the like as they happen in the moment, popular events— like the Super Bowl and even niche events that appeal directly to your customers—provide enough warning for you to dig your heels in and take full advantage of these opportunities as they come.
Just because you can't predict the future with real-time marketing, doesn't mean you can't be ready for it.