Digital & Social Media

Having a Hard Time With Real Time

Having a Hard Time With Real Time
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My Internet consumption is best described as frenetic. I constantly move from blog to tweet, video to article; I am devoted to social recommendations and stories more than any one news site. And I know I am not alone, given estimates of well over one billion social-media users on the planet (Facebook alone has more than that) and the proclivity of most to access multiple networks and blogs.

This desire to sample and look beyond traditional news outlets for information is giving brands an opportunity to make their mark with an audience already eager to devour content daily — if not hourly. It is no longer enough to view a social platform as a mouthpiece for product information or capabilities brochures. As the digital space becomes increasingly cluttered with traditional marketing methods, companies must find new ways to offer real information and value to their customers and potential customers.

To do that, more brands are realizing they need a “brand newsroom.” But mastering this model on a daily and sustainable basis is more difficult than it first may seem. So before a company launches their own newsroom, it is important to step back and look at three foundation points for any content engine.

Be authentic and transparent. No matter the topic or medium, a brand’s content needs to reflect the voice and mission of their company. Building a “brand newsroom” on social channels — or even a website — needs to be about much more than just selling a product or service. This is an opportunity to establish trust with consumers by building a dialogue through daily interaction that proves you understand your audience and care about the same things they do. If you waste that opportunity to make a sale, you may fail both to build trust and make the sale.

The most successful newsrooms mix brand-related content with facts and useful information that sometimes have nothing to do with your product, but instead speak to a company’s larger message and mission.

IBM’s success with its Tumblr page called A Smarter Planet comes from the site’s inspiring mix of news, videos and images on everything from space exploration to 3D food printers that demonstrates how the company is about innovation at its core, not just about selling the latest generation of software. The key is to keep content authentically helpful, not covert sales pitches. Success of a brand’s content depends on not violating the reader’s trust, the same as it does for any other established media outlet.

Be relevant and timely. So often a brand’s success with content doesn’t rely on whether the content was well written (although bad content never helps anyone), but rather on how timely and relevant it is to the needs and interests of the brand’s target audience. A 2012 survey by GolinHarris found that 46 percent of consumers had more interest in a brand after being exposed to that company through relevant, real-time content marketing.

A brand also must demonstrate that it’s on top of the news of the day that affects both its products and audience. Crafting the perfect tweet two days after an event is about as helpful as bringing water to a fire after it’s out. However, creating real-time content isn’t easy and requires more hands on deck—and the right hands on deck—than most companies are willing to provide. Many brands struggle with creating an infrastructure to generate appropriate ideas and turn them around quickly because they lack the news instinct necessary to pull it off or operate under a bureaucratic approval system that slows them down.

Brand relevancy and frequency, like any skill, takes practice and commitment in order to get it right. “We have to feel comfortable with making decisions with limited data,” Sam Niburg, Campbell Soup Company’s senior associate brand manager, explained at the Digiday brand summit earlier this year.

Be ready to learn important lessons and change course. A company that is creating real-time content will find that the results and lessons of daily content are different from a multimillion-dollar ad campaign. Newsroom-style content, often created on the fly, will some days end up a trending topic on Buzzfeed and on others fall into the black hole of social media, never to be seen again. Be prepared to try something new hourly. Unruly Media, for instance, recently found that six-second branded Vine content is being shared at four times the rate of traditional branded online videos; that research may give you inspiration for where you should take your content—or not. The great news is that unlike a big-budget marketing effort, in the world of social media, tomorrow is always another day.

All of us as content creators still have much to discover when it comes to the possibilities and future of content marketing. And that is what makes it all so exciting. The companies and agencies that end up on top will undoubtedly be the ones willing to explore new paths and take chances in their drive to reach their desired audiences. Now is the time to find your voice and trust that if you stay true to that every day, your audience will reward you for it.

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About the author

Sarah Amos is chief creative officer at Freshwire, a firm that she runs with her brother Shawn (pictured above) specializing in real-time content for brands. Her background includes working as a senior producer at the ABC News program “World News With Diane Sawyer,” where she oversaw all of the show’s digital content, integration and social media. In addition, she’s worked as a producer across many divisions at ABC News, including “Good Morning America” and the national desk.