As a business owner, not only do you have a product or service to sell, you also have a story to tell. You need to know not only how to pique customer interest, but also how to maintain that interest by offering resources and knowledge. Real-time media, or social media, is the vehicle available to you to do just that.

Author and online marketing strategist David Meerman Scott explains why we call it real-time media:

“Real-time refers to news that breaks over minutes, not days. It means ideas percolate, then suddenly and unpredictably go viral to a global audience. It’s when businesses see an opportunity and are the first to act on it. What counts today is speed and agility. While your competitors scramble to adjust, you seize the initiative, open new channels and grow your own brand.”

It’s most likely that your customers and prospects are already benefiting from real-time media, as are your competitors. If you aren’t there yet, you’re missing a prime opportunity to create a first touch point or impression for your business along with the chance to build familiarity, likeability and trust through digital channels, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, SlideShare, Vimeo and company blogs.

An excellent example of how a company capitalized on real-time media was during the 2013 Super Bowl. Remember when the Superdome’s lights suddenly went out? Oreo Cookie decided to jump on that opportunity and tweeted, “Power out? No problem.” The photo attached said, “You can still dunk in the dark.” That strategically crafted 45-character message was retweeted more than 16,000 times, becoming an initiative not soon to be forgotten.

Fresh, edgy and engaging—that’s how your real-time media content should read. Think of these pieces of content as the appetizers served before the main dinner course—small flavorful bites or tidbits—easily consumed and instantly satisfying, yet creating a craving for more.

Real-time media enables you to impact your customers’ lives by using a variety of platforms to reach out and engage with them. What do they need to hear and how are you going to share your message? Whether you link to a video, provide a case study or an article to download, or elicit excitement regarding a new product or service, real-time media serves as the catalyst to strike up a relationship.

This resource can also help you create and sustain brand awareness and develop your credibility as an industry leader. In order for that to happen though, you need a strategy to be truly effective—having a Facebook page or a website isn’t enough. This is when it helps to have someone fluent in real-time media who can also organize the behind-the-scenes timing of your postings and then listen to and measure the traffic.

Colleen Hofmann is HMA’s Interactive Marketing Manager. She’s the real-time media maven who coordinates and juggles the editorial calendars for us and for our clients’ real-time media timetables, listens in on the real-time media “conversations” and writes our SOPs for utilizing real-time media efficiently and effectively.

Colleen helps us determine what she refers to as “exceptional, inspirational, unique, credible, fun and beneficial content to share”—what will impact clients and their customers’ lives the most.  “Producing interesting content,” Colleen says, “means individuals and other relevant sites will naturally want to share and engage with it. It’s a more organic approach to link building.”

Developing the real-time media habit takes time, but learning the process enables you to become a responsive marketer. It supplies an avenue to build value and social visibility while cultivating relationships. Whether you’re directing traffic for your own company or for your clients, Colleen offers the following suggestions for implementing real-time media:

  • Provide quality content that gives people a reason to follow you and share your content
  • Leverage your company’s real-time media presence with regular posting
  • Send traffic to your blog by promoting posts on your Facebook page or Twitter account
  • Provide a strong call-to-action; provide viewers with an offer, an e-book, a webinar, free consultation, a case study or article, a link to a video—this is where your leads come from
  • Measure it—look at page views and shares, conversions resulting from social media referrals and understand what is and isn’t working
  • Avoid using real-time media just for driving revenue—while it is one way to develop leads, it’s also a resource for gaining exposure and communicating urgent and/or beneficial information

Real-time media is a communicative tool—a way to show you are both listening and engaging; it provides a path to follow industry leaders and peers and allows you to engage and build relationships with them.

Are you seizing the real-time media initiative? If so, how are you capitalizing on it for your business and clients? Tell us about your most effective social media B2B strategy.