Though the Internet allowed us to consume information at the speed of light before Twitter, it wasn’t until the service launched that a societal obsession with the concept of real-time was born: our 24-hour news cycle is validated by every new tweet on our timelines. For certain industries (think journalism, music, celebrity culture), this has changed the way we process and expect information, and other social networks, such as Facebook, have been doing everything they can to catch up.
We’re not here to invalidate the importance of real-time, but rather to argue that from a marketer’s perspective, focusing on real-time alone isn’t productive when measuring the efficacy of your efforts. Of the millions of big-budget marketing events that happen each year, you can count the ones that are relevant in real-time only on your fingers (and they’re mostly related to sports and celebrity events: the Super Bowl, Academy Awards, Grammy’s, etc.). And consumer behavior around these types of events are shifting too: Instead of launching a one-night Super Bowl campaign, advertisers now promote their spots weeks in advance, and people are watching the spots over and over again following the game, forming their opinions well after the final touchdown has been scored. (Our piece for Ad Age on Super Bowl fan growth is an example of the effects this has had on brands and their social communities.)
So while we live in a real-time world, more and more we’re living in an on-demand world, where consumers are streaming/viewing/doing what they want on their own clock. If that’s the direction we’re moving in, then the obsession with getting real-time results on a campaign doesn’t make all that much sense. Why are we drawing sweeping conclusions about broad trends based on what happens in the first few minutes of a campaign or initiative that may run for days, weeks or even months? And if we do, are we getting a true sense of the overall impact or just that which comes from the consumers who are outliers the truly obsessed or the ones who haven’t yet figured out how to use a DVR, for example?
Our approach isn’t to ignore these initial moments after all, every moment is an opportunity to learn more about your audience and how they behave on digital and beyond but rather to focus on them alongside daily, weekly, and monthly snaps of data. Patterns that emerge quickly can fade quickly, too, so if you want to be smarter about strategy, make sure you’re looking at patterns in your data over time instead being immediately reactionary to minutetominute activity.