Lights-out engagement

It warms my heart — especially with 6 inches of snow still piled up at my house — to see spring training get underway in Florida and Arizona. But before I let the U.S. football season (and that unusual Super Bowl) fade to memory, I have a quick note about lessons in “real-time” marketing using social media. 

In December, I read Hub Spot’s “20 Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2013” and noted that the very first trend anticipated was the continued evolution of real-time marketing across social networking platforms. Interesting … but I had a holiday getaway on my mind, and I’m not sure it really sunk in.  

Cut to the Super Bowl about six weeks later, and the light bulb went on — just as the lights went out. With millions of fans taking to social media to talk blackout, savvy PR and marketing teams moved with record speed to enter the conversation.

Oreo’s quick post (first on Twitter and then on its Facebook page) has become the most lauded, but Mashable has assembled the best rundown I’ve seen, with a post listing “9 brands that thought fast on social media during the Super Bowl.”

Other brands taking quick action included Tide, which posted a graphic to Twitter and the comment, “We can’t get your #blackout but we can get your stain out”; Jim Beam Black; and Walgreens, which reminding consumers that its stores sell both candles and lights! There were no hotel brands in this top-nine list.

I think what impressed me most — beyond the quick thinking and quick graphic design work — was the trust these companies had placed with their social media teams. The entire Super Bowl blackout lasted just 35 minutes (completely unanticipated and on a Sunday night, no less). By the time team members had written a post and created a graphic, only minutes would have remained to go through an approval process. Clearly these brands had placed their trust — and a green light to take action — in advance with in-house and agency staff. The results justified this trust. Just to take one example, the Oreo Facebook post amassed 25,000 likes and nearly 1,000 comments, and was shared by 7,000 consumers to their own friends. A slam dunk.

Though the blackout was a surprise, Oreo’s ability to respond was no accident. It had already planned live posts to correspond with Beyonce’s halftime performance and other aspects of the game as the Super Bowl unfolded. Other brands, even without instant access to graphic design resources, moved quickly and creatively. 

I’m taking the lesson to heart and strategizing with clients about resources and opportunities for more frequent real-time engagement. How about you? Have you seen effective real-time posts recently tied to a trending topic? Will you be looking for such opportunities in 2013?