As content marketing evolves, so do online audiences. With social media becoming an integral part of everything from education to entertainment, brands are learning that they can and should reach out to their audiences anytime, anywhere.

Real-time marketing can be both inventive and successful —like Oreo’s Super Bowl power outage coup—but creating an environment in which your brand can be brilliantly spontaneous takes lots of resources and planning. So, how do brands manage to catch lightning in a tweet or Facebook post?

Expecting the unexpected

The most common tool of real-time marketing is social media, and that means your brand needs a competent and responsive social media team. Keeping your social media channels full of engaging content should also be a priority, offering a mix of your own content, interesting content from across the Internet, and engaging directly with followers or fans on Twitter or Facebook.

Ensuring that your creative efforts match your social media efforts is just as important—Oreo’s graphics for the Super Bowl tweet had to be created on the fly, but that extra push resulted in their Twitter account gaining 8,000 more followers. None of these elements will be effective, however, without creating a plan that allows for responsive marketing. eMarketer’s recent blog post “The Real-Time Marketing Drumbeat Gets Louder, as Agencies, Brands Sign On” advises marketers on creative execution and the digital tools necessary to take advantage of a small window of opportunity. “It’s not necessarily about developing creative in real time,” says Mondelez’s vice president of global media and consumer engagement Bonin Bough, “It’s about having a creative approach that allows you to operate in real time.”

Getting to know your audience

Real-time marketing exists to attract and engage audiences no matter where they are. And there’s no better way to give your audience useful, timely content than to conduct in-depth research about where they go online, who they talk to and what and why they buy. Knowing your audience inside and out is the best way to give them exactly what they want and need, every time you create real-time content.

This kind of research will take time, but the result can give you more than just ideas for real-time marketing; it can also help your brand craft valuable earned media campaigns for the online hangouts your audiences frequent. By connecting with your followers, you’ll be able to identify the trends your audiences follow; and by keeping a finger on the pulse of your industry online, you’ll be able to recognize new trends and catch those waves before they crest.

The brands that are most successful with real-time marketing have also devoted time, personnel and resources to maintaining a presence that can respond to the market in just moments. How have your real-time marketing efforts worked for you and your brand? Tell us in the comments.

Image credit: @Oreo