If you’ve ever attempted to run a real-time marketing campaign, you know how challenging it can be. There are so many factors involved in getting it right: creating compelling content, understanding your audience, connecting to your audience at the right time, choosing the right real-time events to engage with… not to mention changing your strategy on the fly if you’re not hitting your targets.

Despite the challenges, real-time marketing offers up some serious benefits. It has the potential to be a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. And what better way to learn how to make real-time work for you than from the experts?

We talked to 8 social media experts about their thoughts on real-time marketing, and they had lots to share.

Start with strategy

The experts might have different definitions and opinions about what real-time marketing actually is, but there is one thing they almost all agree on: you need a strategy to make it work.

bio-joepulizzi“If you don’t have a documented content marketing strategy, and you are already seeing effectiveness developing consistent content over a long period of time, you should stay far away from real-time marketing. Do the basics well first before hitting real-time.”

– Joe Pulizzi, Founder Content Marketing Institute @JoePulizzi

bio-joepulizzi“There is a lot of buzz around ‘real-time’, but the reality is that most organisations have a journey to undertake before they can truly exploit the potential of big data and real-time marketing. What we’re seeing on the ground is more brands evolving and adapting their marketing teams to a publisher model, designed to facilitate the rapid creation, publication and promotion of engaging content, which is a good start.”

– Katy Howell, CEO immediate future @katyhowell

bio-joepulizzi“I’ve seen real-time marketing defined in two ways. Some see it as brands engaging in real-world events as they happen (think the Oreos ‘dunk in the dark’ tweet here), while others define it more broadly as brands creating content and engaging their customers in real-time.

I think both definitions have their merit, but both require considerable strategic planning and resources to be successful. Don’t think that those seemingly off-the-cuff Oscars tweets from brands are actually spontaneous! Any brand looking to benefit from real-time – and there are serious benefits, in terms of potential virality and delighting your customers – should take a good look at their resources and their customers’ behaviours before they leap.”

– Lauren Dugan, Co-Founder Insightful Agency @Lauren_Dugan

Be relevant

Your real-time campaign might be the most creative, compelling campaign ever to hit social media – but if it doesn’t resonate with your audience, and if it’s not sent at the exact right time, the experts say it’s going to fall flat.

bio-joepulizzi“It’s important for brands to be engaged with real-time marketing in topic areas that are related to their product or important to their customers. Brands should focus on building this capability consistently so that when the opportunity arises, brands are prepared to engage in a creative, authentic and compelling way.”

– Michael Brenner, Author of B2B Marketing Insider @BrennerMichael

“At the most basic level the greatest marketing message delivered at the wrong time is still a bad marketing message. This underscores the importance of real-time marketing. For example – trying to hawk cotton candy at a funereal is bad for everyone.”

– Erik Qualman, Founder Socialnomics @equalman

bio-joepulizzi“The concept of real-time marketing is really all about relevance. If you catch a consumer in a buying moment, a deciding moment or even a consideration moment and can give them information or an experience which moves them to action, you have a much better chance of them taking that action than if you send them an email later, they see your ad on TV that night, etc. The more relevant your message, product or opportunity is to their decision-making process, the better your chances of success. At the end of the day, you’re trying to sell ice cream in summer, not winter. That’s the gist of it.”

– Jason Falls, SVP for Digital Strategy, Elasticity @JasonFalls

Embrace “big”

Big data, big audiences… a great real-time marketing campaign will need to leverage both of these to be successful, says our experts.

bio-joepulizzi“My introduction to real time marketing was in 2008 when I discovered Twitter. When I started my blog in 2009 I found that it could deliver engagement and traffic in real time.

As my Twitter following grew its real power became apparent. Today with over 350,000 Twitter followers its leverage to reach a world in real time is now far reaching and amplified through crowd sourced sharing via one tweet.”

– Jeff Bullas, CEO Jeffbullas.com @JeffBullas

bio-joepulizzi“If you’re working with massive amounts of consumers, you can’t afford not to be a real-time marketer. If you don’t believe me, ask the communications team at Target – last week a person impersonated one of their employees on their Facebook page for 4 hours.”

– Adam Metz, Author of The Social Customer & VP TerrAvion @theMetz

For quotable, tweetable versions of what the experts have to say about real-time marketing, take a look at our SlideShare roundup. And don’t forget to tweet to us if you’ve got any real-time marketing tips of your own!