Real-time content: The key to social survival

Submitted by on the 24th of May 2018

We live in a digital era where brands compete to remain relevant to the millions of people they’re trying to reach on social media. It’s been proven, that it’s now nearly impossible, for brands to do so if they aren’t taking a real-time content approach. First things first, why will your brand suffer on social media if you’re not effectively utilising real-time content? The answer is simple. We’re constantly surrounded by on-demand, hyper-relevant information and platforms that reward content of this kind. This means that relevance alone isn’t enough to get your brand noticed in the clutter. People want to receive that relevant content as it happens. And if you don’t give it to them, they’ll get it somewhere else, which means that your brand will lose their attention.


As mentioned, brands must keep in mind that platform algorithms play a massive part in whether your content gets seen, or not. People only get served the latest and most relevant information, which means that your chances of getting engagement and attention drastically decreases if you’re posting after the fact. Being the first to create content on a subject matter can yield massive increases in brand reach, affinity and business revenue. Therefore brands should be cognisant of the fact that they have now extended their competitive landscape to include media houses, who also fight for a share of voice.


With that said, there is hope if your brand is struggling to make the shift to real-time content. Increase your relevance by making use of two tried and tested real-time content approaches – proactive and reactive.

  • Proactive real-time content is posts that surround or support contextual events that are relevant to your brand. These events are usually planned, which gives you time to strategise, templatise and approve most of the content well in advance. As an example, think of Absa’s coverage of the National Budget Speech. It’s a contextual event that takes place on a pre-announced date, and as a financial service provider, the announcements are relevant to Absa’s community. While the community experiences this content in real-time on the day, it’s only possible thanks to pre-created templates that get tweaked, populated and posted as the speech unfolds.


  • When it comes to reactive real-time content, there’s no better example than the event that pretty much put this tactic on the map. Let’s go back a few years to when Oreo stole the show at the 2013 NFL Super Bowl with a simple, yet opportunistic tweet that capitalised on the fact that the stadium lights went out and the game had to be stopped.

They got more than 10 000 retweets and more than 18 000 likes in an hour – without a cent of paid media. The important thing to note about this type of real-time content is that it must happen on the fly. You can’t plan for it. You simply have to keep an eye on the contextual events that you’ve identified as relevant to your brand and community, and have the resources (or technology) available to create and post content as these events unfold. It’s about being opportunistic.

The good news is that because reactive real-time content doesn’t need as much human investment as proactive real-time content, many technologies exist to help you with this approach. One of our partner agencies, Ideation Station, have taken it to the next level by creating pre-designed brand-specific templates that live online. Once created, these elements can be accessed and updated according to real-time events – for instance, by giving live score updates during a cricket match with the help of pre-approved elements.

It takes seconds to tweak and gets shared directly to a brand’s timeline, along with the relevant copy within seconds. Because most of the planning around contextual events are taken care of by these technologies, it allows creative teams to explore ways to react better when these opportunities do present themselves.

The key to making any type of real-time content work for your brand, is listening to not only what your community cares about, but putting their natural social media behaviour at the centre of it all. Here’s a few tips:

  1. Regularly ask why. Why are you posting that specific content? What are you trying to achieve? Why would your community care? If you can’t answer these questions and you don’t have a good reason why you’re doing it, you should strongly reconsider posting that content in the first place. If you can’t justify it, your community probably won’t care either.
  2. Speak the same language as your community. Are you a serious brand speaking to serious people? Or are you a more conversational brand having casual conversations with people? You can’t expect your message to be received well if you’re not embracing the natural language usage of your community. This also includes speaking about the topics that your community naturally speak about – if it fits your brand’s identity, of course.
  3. Get the right people on board. If you’re making use of the right influencers to help get your message across, people will not only immediately take your brand more seriously, but also be more likely to engage with the content that you post. They’ll be more likely to come to your timeline to look for relevant, real-time info by default.
  4. Listen. Your community regularly gives you hints of how they feel about your brand, about their immediate world, and everything in between. Take their feedback into consideration. If you posted a piece of content that didn’t resonate well, use the information you gathered from it to change your approach. Respect the fact that your perception of your brand might not be the consensus and listen to the people you’re trying to talk to and prioritise the events they care about otherwise you’re going to lose their attention.
  5. Build trust. People see straight through cheap tactics. If you’re a brand who does what you say, your community (and your indirect colleagues at Facebook, Google, etc.) will have your back. Keep it transparent, don’t screw people over.


The bottom line? The game of real-time content is much larger than simply dunking in the dark. It’s the content that’s starting to keep the lights on and in all honesty, your brand’s social media success depends on whether you’re getting it right.

Want to learn the ins and outs of planning and creating effective content for your brand channels? Join me at our next Academy Masterclass.