Should brands go real-time?

A lot has been written about this of late, yet it’s still a fresh and evolving topic. Aided by rapid technological developments, enhancements in mobile data bandwidth and groundbreaking apps, people today are able to easily broadcast content more than ever before, and it’s all happening in real time.

So what are people doing with this unfathomable power? Many are becoming citizen journalists, covering real-world events in real time, bringing their version of unbiased, untainted truth to the world. Most though are using it to share meaningless, non-value adding details of their everyday lives,  which is quite understandable considering the age of these early adopters.

But in between the freedom-fighter wannabes and the millennial, over-sharing hordes, there’s an opportunity for brands to make their mark in this yet-to-be fully explored realm, especially in the MENA region where quality and unique bespoke content is rarely found.

Social platforms – like Snapchat, Keek, Periscope, Meerkat and Ustream, among others- are on the rise. Snapchat has more than 100 million users worldwide now; Periscope just crossed the 10 million users mark since their launch four months ago; and Keek has more than 74 million users worldwide, 10% of which are just in Saudi Arabia.

When social media started taking off back in 2010, brands were reluctant to face the public. Worried about navigating unchartered territory, they had the following questions: How do we speak to them? What will we say? What will they say to us? Will we face PR disasters?

Many of these concerns are now history, with brands jumping on the social media wagon left, right and center (including ones that shouldn’t necessarily really be on social media). Brands today are comfortable with handling their presence on these platforms, even if it continues, for the most part, to be a calculated, non-real-time one.

But what would happen if they moved towards a more agile, real-time format? What would be the benefits for brands if they were to take their online presence to the next level and showcase sentiments like: “a day in the life of…”; “this is how we feel about…”; or “we’re closer to you now than we’ve ever been, in fact we’re one of you…”?

I’m not saying that brands should jump head-first into Snapchat and Periscope without proper planning. The platform and its format need to make sense for the brand and their content strategy needs to be revised to accommodate this new channel. A long-term strategy needs to be put in place to sustain a consistent push of content over time, and investment in the right tools/teams/skills is also a must.

While a lot of work is required to enter such a realm, the potential ROI is quite sizable. Looking beyond the first-to-market and bragging rights benefits, brands can truly be where their audience is and speak the ever-evolving language they’re speaking. Isn’t that the fundamental reason brands got on social media to begin with? Now there’s some food for thought…

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