The advent of the UK social media newsroom

Real-time marketing has been around for a long while in various guises, but ever since that Super Bowl tweet from Oreo in February, marketers have been getting (over) excited about a specific strand of it. With online conversation building in advance of Saturday night’s X Factor final, some brands are preparing to join this conversation in a more systematic way than ever before.

Welcome to the social newsroom.

Driven by live monitoring of social conversation around major events, brands are choosing to assemble teams of creatives, copywriters, designers, strategists, community managers and even legal experts – all on hand to conceive, create and publish reactive content in a matter of minutes.

It was Oreo who pioneered the social newsroom model. It was used to great effect during the 100-day Daily Twist campaign in 2012, and the same approach yielded 15,000 retweets during the Super Bowl. Hardly surprising that, despite controversy in the industry,the latter activity was lauded for its innovative and progressive nature – even achieving recognition at Cannes.

But to brands considering jumping on this bandwagon in the UK, here are some words of advice:

Originality vs. opportunism

This concept may be relatively new, but the backlash has arrived already – with many people tiring of brands’ increasingly-contrived attempts to capitalise on topical events. The most obvious example of this was the avalanche of branded content in the wake of the royal baby’s birth. The reaction to this content was less than positive. If you’re going to do it, make sure you do it in a way that is relevant for your brand.

Resource vs. delivery

Oreo’s ability to turn its campaign around so quickly came down to the size and expertise of the team present on the ground. For most brands, the ability to fund a team of nearly 20 experts on site is a distant dream. Without the right team, the chances of cracking the right message with the right creative, not to mention nailing the production, are low. Add to that the fact that nothing about the creative process can be guaranteed – and the risks are clear. Many brands will eschew the social newsroom approach in favour of a small, agile team who are alive to opportunities all the time, not just when a big event comes around.

Broadcast vs. dialogue

While this approach has generated some laughs and a good deal of conversations about brands, it would be a shame if this is all that real-time marketing does. Social media platforms have enabled ongoing, two-way conversation between brands and people – and the potential is huge. And yet Oreo have been lauded for essentially using these platforms to broadcast a series of ads. Cleverly-planned and well-executed ads, certainly, but ads nonetheless. You can’t help but feel brands might be better off using their budgets to do a little more than this.

A slightly more conversational approach has been adopted recently by the BBC and Honda, who have chosen to create real-time, reactive content in response to individuals, as part of an ongoing conversation.

Social listening and the ability to react quickly to conversation are vital for consumer-facing brands. In a world where we can listen live to the conversation of hundreds of thousands – even millions – of individuals and organisations, reacting and responding cleverly, relevantly and effectively is a huge opportunity. This is at the heart of truly social communication; it just needs to be done in the right way.

Freddie Young is community director at creative social agency, 1000heads. Freddie and his team devise and implement strategies which allow brands to communicate with people in a way that adds value for both. He is also in charge of keeping 1000heads abreast of the latest industry news and on the cutting edge of social communication.

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