Real time marketing

"You can still dunk in the dark," said the tweet heard 'round the world during the 2013 Superbowl blackout. It was the ultimate example of a brand using social media to respond to real-world happenings in real-time. It was enormously popular. And it's exactly the kind of thing social media marketers need to be doing: They need to anticipate what their audience is going to be talking about, and then get in on the conversation immediately. For the sake of your real-time social media inspiration, here are five examples of companies and organizations doing just that.

1. McDonald's @AlRoker

McDonald's doesn't have a great Twitter track record, but this time the company got it right. When Al Roker overslept for the Today Show, McDonald's tweeted him a picture of their McCafe latte with the note, "Stick with us @AlRoker, we'll help you wake up for the next 39 years #McCafe".

2. Virgin Holidays and Same-Sex Marriage

Virgin Holidays was ready: Mere minutes after a same-sex marriage bill passed in the UK, the company posted an image of two champagne glasses with lipstick marks clinking together in a celebratory toast. "Same sex marriage bill," the caption read. "Passed. Time for a honeymoon." Of course, the success of this image depended upon Virgin Holidays knowing its audience well enough to realize that they were going to have more people celebrating the decision than railing against it.

3. Human Rights Campaign and the Supreme Court

In another example of social media and the discussion about marriage equality, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) created one of the most visible Facebook campaigns of 2013. The HRC played on people's desire to express themselves when they encouraged people to change their Facebook profile pictures to the red-and-pink HRC equals-sign logo in an effort to send the Supreme Court a message about their support for marriage for the LGBT community. Over 9 million people saw the logo; over 700,000 shared it.

4. SmartCar Plays Along with Self-Deprecating Humor

With its ear to the ground listening for social chatter about its brand, SmartCar USA picked up on this tweet: "Saw a bird had crapped on a Smart Car. Totaled it." SmartCar USA responded quickly with a clever infographic showing how many bird craps it would actually take to total one of their cars (4.5 million pigeon craps, in case you need to know). As a result of its efforts, SmartCar USA got 500 retweets and 300 Favorites, all because someone on the social media team was tuned in to brand chatter.

5. Nursing Home Company Does the Harlem Shake

Ok, ok, so we know we mentioned the nursing home company, HCF Management, that filmed its employees and elderly residents doing the Harlem Shake in another recent post, but we couldn't help mentioning it again here (how can you not take every possible opportunity to share these videos?). The Harlem Shake videos were getting big on YouTube, and the nursing home company thought it was a great way to showcase their residents having a good time while also participating in a trending topic at the same time.

What Are Your Favorite Examples?

We obviously have a soft spot in our hearts for HCF Management, but what are your favorite examples of real-time social media campaigns that have gotten results and earned companies some kudos? Viral or not viral, share your favorite examples in the comments section below.

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