Social media

In a few months, the world will turn its attention to the Summer Olympics, and all the thrills and chills that will doubtlessly emerge from the competitive drama unfolding as billions watch. You can bet that among those watching will be an army of marketers and advertisers – all ready to take advantage of the latest meme or dramatic story that emerges from the Games, hoping to use the event to promote their product or service on social media.

It's sort of like what Wheaties does when it puts star athletes on its boxes, except that instead of the branding connection occurring months later, it occurs within minutes of the events taking place. So if the athlete who sets a world running record at the Olympics is wearing Adidas running shoes, you can bet that Adidas will be all over social media with pictures, testimonials, and other supporting materials to take advantage of the moment and promote its product or brand.

That principal can be applied to many situations, and can work for small businesses as well as large ones: A major security breach at a big bank gives a cyber-security firm a window to promote its solutions. A news story about major traffic jams over a holiday weekend could be an opportunity for an in-vehicle entertainment company to discuss its products. A gaffe by a politician provides staff of the opposing candidate with a chance to make some political fodder at the expense of their rival. And so on.

The great advantage of social media for business has, indeed, been the ability to instantly communicate their image with millions using text, photos, and videos, in addition to building a community around their brand. But that instantaneousness means that companies have to run to keep pace if they want to ‘own’ the narrative around a fast-moving development. Marketers have to be ready with material as soon as that Olympic record is set - otherwise, someone is going to beat them to it, and out the window goes what could very well be a once in a lifetime marketing opportunity.

The only way to deal with these situations is to be prepared – and that means having access to tools that companies can use to develop effective social media content on the fly. While large companies like Adidas have whole departments dedicated to social and develop this content in-house, smaller businesses have an entire Internet, with access to tools that let them immediately put together presentations, videos, graphics, and much more online. The content can then be uploaded to social media, ensuring that a company remains relevant and gets its name out into the social discussion surrounding the trending topics, getting the jump on its competitors and owning the trend from a marketing perspective.

Corporate behemoths like Coca Cola, of course, have whole departments (at Coke it’s called the Hub Network, with over 2,000 employees) monitoring social media for mention of the brand, both to search for marketing opportunities and to protect the brand. Among other things, the Network’s “hustle team” (which develops material for real-time marketing) responds to trending hashtags and discussions on social networks with appropriate content it whips up on the spot. For example, when the Oxford Dictionary named ‘selfie’ 2013’s Word of the Year, the team Tweeted and Facebooked out images of Coke Selfies (according to the company, 93 million are taken each day).

While small businesses with no more than a small marketing team may not have as many resources as a big company like Coca Cola, they can use on-line tools to develop materials that can actively distinguish themselves from their competitors. There are dozens of online photo editors and video creation apps that allow anyone to take existing images or raw footage and tweak it to respond to trends.

A good example of how a small business can make such tools work for its marketing department is the infographic developed by PonyParts, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based auto parts store. PonyParts recognized a public need to better understand the costs of owning and operating a car, particularly by people hoping to purchase a new car. The firm developed a comprehensive infographic called “How Much Do We Spend on Our Cars” that listed vital repair statistics for the most popular models of the year (2014) with a breakdown of how much consumers could expect to spend each of their first five years of ownership, and the least and most expensive vehicles. Based on data culled from the Web, the presentation makes the dry numbers come alive - and PonyParts even thoughtfully provided an embed code, for use by bloggers and journalists looking for fresh, informative content. There are several good online services to create infographics, enabling firms to respond within minutes and ride the social media wave to marketing success. By staying on top of their market, and understanding the tools at their disposal, even small businesses can establish themselves as industry experts.

In the same way that PonyParts found its market opportunity by monitoring Google Trends, small businesses can use online tools to monitor Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks, and make use of the wide variety of online tools to develop a quick response to developing online events and trends. Those responses can consist of using tools to develop interactive content, video, animation, even games to promote content on the fly. Some tools even enable users to take a plain 2D desktop presentation consisting of some slides and data points into an advanced 3D presentation. Video creation tools let users turn images – photos, charts, and any other visual content – into sharp-looking videos with music, special effects, and much more. Tools to create e-books, apps, and even whole web sites that automatically resize for viewing on desktops or mobile are all part of the arsenal marketers have at their disposal to build and promote their image in response to quick-moving developments.

All these services lets marketers put together a cohesive message within minutes, providing messages and content that a company can use to take advantage of what is going on in social media right now - enabling them to respond to trends on Twitter, Facebook posts that concern their area of expertise, their brand name, or even to today’s top Google searches. These tools can be valuable weapons for marketers fighting to keep their brand and message relevant. Being able to hook into the stream of social media consciousness as things are happening could be one of the most important marketing moves a company can make.

By Motti Nisani, CEO of emaze