Breathe deeply. We’re about to document the 25+ tools marketers need to know about if they’re serious about real-time marketing.
Real-time marketing—the ability to monitor, manage and guide your marketing efforts as they occur — is one of the most important areas of marketing today. Fortunately, new tools that show breaking trends on Twitter, revealing how an individual customer interacts with your content, identifying your brand’s social influencers and making sense of all that data to make it actionable, are available to CMOs in 2012. The challenge most face: Where to begin?
The landscape of real-time monitoring tools is particularly wide and deep, so let’s focus on digital channels. Further, let’s divide real-time marketing tools into two categories: onsite and offsite. Onsite is any customer interaction that occurs on any digital property you own, such as your website. Offsite is simply everything else, including social sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Most marketers already employ a suite of tools for onsite analytics reporting. Omniture and Google Analytics are two popular tools for viewing your site’s visitor data. These standard site reports won’t be phased out anytime soon, but there is a relatively new breed of tools such as Woopra, Chartbeat and Clicky that offer the ability to view real-time interactions with your site. They answer, “How many visitors are on my site right now and which specific pages are they viewing?” (Google and Omniture also offer real-time tools, but they are not singularly focused, as with the others.)
While these real-time tools are an improvement over the previous generation, they still essentially provide a “web-centric” view of the data, meaning they are designed more for technologists than marketers. Marketers want to know, “How many visitors, at what time, resulted in how many conversions?” Fortunately vendors now realize the importance of this data to marketers and are introducing software that add context to the raw site statistics.
Real-time analytics guides real-time content
Mixpanel offers sophisticated, real-time segmentation, funnel and retention analysis, while GoSquared provides real-time views of top content, top referrers, top searches and social media influence. GoSquared and Lexity also offer customer-centric views of your site. Both of these tools can report on a single individual in real time as the visitor arrives on your site, how he or she got there, what pages were viewed and if an order was placed — or not.
Onsite tools are pivoting from passive monitoring to actively guiding the generation of socially relevant real-time content. InboundWriter monitors your audience’s interests and online conversations, and then instructs you on how to craft content your audience will find compelling. It even coaches you on how to tailor your content for different mediums, such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook. This active shaping of content is very reminiscent of search engine optimization. But unlike SEO, it happens in real time and you can see the results immediately.
Offsite tools are evolving even faster than onsite tools, fueled by apps offering new social experiences. Marketers once only worried about Twitter and Facebook. Now add Foursquare, Instagram, Path, Pinterest, Fancy and others.
Real-time social media
There are many tools for managing your social effort, such as HootSuite, CoTweet and TweetDeck (now owned by Twitter). I like to call these “meta-tools” because they add additional functionality on top of existing applications. These tools can post to multiple networks, schedule tweets and filter your stream so you can hone in on important content. HootSuite also provides niceties like CMS functionality (e.g. team collaboration, messages drafts, analytics) and offers a custom URL shortener, Ow.ly, which enables click-thru link tracking.
SocialMention is a stream aggregation tool. It monitors more than 100 social media properties and creates a single, searchable stream. Want to know what’s being said about your brand (almost) anywhere on the web? SocialMention might help you with that challenge. On the other end of the spectrum is PostPost, which is a surgical Twitter search scalpel. It only searches through content from your Twitter followers.
Once you have identified who is talking about your brand, you would probably like to know how influential they are in the social media landscape. Klout and PeerIndex are attempting to attach some context to users’ online persona by monitoring their social stream, and then ranking their influence on specific topics and with other people. Both indexes are nascent, but it’s interesting to watch them try to establish themselves as the index of record.
Making sense of so much data
OK, so you have tons of onsite and offsite data, and very likely a truckload or two of offline data. While linking the data is critical, making that data actionable in real time, whenever and wherever you see a user, would be the “killer app.” Well, this is possible right now with Data Management Platforms. DMPs are essentially large, fast, real-time data warehouses; they store and link together data based on cookie data or other unique keys, and provide an interface for asking questions against the data. You can import first-party data from your site and your offline campaigns; you can import second-party data from partners with whom you share data and you can import third-party data from providers like BlueKai, TargusInfo, Bizo and Excelate.
Once the data is married in the DMP, you can analyze it, aggregate it, slice it, dice it, report on it and most importantly, make it actionable. For example, you can, in real time, identify the audience a visitor to your site belongs to (e.g. male, 45-50, divorced, kids, into cars and motorcycles) and then, again in real time, tailor the site (content, ads, even layout) directly to that visitor.
You’re a marketer. You’re familiar with audiences, demographics, psychographics and now on/offsite social data; but up until recently, it was a passive undertaking, requiring long cycles of content planning, months of site design and development, weeks of deployments and days of generating reports. With DMPs, you can leverage all of the social data you’re collecting, combine it with your offline data and act on it all in real time. Right now.
Technology alone will not run your marketing strategy. The best tools are only as good as the people using them. CMOs who put together the right combination of talent and technology will have the edge in today’s real-time world.