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A huge company has announced that it is acquiring one of your competitors. The news hit the wires five minutes ago.

What would you do right now? Not tomorrow. Now.

How about writing a blog post and hitting the TweetDeck to get the word out?

That’s what Joe Payne, CEO of the marketing automation company Eloqua, did on a Tuesday afternoon in May when Oracle announced the acquisition of Market2Lead, another company that makes software used to generate sales leads.

The Oracle announcement was just one paragraph long. So Payne saw a tremendous opportunity to define what the announcement meant to the marketplace. Just a few hours later, under the heading “Oracle joins the party,” he posted: “I expect Oracle’s entry to make a major difference in the attention paid to this sector. It’s going to open marketers’ eyes, and, as a result, expand the market. This is exactly the type of movement this industry needs. You see, the potential market for lead management systems is less than 10 percent penetrated.”

Eloqua’s real-time commentary was widely retweeted and became a key part of stories on the acquisition that appeared in BusinessWeek, InfoWorld Customer Experience Matrix, and PC World. Had Payne waited even a few more hours to post, the opportunity would have been lost.

THE REAL-TIME REVOLUTION

Real-time data changed the financial markets a generation ago, but now all businesses find themselves dealing with it. Businesspeople are feeling their way forward at a time when the landscape has changed and the road signs are gone. It’s like trying to drive across America with a map made in 1950.

Finding the new roads may be confusing, but they can be a better way to take you where you want to go. Here are five marketing and public-relations strategies that organizations can use to take advantage of this new environment.

1. Monitor social networks in real time

Take the tactics that Avaya, a maker of call center technology, is adopting to win and keep customers. At the company’s headquarters in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, Paul Dunay, global managing director of social marketing and services, watches carefully what’s being said on social-networking sites. He’s established a presence for the company in blogs, forums, Facebook, and Twitter.

“Listening to the market and engaging in the right conversations enables Avaya to quickly spot issues and opportunities as they arise, even before anyone contacts the company,” Dunay says.

The strategy delivered a quick payoff when somebody tweeted, “Cisco or Avaya? Time for a new phone system very soon.” Dunay’s team spotted the post right away. Minutes later, a team member responded using the @Avaya_Support Twitter account: “let me know if we can help you–we have some Strategic Consultants that can help you assess your needs.” The interaction resulted in a quick sale worth a quarter of a million dollars.

“A 57-character tweet led to a $250,000 sale,” Dunay says. “That’s nearly $4,500 a character!”

2. Engage the media in real time

What was once a predictable 24-hour news cycle driven by evening TV broadcasts and newspaper print deadlines is now a constantly evolving flow of news from thousands of mainstream sources backed by feeds from millions of citizen journalists using blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and the like.

Did you hear the one about the pornographic robocall?

About a week before the general election in 2008, Zane Starkewolf, a Republican candidate for U.S. Congress in California’s First District, sent automated phone messages to 100,000 voters. The recording featured a sultry-voiced woman who moaned as she urged them to choose Starkewolf.

Shaun Dakin, founder and CEO of the National Political Do Not Contact Registry, sprang into action. Dakin monitors Twitter for words like “robocall” and contacts people to hear about their frustrations. By feeding journalists interesting story leads as they happen, Dakin and his organization have garnered attention from USA Today, ABC News, and CNN.

Before the day was out, Dakin had contacted the media and even posted a recording of the call on his site. By the next morning, the story was on all the local radio and TV news shows. And that evening, less than 24 hours later, it was featured on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. A new wave of outraged voters soon signed up with Dakin’s registry.

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Tagged: Business, Business Impact, Twitter, IBM, digital marketing

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