Lessons in 24/7 marketing


The Guardian recently published this article by me about what the approach of Bauer Media’s new lifestyle magazine The Debrief can teach marketers. They’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce it in full below. 

If you’ve been thrown into a panic to publish a branded #bendgate or #royalbaby tweet, brace yourself. The Debrief, Bauer Media’s new lifestyle magazine for 20-something women, has raised the stakes from ‘real-time’ to ‘any time’ with a radical publishing model to mirror its readers’ 24/7 behaviours. In a time when use of online and social media means consumers are ‘always on’, here are the lessons marketers need to learn from the cutting edge of publishing.

Stop thinking 9-5 and start thinking 24/7
The Debrief has a 24-hour team, working out of offices in London and New York. That means it’s ready to jump on the conversations that matter to its audience, as they happen (and while their competitors are sleeping). Brands can learn from this approach.

Your brand might not need  transatlantic cover, but deploying the right resource at the right time can give you the competitive edge – think about Oreo’s Super Bowl coup. We’ve seen fan tweets convert into a sale for everything from strappy sandals to the Jaguar XF – if they’re caught at the right moment. Opportunities for effective marketing don’t always fall within office hours; if you’re not part of the right conversations at the right time, you could be missing out.

Tailor your content to your audience’s behavior, habits and mood
If you’re a cider brand, you might find you have more impact tweeting to fans as they’re heading to the pub on a Saturday evening, than sending them an hilarious tweet at 10:30am on a Wednesday, when they’re probably at work without access to social media.

The Debrief looked at the lifestyle patterns of its 20-something female audience and designed content to suit them; so, long-form articles go live at lunchtime; news is aggregated, to make it easier for busy women to consume, quickly and the site gets a post-watershed refresh every night at ‘sex-o’clock’. Understand your customer’s routines and not only can you make your messaging more effective, you can make it a welcome addition to their day.

Use tools to jump on big stories before they break
The Debrief talked about using forecasting tools and trend-watching to anticipate important topics and inform its content. In the crowded territory of content marketing, if you want to be an authority, or even a valid voice in your customers’ online conversations, it pays to to be ahead of the game. Or to put it another way, by the time a story is trending, it’s already going cold. Think about where the stories that connect your brand to your audience might come from. Do you need to be reactive to news-stories? Do you need to be cutting-edge? And if you can’t predict the future – can you create it?

Use data to make your content hyper-relevant
Getting a feature live is just the beginning; The Debrief has explained how real-time data will be used to evolve the publication’s editorial and commercial offerings. Data analysis and a ‘test-and-learn’ mantra have long been weapons in the arsenal of excellent digital publishers; BBC Good Food dominates your recipe search results because it is a master of SEO and BuzzFeed’s director of data science, Ky Harlin has been described as the publisher’s ‘secret weapon’.

Every time you post, you have an opportunity to find out something about your audience, and how to communicate with them. Measuring the data around post performance lets you adjust the tone, content, format and length, even the time of day you publish your work, to help you get the right message to the right people at the right time.

Crew up properly – don’t leave it to the intern
Great writers, social influencers and brilliant editors handle every element of The Debrief content offering from features, tweets and snaps to advertising content via selected brand partnerships; (this last element proving controversial with the traditional editorial community). This commitment makes sure every interaction is consistent, high quality and delivered by skilled professionals.

Social media is a competitive and cluttered space; the most successful brands, the flag-wavers, like Burberry, Red Bull and adidas, invest in storytelling talent, and give them the time to create something tactically and creatively strong. The idea that ‘social media is free’ is painfully outdated. If you’re scrimping on skill, you’re wasting the opportunity to make every touchpoint you have with your consumers count. And that’s a fool’s economy.