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In a digital world characterized by rapid communication, the ability to be fast, agile and meaningful is quickly becoming the norm. A still image, an article, a video, or a social media post – whatever the medium – it's the influence of the message and the timing of its delivery that matter most.

Start a conversation

Can you figure out how to get one going, or are you simply partaking in a conversation that already exists? Sure, companies are contributing to the dialogue, but how meaningful is a post about a global event such as the Grammy awards, the anniversary of 9/11, or the birth of the royal baby when it sounds like all the others?

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Such involvement lacks effort. Rather than doing the "typical" and following the most talked about trends and events around the world, hone in on your industry and on events that are pertinent to your target market.

Be topical

Be in the know about conversations that somehow, some way relate to your brand. If you're a fashion designer, maybe it's the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show or Toronto Fashion Week, or something as small as a community networking event. If you're an ice cream brand, have a real-time presence on Instagram and Twitter on National Ice Cream Day – but say more than "Have a great ice dream day."

You could create a hilarious video with clips of kids enjoying ice cream in the messiest of ways, or design a still image that uses ice cream to portray some sort of "bigger picture." As an expert in your field, it's up to you to create meaningful content that resonates with your audience and generates a response.

Real-time marketing has gained a lot of steam since Oreo tweeted during the blackout at the 2013 Super Bowl. Now brands are racing to follow suit when big events make their way to the forefront of popular culture. But many are missing a key piece of the puzzle: their own relevance to the discussion.

Play to your strengths and lead the conversation. My company has participated in the online discussion around Nuit Blanche, a free, all-night contemporary art event held every year in Toronto. Our on-foot team captures live footage of every installation and feeds that footage back to the studio in real time throughout the night.

We aim to make great video content, and at Nuit Blanche is, we create something bigger that aligns with our brand message and showcases something we are an authority on.

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But you don't need to be able to shoot and edit a video to be a part of the dialogue. A simple tweet can work as long as it aligns with your brand image and audience. Lee Jeans hit the mark on a tweet that was posted in response to Nick Wallenda's YouTube video of his tightrope-walking stunt across the Grand Canyon.

As one million users engaged in the conversation, many of whom commented on his decision to wear boot-cut jeans that flapped in the wind, Lee Jeans chimed in with this clever post: "Denim: preferred by cowboys, rockstars and @NikWallenda #skywire."

Old Spice certainly mastered the art of real time marketing with its "Old Spice Man" social media campaign. A series of videos were created in record time that not only stayed true to the bizarre humour of the Old Spice Man character, but also interacted with celebrities and general social media users. Engagement hit unprecedented levels and sales increased more than 100 per cent in the month following the viral campaign.

So why isn't every brand doing this? Because real-time marketing success doesn't happen by fluke, nor does it happen overnight. Companies must do their research, plan, and prepared to act fast, think clever, and engage the greatest possible audience at the moment it matters most. Don't settle for being part of the conversation – lead it. Lead it with quality, insight, wit or whatever other expert advantage your brand has over the general masses.

And here's the best part: small and medium-sized businesses are in a far more favourable position to execute real-time marketing campaigns than larger brands. Why? Because they're not bogged down by complicated hierarchies and long chains of command.

SMBs have fewer barriers to the instant release of content. They must simply be ready to tell great stories and deliver meaningful messages. They must be willing to find the perfect balance between quality content, targeted relevance and timely delivery. And in the world of rapid marketing, this is a huge advantage too often overlooked by the small guys.

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Especially now that so many brands are doing an awful job of creating messages that really 'click' with their audiences, the door is open for other brands to do it right.

Dan Demsky is the co-founder of BizMedia, a digital video agency in Toronto, and a partner at dbrand, a manufacturer of accessories for handheld devices and video game controllers.

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