The pace of content creation is picking up, and new social channels continue to upend how customers connect and communicate with each other, and with brands. Even when teams learn how to effectively brainstorm writing ideas, the digital pulse of content can still feel impossible to match.

According to Smart Insights, a full 500 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube, 3.8 million Google searches are furiously typed, and 3.3 million Facebook posts are enthusiastically created every single minute online. As brands create and publish more content in the hopes of keeping up, truthfully the vast majority can’t help but fall behind.

But how is “real-time” social media any different than good old-fashioned social media?

While posts, comments, hashtags and private messages used to rule the roost, today’s thriving social channels are all being re-built around an obsession with what’s happening at the precise moment you pick up your smartphone. Just look to Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for proof. Live news and streaming events are available on YouTube 24 hours a day. Snapchat stories, Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Twitter Chats have all become prolific drivers of increased user engagement.  

At the same time, augmented reality filters, simplified video editing, emojis plugins, and facial recognition software have turned the dullest of consumers into full-blown content creators. While a few short years ago the average baby boomer thought Facebook was a passing trend, today nearly every one of them spends hours of their week on this same platform.

Social Media is Simply…Media

But what does that mean for brands and their approach to social channels? Social media is simply media. It’s the primary source of information for current and future consumers.

This is obviously an enormous transformation and challenge for marketers who are used to controlling and planning their messaging days or weeks in advance. But, it’s also a booming opportunity. Seizing this new economy of micro-moments can mean engagement with customers on a level never before imagined, and a window into their needs, wants, and desires that brands have yearned to gain for decades.

At the same time, brands and content creators are left with many questions that don’t have simple answers. Questions like:

  • Should I be on Snapchat? Instagram? Facebook?
  • How could I come up with dozens of pictures to share every day?
  • Do B2B companies have any business being on social media?  
  • How can we create live content without screwing it up, or going “off-brand”?
  • Who do I hire to help?

If this apprehension has curbed your own efforts to drive marketing innovation through social media, have no fear; we’ve got five tips from influencers who have found quick success with real-time social media.

1. Be Consistent Above All Else

Social content isn’t something you can tackle in your free time. Each social channel requires a unique approach, and some may even require a marketer dedicated to full-time management of that channel. According to Snapchat influencer Taylor Nikolai, no success is possible without regular publishing on whatever social networks you use.

“Be consistent. I don’t care how good your content is, if you’re not consistent, nobody will care.”

– Taylor Nikolai, Snapchat Influencer, Viral Spark LLC

Building a consistent social presence will increase your exposure and familiarity with your audience. On real-time social channels in particular, consumers expect fast responses. Facebook and Twitter should be helmed throughout the day, with responses to comments and messages coming within a day—ideally, within the hour.

Consistent publishing will maintain visibility and keep consumers engaged, and many platforms are designed to support serialized stories that constantly keep users tuning in: Instagram and Snapchat both offer video platforms that are ideal for sharing serialized content, as opposed to large, single pieces.

Through regular, responsive engagement, you can remain top-of-mind and deepen relationships with your consumers.

2. Don’t Freak When Quality Content is Slower to Develop and Create

Consumers have plenty of distractions as is. Don’t waste their time with uninteresting or copycat content. Meanwhile, the growth of visual-heavy social content is much tougher to publish on a whim. Creating this content takes time, especially if you want it done right.

It’s likely that a commitment to real-time social content will also slow down your pipeline for creating that content. That’s not a bad thing, though: A steadier pace can help you prioritize quality over quantity. Content expert Robert Rose advocates for taking a team-based approach to planning and creating this content.

“Planning now has to take into account a lot more content, and more visual forms of content. And all of this simply takes longer and is more complex. Whether it’s infographics, video or interactive website functionality – teams are now putting more layered efforts into the creation of pieces. However, what hasn’t changed, in large part, are the collaboration processes and workflows used to manage all of that.”

– Robert Rose, Founder, The Content Advisory

3. Embrace Ads to Extend Reach

Any content can benefit from a little amplification. Live video, and real-time content is no exception. Well-timed advertising can help you extend your reach and find a larger audience for your real-time video, photo and overall social experience. Even brands developing webinars, video feeds of keynotes at events, or other real-time consultative content can get incredibly creative in promoting these real-time activities through targeted ads leading up to the big show.

Facebook Live influencer Mari Smith has been able to build her own audience by promoting her video sessions through Facebook ads.

“Facebook ads are the most targeted traffic that your money can buy. You can get your content in front of the exact demographic of person that you’re looking for down to reach, down to zip code, down to age, down to likelihood of purchasing your product and engaging with your content.”

– Mari Smith, Keynote Speaker, Social Media Consultant

But Facebook is far from the only real-time social media marketing opportunity. Twitter can target individuals who watch certain TV shows, including live events. YouTube offers pre-roll ads that can be tied to a big event or moment that just took place, enabling a news-centric strategy in real-time. Snapchat likewise was built around embracing the current moment.

Marketers should be familiar with these diverse products, and their respective strengths and weaknesses, using them to take advantage of real-time opportunities to engage with a select audience.

4. Think Like a Journalist

Creating social content on-the-go requires new skills for marketers. In many cases, marketers need to approach their content creation with a journalistic mindset, instead of a marketer’s mindset. Embrace daily and weekly events, or other opportunities that may have a short lifespan. Tie these events back to relevant brand conversations or consumer interests.

“Publishers don’t plan every piece of content. They commit to a publishing cadence per topic and then find a way to fill that schedule with the best beat writers. The one thing marketers can do to improve their content planning is to stop planning each piece of content. The key to an effective editorial plan is committing to a publishing cadence. Build your content operations so that you can deliver on that cadence (1 post per day or 3 posts per week). This allows you to set an appointment with your audience and focus on the highest quality content but also on a regular schedule.”

Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group

Brenner’s advice can easily be applied to real-time social networks by setting some general parameters for your publishing cadence, while leaving room for creators to choose the specific subject matter, based on what’s happening in real-time. For example, your brand could aim to re-tweet 10 relevant, customer-centric stories per day using a hashtag that shows promising volume. Or, you could set a goal of sharing two surprising industry statistics every day. But don’t stop there!

On Instagram, you could set the simple goal of keeping your Stories active, by having at least one short, customer-centric video or photo uploaded every 24 hours. Once you have some guidelines set regarding publishing cadence and general subject matter, it’s easy to delegate those smaller content decisions to whoever is handling the real-time content creation.

5. Don’t Plan Real-time Content Down to the Last Letter

Make no mistake: Content planning is important. But there’s a certain benefit to allowing for improvisation and organic moments. If you plan your content too tightly, it risks coming off as scripted down to the letter, and that rigidity may be easy to spot for your social audience.

Such an experience is the opposite of what you’re trying to create with real-time social content. So while you need to take time to plan a valuable, engaging, informative piece of content, video influencer Kim Garst encourages brands to be fearless in front of the camera.

“I totally understand how nerve-wracking it can be to do a live broadcast…especially if you haven’t used video a whole lot. And I know that when you’re nervous, having a word-by-word script in front of you can feel really reassuring. Unfortunately, reading off a script kind of defeats the whole purpose of live video. Live video works best when it’s casual, friendly and a bit unpredictable.”

– Kim Garst, Social Selling Pro, Boom! Social

The perfect blend of planning and spontaneity will take some time for every brand to figure out, especially since this balance will be heavily dependent on the audience you’re targeting. But finding equilibrium is important, to say the least. You need an airtight plan to manage your content on real-time social networks. When creating in this fast-moving environment, it’s hard to keep tabs on everything at once.

But if you have a strong content plan in place, you can use it as a reference guide to make sure your strategy stays on the right track.