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« The Rise of the Corporate Transmedia Storyteller | Main | New Twitter Shifts the Car from Neutral into Drive »

Real-time + Face Time = the New Primetime

The following essay is also my column in next week's Advertising Age.

Real-time + Face Time = the New Primetime

One of the realities of the modern era and the age of continuous information streams is that consumers now expect, rather than simply demand, that their needs be addressed in real time. One of my former colleagues summed this up best by calling the phenomenon "The Baby Monitor Principle."

The basic premise is that once an infant knows a baby monitor is in a room and comprehends what it does, he/she begins to use it to their advantage. Babies somehow understand that when they cry, mom or dad will come running to save the day. So they cry some more.

In the digital space, a similar metaphor rings true. Savvy consumers now are well aware that companies are listening in to their conversations on Twitter and Facebook. And some are using it to their advantage. They know that if they're vocal enough and find a community of like minded individuals, brands will eventually have to cater to their needs. Business has evolved by establishing robust digital embassies on platforms like Twitter.

It's not just social media, however, that's encouraging companies to live a far more dynamic existence than they're accustomed to. In many ways, it's also the new mobile services, some social, that are arming consumers with essential real-time information. and changing our behaviors and expectations. 

Consider Red Laser, a popular iPhone application that is owned by eBay (an Edelman client). Red Laser gives consumers the ability to scan bar codes to find cheaper prices. There are countless other apps available for all platforms. As tools like Red Laser become more popular, it's conceivable that retailers will have to empower their personnel at the point of sale to be more nimble in approving just-in-time pricing.

Not sitting on their laurels, retailers are already wisely responding to such empowered consumers by dangling equally attractive alternatives. Macy's, Sports Authority and Best Buy (also an Edelman client), for example, all are aggressively promoting ShopKick. This new platform rewards customers with savings and rewards for using their phones when they are physically in a store or shopping mall.

However, the war doesn't end there. This may end up a game of whack-a-mole as new real-time services continually emerge.

One such technology is LucyPhone, a web site that lets you bypass one of the joys of life - waiting on hold for customer service. Simply dial a consumer 1-800 hotline via LucyPhone, then disconnect the call once you're placed into the holding carousel and they will dial you back once a real human joins the call.

Lastly there's Google Instant - a controversial new offering from the search giant that alters your results in real-time with every letter you type. This immediate feedback mechanism is sure to alter search behaviors over time, forcing marketers to constantly look at how they pivot their content and ads.

Queen Rania of Jordan once said that "real time is the new primetime." And she's right. Business must aspire to operate in real-time, or come as close to it as they possibly can. However, this is just the beginning. Enter face time.

Despite all of the wonders of the modern age that we live in, technology has not diminished the need for human interaction. We still like to see who we're talking to and how they physically react to our questions and concerns.

The coming years will usher in a gaggle of new devices that bring face-to-face communication to our pockets and bring back in vogue. Apple's FaceTime, for example, is a new video communication standard that the company is looking to make available across a number of devices.

The moral of the story here is that every business today must try to catch up to consumers by becoming one that loves living in real time. At the same time, organizations also need to being to stay one step ahead of their customers by leveraging emerging face-to-face technologies before others do.

This two-fisted combo - real-time plus face-time - is the new primetime.

Photo credit: Chris Lamphear via

Reader Comments (8)

This is truly the new consumer world we live in..everything is real time.We should also know how to get customer feedback in real time and based on events or interactions, so that the feedback is specific and will give companies the ability to understand the customer perception and improve, all in real time...

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGiora Gil-Ad

I'm hopeful that "social media" will evolve from another broadcast medium into "social interactions" between peers. It's tools and techniques like you mentioned that will help motivate marketers to evolve.Whether a marketing organization uses one-to-one marketing technologies, or other ways to leverage human interaction, it's time for authentic interaction that helps customers make good purchase decisions.

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCliff Allen

I hope this baby monitor doesn't create spoiled babies...

October 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaurits Dekker

alive the technology, but in moderationBy Toscana

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVilla Toscana

It's so true. Everyone is so used to getting what they need almost instantaneously these days. No one has any patience. Remember the days when you would leave for the store and if someone called you- they had to wait for you to get home and get your message. Now we demand the immediate answers. Expect to reach people regardless of what they are doing at the time. Will be interesting to see how this effects society in the long run- and how business is handled as technology grows.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGina monitor principle actually has a lot of influence on decisions

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBalu

It's pathetic that companies are "forced" to serve true customer needs only when they realize the power of community thru Facebook and Twitter.

October 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChoypw

Great points, Steve. I'd add that social media is a magnifying glass for your existing customer service - both good and bad. I'm fortunate to work for a company (Lands' End) with a rich history of excellent customer service. We use FB, Twitter, Google Alerts, Radian6, etc to find and service customers that may have otherwise not contacted us directly. But those efforts are in addition to the fact that we still have humans right here in Dodgeville, WI answer the phone - usually within the first two rings. In addition, we've been using live text chat for about 10 years and just this week rolled out a new live video chat feature on our site - speaking to the "face to face" needs you mention here I'm highlighting this not to brag (although I am proud of what we do), but to point out that companies that do customer service well have adopted the new social tools just like they adopted the fax, the web and e-mail in the past. Ask yourself this - would you ignore a ringing phone at your business? If you answered "no" then why ignore the tweet, blog, etc.

October 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterericgohs

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