How to Build Your Social Media Activation for the Upcoming Award Season


In a recent post on our blog, we’ve told the history of real-time social and how the role of a community manager has changed over the years. Since 2013, when Oreo – the little cookie that could – seemingly started a revolution in how brands interpret real-time marketing, the need to jump on live activations and put together war rooms for major televised events sky-rocketed. Last year’s Oscar selfie (and most retweeted post ever) only cemented that need further. With award season just around the corner, here are the three steps you need to plan a successful real-time social media activation: listen, prepare and execute.


“Give me great social content or no content at all!” – the consumer, 2014.


The first thing brands need to do is be honest. Do you actually fit into this conversation or are you just trying to make it work? Because consumers are now privy to real-time marketing, which means they’re ruthless and demand quality content within their feed. So if the answer is no, pack your belongings and go home. If it’s yes, let us continue. The most successful brand activation is the one that stealthily and efficiently inserts itself into a non-branded conversation like a quiet zinger that makes everyone feel something. You have to be a good listener as a brand and choose to speak softly and not shout over the rest. 

See? Zing. (Arby’s on Pharrell’s giant hat at the 2014 Grammy’s)

Strategic thinking plays a big role in deciding whether or not your brand’s voice is fit for the event. Before drafting your strategy plan, answer this question: “Why should the audience care if your brand is in the conversation?” Do you have something to add, or are you just contributing to the already noisy atmosphere? Speaking to your audience in a relevant way when they are the most receptive is going to propel your brand forward. Basically, when it comes to real-time posts, it’s NOT about your brand. It’s about what your brand has to say about the event. Don’t feel compelled to hit the “tweet” button if what you have to say is irrelevant. Because this could happen:

Say what, Sprint?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But then, if you’re listening hard enough about what people are saying – like Pharrell’s hat and Arby’s amazing response – then you could even respond TO THE TWEET ABOUT THE THING. Like Hyundai’s Tweet-ception:

This is starting to get complicated. My brain hurts.


It’s no surprise that some of the most successful real-time social media activations seem seamless. Their timeliness is incredible and you’re left wondering how the hell did a brand think on its feet that quickly. Well, aside from the Sunday night (or whatever night your event airs), this brand’s social media team has also spent countless hours preparing and planning for the big night. If it’s an award show you’re live-tweeting, you’ll need pre-approved tweets/content for every possible winner. That means if there are 5 nominees in a category, 4 of your brilliant ideas will never see the light of day. Deal with it. Also try to think of as many scenarios as you can that might be worth talking about (i.e. people tripping – looking at you J.Law). Pre-planned doesn’t mean it has to be boring, though. Still engage, surprise and delight fans with content that feels organic to the conversation.

Pre-planned idea from Olay, but tied within real-time aesthetics, like the purple smoke that donned Beyonce’s performance at the 2014 Grammy’s.

If you have a team member on the ground capturing content – GREAT! Your audience is bound to love your exclusive content even more – make sure he or she can do a run-through of the area before go-time and have an idea of when and where they’ll be capturing content. You want to surprise your audience, not your team members.

Can you think of a better audience surprise? Ok, maybe a pizza delivery during the Oscar’s. But Samsung later claimed the plug over the star-studded selfie. But we didn’t care, the tweet had already broken the Internet even before Kim K’s butt.


If you have media dollars to place on content, wait a few minutes to allocate it until you see the immediate organic reaction your audience yields after it goes live. If a tweet is outperforming another tremendously just organically, then you’re likely better off to choose it for promotion. Pay attention to trending topics and occurrences you simply could not prepare for, and have a team ready to brainstorm on how to react immediately.  

NASA really wanted Gravity to win an Oscar. No wonder, this is a perfect and elegant nod to the win. *Golf claps*

Within your war room team, delegate roles and duties. One fast designer to create images on the fly. A team of creative-thinkers to think up those ideas. The community manager who will be managing the content and pushing it live. And for the love of Pete, a client or someone from the brand appointed to approve ideas ON THE FLY. Do NOT rely on “I’ll call you if I need something approved.” Sorry, Mr. Client, you’ll need to give up your Sunday night, too.

Is My Brand Ready to Be The Next Oreo?

No. That’s done already. Your brand, however, has the chance to prepare, listen and execute content like a pro for the upcoming award show season in its own unique way. There is always room to innovate and think outside the box when it comes to real-time social. Invest the time and effort into it and who knows? You may even one day see more retweets than Ellen’s selfie. But if all else fails and you can’t come up with a decent plan, do yourself, your brand and especially your audience all a favor and do take the Oreo road.

When you’re at the top, there’s nowhere to go but down. So just chill. 

Now that you have the three steps you need to plan a successful real-time social media activation, go out there and listen, prepare and execute!

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