Real-time Engagement Using Social Media: The Qualtrics Case

By Dr. Todd Bacile | August 21, 2013

Social Media Engagement

A benefit that social media has over mass media is the ability to hypertarget individual consumers. While much is made of hypertargeting advertisements, another non-invasive communication strategy is for a brand to engage with consumers in real-time, as needed by an individual person. Personalized content relevant to a segment of one person.

For marketers to successfully engage consumers via social channels in this manner, a brand must provide context-specific relevant information, when and where a consumer needs it. Jay Baer refers to such highly useful content with his conceptualization of Youtility. To provide useful information in this manner takes more than hypertargeting advertisements: it requires a firm to provide helpful information a consumer would like to see at a particular moment.

For a firm to truly achieve relevance, authenticity, helpfulness, and information availability when needed by a consumer requires real-time engagement. A simple operationalized example happened to me in a Tweet chat last week. Here is a recap of how one firm successfully engaged consumers in real-time.

Qualtrics: Real-time Engagement

Among the ways I use Twitter is to participate in Tweet chats and help others by answering questions. Tweet chats are easily facilitated using a hashtag on Twitter. One chat I participate in is the #AskAngel tweet chat every Tuesday from 2:00-3:00 pm EST hosted by @afmarcom. The thing I love about this chat is the range of questions people ask, along with the helpful people who choose to answer. Below is a snippet of last week’s #AskAngel chat, where Holly posed a question for the group:

Real-time engagement with

The screenshots from the #AskAngel Tweet chat depict an organic (i.e. non-paid) real-time conversation about a brand as discussed by consumers. The conversation continues with retweets, replies, and favorites as the conversation unfolds:

Real-time engagement 4

Brands understand that mining social conversations can produce useful marketing information. However, Qualtrics took this one step further by joining in the conversation in real-time as it was unfolding.

Real-time engagement 6

The customer service people manning the Qualtrics Twitter handle tactfully jumped into the conversation in real-time. The above conversation achieves several things for Qualtrics. First, the brand is exposed to in-depth qualitative data about what consumers like about its product. Second, consumer-endorsed positive word-of-mouth is exchanged among several people; and retweeted or shared to other social networks and followers. Third, Qualtrics provides a useful resource (a link to their online Qualtrics University) when another curious consumer asks for more information. This was most likely totally unexpected by the Tweet chat participants!

There is a certain “Wow” factor associated with such an exchange. It shows the brand is listening, cares about helping consumers, and does not use a sales pitch in an effort to close a sale. It is real-time social media engagement strategies such as the one pulled off by Qualtrics that enables brands to begin to build relationships with consumers.

Dr. Todd Bacile (@toddbacile) is a Marketing Professor at Loyola University New Orleans and holds a Ph.D. in Marketing from Florida State University. Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. Have a question or comment? Post it here and you will receive a response.


7 thoughts on “Real-time Engagement Using Social Media: The Qualtrics Case

  1. To me that’s not “wow” but expected. I can tweet about most companies and they will join in. Even stodgy Sears replied within an hour.

    Qualtrics got $70mln in VC funding so I assume they have a person who sits there and monitors social media all day.


    • Jim: I agree that responding to customer comments and inquiries is expected by today’s connected consumer. However, what is less expected by many is for a company to jump into a conversation in real-time when comments or questions are not directed to the firm. As you know social conversations can be brief and fleeting before shifting on to other topics. A well-timed helpful, authentic, and relevant response by a brand, when it is not expected, is an under-used strategy, in my opinion. But you are correct: the huge dollars being sunk into social technologies is enabling brands to shift resources to be able to pull off such a strategy. In 2-4 years I would hope real-time engagement becomes the norm, just as one expects to receive a response to an email or voice message. Thank you for the insightful comments!


  2. I didn’t know about company’s engaging in this way. It seems like a great idea. Qualtrics really gets integrating social media and marketing. At the same account, they’re providing some good customer service! I think there will be a new job description specified for social media experts in many companies. Do you think there is a need for such an employee?


    • Rachel: social media marketing/advertising has created a unique need in the business landscape. All of a sudden we now see that “customer service” skills and personnel must have a role in these public marketing/advertising channels. I believe that firms are now realizing this, which is forcing companies to revamp operational structures to make sure customer service has an active seat at the table. Thanks for your comment!


  3. Pingback: Butting In or Business? | Rachel Lea Simpkins

  4. Pingback: Todd Bacile's Marketing Blog | Search Marketing and Social Commerce: Location (i.e., Click) is Everything

  5. Pingback: Todd Bacile's Marketing Blog | Social Media Complaints: An Example of the Tip of the Iceberg Effect

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s