Marketers are now at a critical junction in determining their course through the real-time marketing landscape. The approach includes search, social, and content, but to an even greater extent, it requires this real-time presence to meet the expectation of your audience. While the Internet has always been real-time, we are just now at a point where we can truly say that society is indeed networked. Going real-time is not a choice, but rather the new rule of the game.
But I'm not the only one who understands this reality. In fact, back in the 1990s, a scholar named Dr. Manuel Castells understood the Internet as a real-time medium, one that transcends previous common notions of communication through time. His ideas go way beyond the implications of publishers and business, but understanding his key theories can help you understand the importance and true nature of the Internet as a real-time network, and activate your business accordingly.
Dr. Castells is a sociologist and philosopher who found himself in the position to study the implications of what was happening in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, and he is widely credited with writing one of the definitive academic works on the implications of networks and the Internet on society and economies as whole. Working under the impression that his health was quickly failing, in the 1990s he barreled through and wrote a trilogy of books called “The Information Age.” The first book is called the”The Rise of the Network Society,” and it forms the intellectual basis of real-time marketing as well as my recently published book, “Search and Social: The Definitive Guide to Real-Time Content.”
In “Rise of the Network Society,” Castells went deep into the economic and societal implications of a society connected in real-time. In this book, he also discussed his theory of the space of flows, which describes new network communication flows through time, connections that transcend the space of places, or communications oriented by physical proximity. The short of it from a marketing perspective is that the web has always been real-time, even though technologies have gradually caught up, and marketers are still trying to grasp the meaning and importance of instilling a true real-time presence on the web.
Some businesses that embrace real-time will thrive, and others who ignore may die off, leaving room for new players to emerge. Yes, we have sporadic examples of real “always-on” businesses. Zappos kills it on Twitter with more than 1,000 employees active in that space. Amazon is taking out businesses every day that stand in its way, simply because Amazon understand new media, technology, and the real-time needs of its customers and audience. So Castells demonstrated early on that networks are inherently real-time, and they change everything. It’s almost 2013. What is your business waiting for?