Classic answer to this classic question is Depends!
With technology at hand and data accessible and flowing continuously, it is important to understand what Real Time means for your business and what it should be for a particular situation.
In case of customer service, where companies are answering questions of customers and looking into their issues one customer at a time, or in other words when you are in the business of Real Time Support, Real Time should be instantaneous. A lag of even minutes is a bit too long and if that gets to days, you better pray that that customer issue doesn’t take form of the next phenomenon like United Breaks Guitar.
If you are a marketing manager running a campaign, Real Time analysis should have a bit different meaning for you. What you want to do here is to gauge consumer reaction to your campaign. You want to understand where consumers are noticing your advertisement, out of the three versions of the advertisement you dropped which one is getting the best reception, should you worry about anything not going as planned and what should you do to adjust the campaign. In this case, Real Time is getting answers to these questions based on expert analysis. If you are in top gear with your campaign, this should be within (or every) 72 to 96 hours and this should vary based on the stage of your campaign. The real deal here is to get actionable insights after proper analysis of consumer data.
Then there is a scenario where you want to analyze your brand in the industry. What people are liking about it, what they are not. Where you are being considered better or worse than your competition. The idea is to get the reputation of your brand so that it your team can take steps to better plan the brand’s positioning and take actions as required. The Real Time in this case is a couple of weeks. The idea is to get statistically relevant information, make sure the analysis is fool proof and the landscape is properly analyzed with taking input from various stakeholders having an impact on your brand.
With the advent of social media and rise of participation in online conversations, Real Time has become more of a buzz word. Real Time for the sake of it doesn’t add any value. If you get to see a dump of data flowing in as people converse on the web, it might look cool, but in most situations where you are looking to analyze the information and take decisions based on these consumer insights, you better take a breather and let the data be analyzed and presented to you in a format that is easy to consume and has actionable takeaways for your business.