The Super Bowl may have set a record for Twitter, but it was a tougher game for companies trying to score big on social media.
Sunday's Super Bowl game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos was a blowout so it may have been a bit of a letdown for football fans around the country. But it wasn't a letdown for social media.
As fans snacked on dip and hot wings in their friends' living rooms, they tweeted and posted comments about their parties and about big plays, as well as big goofs, in the game.
"Twitter has evolved into the premier fast-twitch social media tool," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "Don't like that referee call or loved the play? Tweet it and receive instant feedback across the nation. It's very easy to turn away and tweet for 45 seconds."
Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner, Inc., noted that for big events, like the Super Bowl, it's no longer enough to just cheer and jeer with the people sitting next to you. People want to reach out to a wider audience.
"The Super Bowl has been a very popular event for decades," Blau said. "Combine that with how social networking is growing today and it makes sense that more people are going to be turning to online communications for sharing their own personal feelings and thoughts about what they're seeing on television."
Twitter reported more than 24.9 million tweets were posted about the game and halftime show. Despite the one-sided game and the lack of a mid-game blackout, the Super Bowl garnered more tweets than last year's game, which brought in 24.1 million tweets.
Companies, like Volkswagen, Tide and Priceline, were trying to make sure some of those tweets focused on their own brands.
Volkswagen, for instance, had set up a war room filled with social media monitors, actors, writers and a production crew so they could catch any big trending topics on Twitter and take advantage of them by coming out with their own related tweets and videos.
For instance, when Denver was showing little progress against a dominant Seattle, Volkswagen tweeted, "Hang in there, Denver," and posted an 11-second YouTube video of two Volkswagen engineers furiously trying to come up with a solution to Denver's losing problem.
Luckily for Volkswagen, just minutes later, Denver finally got some points on the score board and the company answered with, "Denver fans: Our plan is working! That's the power of German engineering. #Touchdown."
Raashee Erry, media and connections planning manager for Volkswagen, said their timing was spot on.
"It was in line with our strategy," she told Computerworld. "We weren't playing favorites, but we saw an opportunity to boost the conversation, boost the momentum... We had a lot of fun. We got what we set forth to do and all in all it went really well."
Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said you have to give companies credit for putting themselves out there on social networks.
"It's a smart strategy and can really pay off in terms of visibility if the company comes up with something that hits the right chord with viewers," he said. "It's the corporate equivalent of improvisational comedy, which isn't a skill that most companies foster in their ranks or recognize when they see it. Being funny in real time is one of the most difficult feats in entertainment, or in your own living room, so I gotta respect their effort."
The issue, though, was that Olds hadn't noticed Volkswagen's efforts.
"Maybe I was stuffing BBQ chips in my face and missed it," he said. "But looking at the videos today, they're not bad at all. I think that maybe they didn't promote these vids enough."
Volkswagen worked hard but it's unclear if they came up with a clearly huge win.
Nabisco grabbed the spotlight during the 2013 Super Bowl by quickly, and cleverly, jumping on the fact that the lights went out in the stadium during the game with an Oreo twitpic about dunking in the dark. That one tweet and image had people talking about Oreo for days.
Despite its war room, Volkswagen came out with clever tweets but nothing that garnered the same amount of attention.
For instance, their tweet telling Denver to hang in there had 107 retweets and was favorited 131 times.
In comparison, Oreo's dunking in the dark tweet and twitpic had nearly 15,000 retweets and had been favorited more than 5,000 times by the next day.
Volkswagen is measuring their success with a wide range of variables.
The company noted that it gained 1,900 new Facebook users during the game, reaching more than 1,995,000 users total. The company also gained 700 new Twitter followers, reaching more than 232,000.
"We're talking about a gain in a few hours," said Erry. "It's engagement. It's mentions. It's conversations we're gaining. It's an overall engagement with the brand. Collectively, we deem this as a great night."
She added the company hasn't decided whether to pull together another war room for the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, which begins this week.
This article, Super Bowl slams Twitter as Volkswagen launches social war room, was originally published at Computerworld.com.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is email@example.com.
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