Social Media Superbowl 2009

Superbowls are always fun, but the last Superbowl in 2008 was quite different. A couple of us cordially hosted by Brian Solis – including Chris Heuer, Ben Metcalfe, Jeremiah Owyang, Steph Agresta, Darryl Siry and I took our living room chat to Twitter along with thousands of others. Jeremiah had a neat idea: it would be terrific to quantify the word freqency and overall reaction of game and ad watchers. As we ran down the timer in the 4th quarter, Jeremiah and Josh Bernoff were busy pecking away at spreadsheets on opposite coasts compiling all the posts containing the #superbowlads identifier. That was the beginning of the Social Superbowl.

We found that the online conversation became part of the game’s “content” – watching the game became much more fun if you were able to watch some joker you’ve never met on the other side of the country drop a funny missive during the game. Beyond the fun factor, we also realized microblogs could become a powerful real-time feedback loop for superbowl ad space buyers.  The NFL has too – their staff used Twitter during the Superbowl.

So building up last year’s “Twitterbowl”, Brian extended the idea beyond spreadsheets this year using the Social Too productivity suite, which extends a number of analytical tools to Twitter, Identi.ca, and Facebook. SocialToo’s people were involved in spreading the rules of the experiment as well. Now, admittedly social media analytics tools are still in the nascent stages, but we’re already beginning to mirror offline interactions online. More importantly, we are beginning to see metrics develop  around those conversations. This year, savvy marketers were able to tap in directly in real-time whether through SocialToo or Hulu.

How it Worked

There were basically three guidelines to participation, and roughly 9,000 (at the time of this post) individuals participated. A relatively small sample, but large enough to be significant for marketing research. The rules, posted here, were as follows:

1) If you want to participate, you can discuss the ads on twitter, (feel free to say why you love/hate it) and be sure to tag it: #superbowlads. Dont’ have a twitter account? start here.

2) Then when you’re done, be sure to rate your favorite ad using this survey. (notice this page will show all the tweets tagged #superbowlads.

3) Throw back a few cold ones, clown on your friends, and talk some smack on twitter and in real life! Have fun!

The Result

The result was both a qualitative stream of representative messages as well as a poll where participants voted on their favorite Superbowl ad. As of this writing, more viewers enjoyed (and voted for) the Transformers movie ad, as shown below.

Of course, each of the ads can be linked to directly for quick reference. For instance, here’s the ad I voted for, which I found particularly creative:

Qualitative feedback can also be obtained directly. For the above ad, distinct patterns emerged around word choices – specifically “brilliant” and “creative” were word choices I found as I combed through the message stream. The message below is representative:

Some viewers felt that the domain registrar GoDaddy placed ads which were distasteful, while others amusingly noted that they know their target audience and are appealing to them:

All of this leads us to the following key takeaway here..

You Are No Longer in Complete Control of Your Brand

If you’re a marketing or ad exec, I’m not suggesting that your marketing and PR efforts are useless, only that there are now many factors outside your control which influence public opinion of your brand. It is no longer an option to ignore the online conversation. If you’re working with a marketing, PR or ad agency, as them what their strategy around social media and brand promotion is.  Ask them how they plan to monitor opinions which impact your brand, especially around advertising and community outreach events. If they are not sure what you mean, print this post out and show it to them. If they believe social media has negligible impact on your brand, ask them to reconsider. The good news is that extracting metrics around conversations and word frequency is getting easier for nontechnical users, allowing anyone to have a rich feed of data on what customers’ reactions are to advertising and marketing efforts. The best part is it’s free for the taking – which will make the bean counters happy in this economy.

Update: The New York Times has done a great job of adding a time dimension cross referenced to a map of word frequency across Twitter during the Superbowl here.

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