The Super Bowl and the state of the #hashtag

I watch the Super Bowl mostly for the commercials and occasionally for the halftime show. When a 30 second spot sells for $5 million, as it did this year, it becomes a showcase for the creative talents of brands and their agencies. There are almost always a few truly amazing ads. Two years ago a survey revealed that a whopping 78% of Americans look forward to the ads more than the game, which seems way to high, but there are an awful lot of you like me out there.

The interesting aspect, especially across the years, is how brands try to drive further discussion after their ad has aired. In recent years, of course, the conversation has continued online, which started by including an AOL keyword back in the 90s, then including a URL, then a Facebook page, then a Twitter handle, with a few other platforms mentioned sparingly along the way (this year it and last it was Snapchat.) Last year, I counted every mention in every ad and then realized that Danny Sullivan at Marketing Land does a much better job spotting the mentions in each ad than me. This year, I just looked at his results, which were inline with what I noticed during the game: not that many mentions of social media handles but many mentions of campaign or brand specific hashtags. In fact, out of 60 ads, 45% had hashtags (though down from 57% in 2014 and 50% last year) and 35% had URLs. Only 3 ads had a Twitter handle and 3 mentioned Facebook. Clearly, though, the hashtag is seen as the most efficient way to create an instantly memorable phrase that can then extend the campaign or brand identity online. When users incorporate the exact hashtag into their post, it effectively ties into that campaign and the conversation continues around it, no matter what platform is used.

instgram suggested hashtagsSeeing that the “right” hashtag has increasing significance for advertising, it’s interesting to note that platforms are making it easier for users to use the right one. Twitter ranks suggested hashtags by popularity (for a few days just typing the # would suggest #SB50, the most popular hashtag this week) making including the right hashtag easy and fast. Instagram adss the number of mentions a hashtag has, making it easy to see which ones are more popular. Instagram also reminds uses of the latest hashtags they used, which I found useful. Both Twitter and Instagram are taking steps to ensure that users don’t have to think that much about using the right hashtag, which all goes to show  how important it has become since its first mention in 2007 and incorporation in 2009.

Finally, another interesting stat is this one from Twitter’s earning call today:

While we can say that the hashtag is ubiquitous, it’s Twitter that hosted the conversation around this year’s Super Bowl commercials.

Only 360 days until Super Bowl 51.


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