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The Super Bowl is arguably the most important day in advertising, and every year, as much attention is focused on Super Bowl ads as the game itself.

With social media such a big part of brand advertising today, it's no surprise that many observers pay close attention to how social media is used by brands in conjunction with their multi-million dollar Super Bowl ads as outlined in our earlier Super Bowl post.

One of the easiest things to track, of course, is which social networks brands promote their presences on in their ads, and by this measure, Marketing Land's Matt McGee says that Twitter won this year's social media popularity contest.

By McGee's count, Twitter was mentioned in over half of the Super Bowl commercials if one assumes the use of a hashtag to be a reference to Twitter. By comparison, McGee saw Facebook mentions in just 8% of the Super Bowl ads and Google+, which has seemingly gained a lot of traction in the past year, failed to translate that traction into a single Super Bowl appearance.

Twitter beats Facebook where it counts

According to McGee, both Twitter and Facebook were mentioned eight times in the 59 national Super Bowl ads last year. This year, Facebook dropped to four mentions, but Twitter rose to 26.

Interestingly, all of those 26 ads contained the use of a hashtag, which hints at the reason why Twitter's popularity with Super Bowl brands has soared even though its audience is substantially smaller than that of Facebook: Twitter, put simply, is increasingly seen as a more capable media platform than Facebook.

Individuals use Facebook to interact with friends, share and view photos, search for people they know, etc. Yes, they may 'Like' brands from time to time, but make no mistake about it: people are the focus of the Facebook experience. On the other hand, individuals use Twitter to follow what's happening in the world and to post their thoughts about events and media.

The hashtag, of course, became a popular tool for referring to events and media on Twitter. Conveniently, the hashtag also offers brands a means to start conversations and, more importantly, track them.

Loving Twitter for all the wrong reasons?

But should convenience dictate strategy? Small businesses haven't been impressed with Twitter, and even if we assume that the popular service is better-suited to large brands, measuring ROI from social media in general is still a huge challenge many if not most brands have not yet solved.

With this in mind, the apparent focus on Twitter in this year's Super Bowl ads seems potentially misplaced. Facebook is much larger, Google+ and Instagram are rising and YouTube, which was mentioned in just one ad, is, in some ways, has the potential to be a potent social media property for Super Bowl advertisers, was mentioned in just one commercial.

Patricio Robles

Published 4 February, 2013 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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