Sorry, Google+ Users, Those Super Bowl Hashtags Really Were For Twitter

Google+ IconSoon after our post about Twitter being referenced in 50% of Super Bowl commercials, and Google+ being shut-out, the Google+ defenders started complaining. Since Google+ supports hashtags, was our analysis biased toward Twitter? Nope, some further analysis shows.

You can see some of the complaints in the comments to our original post, and I received a few when I shared our story to Google+ yesterday. As a result of that, I started doing some counting yesterday, to see if those hashtags really were aimed at Google or not.

The 19 Brands Using Hashtags In Super Bowl Ads

There were 19 brands that used hashtags in Super Bowl commercials. Matt McGee, in his original post, considered that indicative that a brand was targeting Twitter. He also did count other things like if a Twitter logo or a Twitter account handle was also used. The brands were:

  1. Audi
  2. Best Buy
  3. Budweiser (Bud Light & Budweiser Clydesdales)
  4. Calvin Klein
  6. Doritos
  7. Fast & Furious
  8. GoDaddy
  9. Hyundai
  10. M&Ms
  11. MiO Fit
  12. Samsung
  13. Speed Stick
  14. Subway
  15. Tide
  16. Toyota
  17. Volkswagen
  18. Wonderful Pistachios

Now, could it be that these brands put these hashtags out in hopes that they’d be used on both Twitter and Google+? I think one fair test is whether the brands themselves are on Google+.

Nearly Half Super Bowl Hashtag Advertisers MIA On Google+

Here’s the rundown. These lack any presence that I can find, either by looking for links to Google+ pages from their own web sites or by searching at Google+:

  1. Budweiser
  2. Calvin Klein
  3. Doritos
  4. Hyundai
  5. M&Ms
  6. MiO Fit
  7. Speed Stick
  8. Tide

Right there, I think it’s fair to say that about half of the hashtag usages in Super Bowl ads weren’t somehow aimed at both Google+ and Twitter. In fact, for a social network that’s supposedly now the second largest with users, it’s pretty bad that about half of these brands aren’t on Google+ at all. They consider it worthwhile to spend millions to advertise in the Super Bowl, but their marketing budgets don’t extend to cover the time to create and maintain a free account on Google+?

By the way, Hyundai Worldwide is on Google+ but Hyundai USA is not, which is who ran the Super Bowl ads. So, I’m counting Hyundai as not being on Google+. In addition, Hyundai Worldwide, while it did post during the game, never used a hashtag. There’s also a page that looks like it might be a Doritos page, but it hasn’t posted in ages and also isn’t verified.

Two Verified Brands At Google+ Have Never Used Their Accounts

Next, these brands do have accounts on Google+ but clearly weren’t using the hashtags for Google+ promotion. That’s because, despite the accounts being verified, they have no activity at all. None.

  1. Best Buy
  2. Subway

Perhaps a picture says it better. Here’s how the Best Buy account currently looks:

(7) Best Buy - Google+

Anyone feel like Best Buy using a hashtag in a Super Bowl commercial was really meant to spark hashtag-related discussion on Google+, when Best Buy isn’t even using its verified Google+ account at all? Anyone?

Brands On Google+ But Hashtagless During The Game

Next are brands that do have Google+ accounts but clearly weren’t using the hashtags in their ads to encourage Google+ discussion. Why I feel this way is explained next to each brand:

  1. Audi – it made no posts during the Super Bowl. When I looked yesterday, the last post was Feb. 1. That did have a hashtag in it, but probably because it was mostly parroting what’s happening on Audi’s far more active Twitter account.
  2. – it made a few posts during the game but didn’t use hashtags
  3. Disney Oz — originally, I’d listed this as not being on Google+, but it was pointed out to me. It made no post during the game. The first time it ever posted using a hashtag was today, two days after the game.
  4. Volkswagen – it made a single post with no hashtag
  5. Samsung USA shared nothing during the game. Samsung Mobile USA did share exactly one post on game day, and no hashtag was used.
  6. Fast & Furious – made a few posts on game day, none had a hashtag. Bonus slam: Fast & Furious tells those on Google+ looking for more information to go to its Facebook page. See also: Why You Can’t Find The Official Fast & Furious 6 Web Site In Google & Bing

Again, I don’t come away feeling like any of these brands used hashtags in their Super Bowl ads and seriously considered that this was aimed to target discussion on Google+.

The Three Brands On Google+ That Did Post With Hashtags

That leaves the brands below that are on Google+ and which did use hashtags in their posts:

  1. GoDaddy
  2. Toyota
  3. Wonderful Pistachios

Should those three references be counted in the Google+ column? For those who really believe in Google+, sure. Perhaps that will help them ignore the fact that so many brands that advertised in the Super Bowl aren’t on Google+ at all. But I think it’s still a pretty big stretch to think these brands were thinking of Google+ right alongside Twitter by using the hashtags.

What About Instagram?

I had written most of this post on Monday and even shared some of the stats back to those who commented on our original story that day. I was going to finish it tomorrow, because I wanted time to fully look at another issue — could these brands have been aiming at Instagram?

However, I saw Bobby Grasberger’s post this evening slamming our original article as “rubbish,” since he was convinced any hashtag use is equally applicable to Google+ and Instagram, so I figured I’d get what I had finished off quickly.

The difficulty with Instagram is despite all its moves onto the web, you still can’t seem to go there and search for things, you know, like accounts. That makes it hard to find accounts that may or may not be on it, not quickly. But I gave that a shot just now quickly on my phone, to figure out which brands might be there or not. My rundown:


  1. Audi
  2. Calvin Klein
  3. Fast & Furious
  4. GoDaddy
  5. Hyundai
  6. Toyota (or maybe not; there are many Toyotas)
  7. Volkswagen
  8. Wonderful Pistachios


  1. Best Buy (or maybe not — there seem to be a lot of fake accounts)
  2. Budweiser/Bud Light (or maybe not, as with others, it’s hard to tell)
  4. Disney Oz
  5. Doritos (I think — there are a lot of accounts that come up)
  6. M&Ms
  7. MiO Fit
  8. Speed Stick
  9. Samsung (or maybe not, but I’m pretty sure not)
  10. Subway (or maybe not, again, hard to tell)
  11. Tide

Now, there’s no question that hashtags are popular on Instagram. There’s definitely a valid argument that perhaps hashtags were meant to spark discussion on Instagram as well as Twitter, an argument made stronger if more of those “No” accounts really are on Instagram.

Hashtags = Twitter Buzz Seems Clear

One thing is clear. Every brand that pushed a hashtag in its Super Bowl ad did have a Twitter account. I think it’s pretty obvious those hashtags can be firmly counted as a reference to Twitter.

In contrast, a significant number of brands did not have Instagram or Google+ account. I think it’s pretty obvious this means they weren’t using them to spark much discussion on Google+. On Instagram, I suspect it’s a similar case, but until I can do more research, I’m more open to that.

I do think the hashtags were more about Twitter than Instagram for another reason. Twitter is a place for conversation. As John Gruber highlights Matthew Hunt saying:

The interesting part to me is hashtag=”you should talk about us”, vs. old “go here to see what we have to say.”

Yes, hashtags with ads seem to be about building buzz, building word-of-mouth, and Instagram isn’t word of mouth. Picture of mouth, maybe. And while hashtags could be used for word-of-mouth on Google+, I think I’ve demonstrated that the brands aren’t likely thinking of them for that usage there.

Finally, I fully expect the sometime rabid Google+ defenders to come in screaming. Don’t blame the messenger. I’m on Google+. I think the brands that are not on Google+ are stupid for a variety of reasons, including the direct traffic that Google+ can and does send to sites as well as the benefits it provides with Google search traffic.

But the fact remains that many brands clearly do ignore the social network. I’m sorry for that, but like I said, don’t blame those for reporting what’s sometimes obvious. It’s not our fault.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Facebook: Instagram | Features: The #Hashtag Bowl | Google: Google+ | Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing: Hashtags | Super Bowl | Top News | Twitter


About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Matt McGee

    The discussion has certainly been interesting.

    I’d say this about the idea of brands using hashtags to target Twitter: Oreo was the only brand that specifically targeted Instagram with its Super Bowl TV ad, but that ad did not have a hashtag in it. It clearly wasn’t associating hashtags with Instagram with that ad. Likewise, later in the game when the power went out, Oreo posted that fantastic “newsjacking” image on Twitter, and didn’t put it on Instagram.

    It’s certainly possible that a couple other brands may have made the connection between hashtags and either Instagram or Google+, and I should’ve mentioned in my article that hashtags are part of both those platforms (though they were part of Twitter long before either one). So that was a mistake on my part to not mention that.

    I have to stick with the folks that actually work with major brands and measure this stuff, like Bluefin Labs (just acquired by Twitter), which said on Tuesday that “Twitter is the platform where the overwhelming majority ­– about 95% – of public real-time engagement with TV happens.” Brands know that data. Brands work with Twitter’s media team to learn how to take advantage of that engagement opportunity. So when they advertise a hashtag, they’re targeting Twitter users. And if they get any traction with that other 5% of real-time TV engagement, that’s a bonus.

  • Tim Acheson

    Dude, there were no posts whatsoever on Google+ with these hashtags. I have checked all of them and can confirm that it was tumbleweeds during the event and it still is now.

    By claiming that these hashtags were intended for Google+, the corporation’s characteristically fanatical defenders have succeeded only in highlighting the fact that the platform is dead. They’re not delusional or in denial; they’re merely disingenuous — nobody seriously believes that these hashtags were for G+. These are the same people who solemnly pretend that G+ has “more active users than Twitter”, and insist that of course the only reason why even Google’s own staff don’t seem to be using it is because there’s loads of activity it’s just all done secretly in “private” posts. Like all the best propaganda, the attempted deception is so bold that it’s hard to believe anyone would make up such brazen falsehoods.

    Google+ is an epic fail, as expected, like Buzz, Wave, etc. Google and its fanboys are conspicuously flogging a proverbial dead horse. It’s embarrassing to watch.

  • Tim Acheson

    Dud let’s get real. Nobody was using these hashtags on Google+.

  • Danny Sullivan

    I actually found three of the brands listed posted with their Super Bowl hashtags. That’s covered in one of the sections above. Most did not. A few spot checks show that some individuals also shared information based on hashtags they saw, but it seems nowhere near the level as on Twitter. In part, I think that’s because if the brand isn’t sharing that way, it doesn’t motivate others to do the same.

  • Max Minzer

    Biased G+ [highly] active user here…
    What are we talking about here? G+ is not in the mainstream media yet. It’s getting stronger and stronger but it’s still battling with tons of skepticism from outside. I wouldn’t expect anyone to interact with brands on G+ during Super Bawl this year. I think it’s too early for that…

  • Tim Acheson

    This is an excellent piece of research — thorough and conclusive.

    Everything Google says needs to be fact checked. You cannot take anything said by them or their fanatical loyalists at face value. It’s reassuring to see that people are realizing this.

  • Danny Sullivan

    I agree. It’s not mainstream, at least in terms of advertisers feeling they should use it within their ads. That was what the original article was showing. It’s just that some questioned whether that was unfairly not counting Google+ mentions, in some way.

  • Tim Acheson

    I checked Google+ for the top 10 from your recent list of superbowl ad hashtags. Google+ was dead for these hashtags.

    Like #betterwithmms which in the history of Google+ has only ever had one post — which is an empty post devoid of any content, from some random guy. The same guy actually posted 50 empty posts during the superbowl, none of which had any content other than one or two hashtags. Like a fake account designed to make it look like there was activity during the superbowl. He has 9 people in his circles (one of whom is an official Google account). He also has a Twitter account, which mirrored his activity on G+. He follows 520 people on Twitter, an d 376 people on Facebook.

    Looking at all Superbowl ad hashtags together on Google+, there’s only a handful of posts (some of which look like auto posts cross-posting to all platforms as you mentioned) — but there is an interesting pattern. It’s the same small handful of people doing the posting. In fact, all but two of those who posted Superbowl ad hashtags were people I already had in my own circles — SMALL WORLD!

  • Tim Acheson

    Google+ is plagued by fake accounts and Spambots.

    It seems Google is happy to count Spam accounts and posts if it makes their platform seem more active. Too desperate. Epic fail.

    A cross-section of Google’s proudly boasted “active-users” on Google+ — e.g. the first which is blatantly a Spambot account with 30 followers:

    It would not matter so much if Google+ had more genuine active accounts. But the few that do exist are buried beneath the tide of spam. Apparentyl not everyone can identify Spam, perhaps peferring to belieive that the hot babe in the profile photo really does want to follow them — because Google+ Spam accounts do seem to attract followers, it’s a really sad reflection of G+ users.

  • Mark Traphagen

    I think this shows two things:

    1) Brands not using Google+ are missing an opportunity to build a community where there competition isn’t. There are brands that are doing this to great benefit.

    2) Twitter owns the second screen, and rightfully so. It’s the easiest place to do the kind of in the moment quick reactions that hashtag ads are aimed at.

  • Andrew Stein

    In the end, it takes three things to make a platform, and from the start, Google has missed the biggest one. One feels that Google is getting the structure and foundation right, and will deliver on the third item, eventually, but as time goes on, it looks more and more like Google+ is the first “closed” system from Google. What’s missing to make Google+ a ubiquitous brand platform? APIs that allow a third party community to develop mainstream marketing applications and social tools that fit large and niche needs. A good read on “platforms” is found from Harvard Business School at: See the item called “Toolbox.” Google+ has the other items, but the toolbox is the key to ubiquity, both in terms of “brand” (a la the Superbowl) and also in terms of everything else. Ask any of your “social media” tools providers what they are hearing from Google…, “crickets”… will likely be the answer.

  • Jesse Stay

    Re: Instagram, Oreo asked people to vote on Instagram in their Superbowl commercial – not sure I saw any references to the Oreo campaign.

    I think what this shows is marketers just haven’t figured out Google+ yet. Google has some work cut out for them.

  • Brett

    Regardless of the channel, the one thing that confused me about the advertisers’ social media tie-ins on Super Bowl commercials is how they all waited until the final second of their spots to show a hashtag, URL, etc. Why not show it throughout so that people have time to see it? My analysis on the big game ads:

  • Albert

    Google+ is just yesterday born baby. Leave him alone for now.

  • Alan

    Have a look at how the most powerful man on the planet (and his team) use the 3 social networks.we are discussing.

    Basically fb and twitter daily, G+ once a week on average. Although there are times when it goes months without being updated.

    As I have said before G+ is a place for Web pro’s, SEO’s and Google employee’s to hang out. No matter how much Google stuffs it down their throats the people who influence us (our real friends) will not be on G+ in any meaningful sense in the near future.

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