Will the likes, hashtags and comments equal web visits and sales from this year’s Super Bowl commercials?

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The Super Bowl: the annual, All-American clash of two teams on a football field. While the annual face-off has evolved into a day of enormous eating, drinking and prideful team revelry, it’s also turned into the year’s largest debut of television advertising in the industry. During the first-ever Super Bowl game in 1967, a 60-second commercial cost $40k. That same 60-second ad in today’s game costs $3.75M. With the increase in ad costs and a highly-anticipated debut of commercials that are typically much better than your average ones, viewers look forward to the commercials almost as much as the game.

With the obscene social media growth in the past few years, this year’s Super Bowl ads caused just as much of a flurry of activity on social networks as they did in living rooms across America. Budweiser’s big commercial this year featured an adorable foal who left the Anheuser-Busch clydesdale farm to be one of the brand’s iconic horses in a parade. The commercial invited audience members to name the foal through a series of votes on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and more. Budweiser received over 60,000 tweets, Facebook comments and other messages to help name the baby horse, whose name ended up being “Hope”.

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The Super Bowl game and half-time show, alone, garnered 24 million tweets, with top mentions being “Beyonce” (who wasn’t mesmerized by her stunning performance?) and “lights” (that power outage was a serious momentum killer, wasn’t it?). While all of this social media activity is great for maintaining brand equity, measuring online sentiment and audience growth, how can we, as advertisers, ensure that a Facebook like or re-tweet equates to a website visit and even more importantly, a sale? Last week, Adweek published an article anticipating the conversion of social media traffic to sales. David Cohen, chief media officer at Universal McCann saying “on-site data such as visitors and actions taken matter much more to [auto] marketers. How many Facebook ‘likes’ a brand gets is just the tip of the iceberg.”

While no one certainly has the answer or solution to this advertising dilemma, you can lay sales data on top of social media activity to see where spikes intersect and pinpoint the cause. It could have been a shift in content, product roll-out, new images or a conversation started by an audience member. Whichever it is, social media activity and data alone won’t create website visits or significantly increase sales. It’s up to us, the social media managers, to work together and collaborate with the entire sales and marketing teams to ensure that all marketing avenues of the brand are properly and effectively utilized.

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Public Outbursts Make for An Interesting Week in WOM

I never pay too much attention to tennis, and I knew if anything noteworthy happened at the Video Music Awards, I’d hear about it for weeks following, so I missed both Serena William’s and Kanye West’s outbursts on National television. Thanks to my Twitter-addiction though, I knew about these celeb slip-ups within minutes of them happening.

At the US Open Tennis Semi-Finals, Serena Williams went a little overboard when confronting a line judge. Okay, she went WAY overboard, apparently saying “I swear to God I’m [expletive] going to take this [expletive] ball and shove it down your [expletive] throat, you hear that? I swear to God,” to the line judge.

Slapped with a $10,000 fine and tarnished reputation, the tennis star apologized today on her Web site.  Unfortunately for Serena, an apology  won’t undo the 869,160 views on YouTube and the influx of Twitter conversation about the attack.

Yesterday, one day after Serena’s tantrum, Kanye West made an even bigger scene at MTV’s Video Music Awards Show. Ripping the microphone from the hands of Taylor Swift, who just won an award for Best Female Video, Kanye told the crowd “I’m sorry, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.” While there’s speculation that Kanye and MTV did this a publicity stunt, Beyoncé’s shocked reaction and Swift’s hurt face show that maybe, just maybe this is real, unscripted television.

I haven’t counted the publicity-stunt idea out. After all, year-after-year the VMAs have given us something that makes for good conversation and goes viral. Kanye’s outburst got people talking since it happened, and actually generated nearly 300,000 Kanye tweets in the hour following.  If negative attention is what he wanted, Kanye sure is getting it. On Twitter I’ve seen a plethora of tweets having expressing hatred toward Kanye and/or showing support of Taylor Swift.

There must be something in the air this month that makes for some high-profile blow-ups. Or maybe Rep. Joe Wilson payed Kanye and Serena to take the spotlight away from his “You Lie” outburst in the middle of President Obama’s address to Congress last week.

Not ALL of America’s celebrities, politicians and athletes are acting out-of-line this month and generating unpleasant word-of-mouth for themselves. Beyoncé did the right thing and gave Swift the attention she deserved while giving her time on stage to make an acceptance speech.

And after his through-the-legs hit that took him to the US Open finals, Roger Federer doesn’t need to make an outburst to generate some word-of-mouth for himself.

The lesson we can learn from Serena, Kanye, Rep. Wilson, Beyoncé and Federer is: Whether you’re doing something good or doing something bad, social media doesn’t leave much room for hiding. The same goes for business, whether it’s a good deed, great tennis move or drunken outburst,  it only takes one move to make you the next trending topic.