Real-time brand tweeting is an art, not a science

As everyone knows, there’s a second kind of competition going on during the Super Bowl, and it has nothing to do with football, commercials, or puppies: The Twitter Bowl. Which brand can win the pithy, real-time Twitter conversation?

Oreo famously slam-dunked this in 2013 with its “dunk in the dark” tweet after the Super Bowl power went out. It received thousands of retweets and favorites and became a textbook case on real-time Twitter marketing.

This year, it looks like McDonalds and Buzzfeed were two such winners, according to social analytics company Social Radar. Among other things, Social Radar tracks the spikes and dips in Twitter activity around the Interbrand 100 Best Global Brands and Techmeme tech media leaderboard, analyzing the number of favorites, retweets, and replies to companies like eBay and The Washington Post.

During the 2015 Super Bowl, McDonalds was the cause of several big spikes which raised the engagement average for the entire Interbrand 100. It did so by tweeting live to other brands’ commercials, complimenting them and giving away the products free (even a car) to some of the people who retweeted them according to an AdAge story. Its own Super Bowl commercial wasn’t the most shared across social media sites — that honor went to Budweiser — but it claimed its crown in Twitter conversing.

Social Radar’s Tech Media Index includes top 95 tech media companies ranging from Bloomberg to Gigaom, as listed in the Techmeme leader board. Buzzfeed took the prize for top Twitter Super Bowl game. Not surprising given the company’s mastery of viral content and its substantial audience. Its peak tweets made fun of Katy Perry’s halftime show.

Buzzfeed and McDonalds didn’t necessarily have the most creative real-time tweets of the game. There were plenty of others who clearly planned in advance, like Cheerios, which tweeted a picture of a cheerio to represent people’s shocked open mouths during the final minutes of the game.

Despite perfect timing and creative marketing, Cheerios’ tweet didn’t quite take off like those of McDonalds and Buzzfeed. It received hundreds of retweets and favorites instead of thousands.

Looks like real-time brand tweeting is an art, not a science.

Over 1,000 people showed up to Product Hunt’s massive happy hour

Product Hunt’s happy hour starts in 20 minutes, and the line stretches far down the street. As I stroll through Geary, blocks from the bar, I’m convinced the crowds must be gathering for a Diplo concert or something. There’s no way this many people showed up for drinks with the young, Andreessen-Horowitz backed tech company.

But I am wrong. The public Facebook event invite reached 312,000 news feeds, 16,000 people viewed the event page and 3,700 RSVPed. The bar only fits 1,200 people. Half an hour before the start time, hundreds of people have showed up early to Product Hunt’s fifth official Happy Hour, trying to make sure they get in.

The line outside Product Hunt's happy hour, 20 minutes before the event begins, wraps around the corner and down the street

The line outside Product Hunt’s happy hour, 20 minutes before the event begins, wraps around the corner and down the street

For the unfamiliar, Product Hunt is a Reddit-like app for early tech product adopters. The community upvotes and downvotes cutting-edge new products, which range from GIF keyboards to musical pants to the new version of Foursquare, and the founders surface frequently to answer questions. Product Hunt raised $6.1 million from Andreessen Horowitz in September, and with fewer than twenty employees it’s still pretty small by tech standards.

That hasn’t stopped it from exploding in popularity. It’s the place where Yo and Ship Your Enemies Glitter were discovered, and it’s regularly surfed by early-stage investors and journalists looking for the next buzzy companies.

The overrun happy hour Thursday further solidified the company’s status as hot new tech community. But it also raised the question: Have we reached peak Product Hunt?

The people in line may be there to bask in Product Hunt’s limelight, but they’re not too pleased about the wait. One young man near the front mutters, “Sure, it’s popular, but I don’t know if it can monetize.” His friend says, “Maybe they’ll raise money on Kickstarter. They have a great community.”

Blocks away, a few friends stop short when they see the hordes of people waiting in line. They swear loudly and snort, “Never mind.”

The snaking queue of fans leads right to the door of the bar 620 Jones, rented out for the night. Ryan Hoover, Product Hunt founder and CEO, meets me inside. He hasn’t checked out the line snaking around the corner yet and is nervous to stroll past it, lest he get mobbed by tech groupies. He tells me he prefers smaller events but knew a lot of people would want to come to this.

Much like [company]Twitter[/company], [company]Facebook[/company] or Reddit, Product Hunt needs a loyal user base of people posting content to survive. Offline events help these users develop connections with each other, leading to a sense of community, which is not an easy thing to build. That in turn intensifies their loyalty to the application.

[pullquote person=”” attribution=”” id=”909141″]One young man near the front mutters, “Sure, it’s popular, but I don’t know if it can monetize.”[/pullquote]

The bouncer starts slowly letting in clusters of people and Hoover disappears into the masses. Not for the first time, I find myself wondering how his life has changed with his newfound fame. Although he’s a confident person, he’s a self-admitted introvert who gathers his energy in moments of solitude. At the last Product Hunt happy hour, a smaller event that happened pre-funding, he snuck away early while the party still raged.

Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt, in the empty bar minutes before the happy hour crowds were unleashed

Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt, in the empty bar minutes before the happy hour crowds were unleashed

The soft red lights of 620 Jones give everything a chic, sophisticated vibe. Top 40 music pulses in the background as founders, techies, PR people, salesmen and reporters mingle. Many of the people I speak with have never used Product Hunt, but they’ve heard of the company and wanted to familiarize themselves – or be associated with it.

“I didn’t know what it was, but I saw the Facebook event group and thought I should find out,” a social media professional in pointed heels and a tailored dress tells me. Her friend, a publicist for the firm that represents Yik Yak, nods beside her in agreement.

When I ask a co-founder of an online music merchandise service why he came, he says, “I don’t know. It’s a viral thing. People feel like they have to be a part of it but they’re not sure why.”

Two women chat during Product Hunt's happy hour

Two women chat during Product Hunt’s happy hour

Many attendees are huge fans and recognize Hoover on the spot. Two women from CODE2040, a nonprofit formed to encourage diversity in technology, ask him questions over the throbbing bass. A man interrupts them to frantically show off his social app, before being interrupted by another man wearing an ironic t-shirt.

An older, reserved fellow nursing a glass of wine at the bar tells me his company is one of the sponsors of the drinks. He jokes that the company didn’t pay enough money to get its name anywhere at the event. He marvels at the fact that the event was so overbooked, even as sponsors they were initially told they could only put one person on the guest list.

Tech employees from Mattermark and Sony chat during the Product Hunt happy hour

Tech employees from Mattermark and Samsung chat during the Product Hunt happy hour

The crowd reminds me of the shifting nature of tech culture. I show up expecting nerds and geeks and instead see cashmere sweaters and polo shirts, slicked-back hair and biceps amid the hoodies and startup T-shirts.

Tech has gone mainstream and Product Hunt is the water cooler where the cool kids hang out. It’s a characterization I suspect Hoover would feel uncomfortable with, and it’s perhaps not representative of the app itself. But the app has become a brand that people want to be associated with, regardless of whether they’re using it.

There’s an inherent contradiction in Product Hunt’s business premise. It wants to be the place where early product adopters can come together, and it also wants to go big. If this happy hour turnout is any indication, it’s starting to achieve that.

But it will be challenging for a community that’s all about the early adopters to scale without losing its magic along the way. After all, if everyone is an early adopter, is anyone really an early adopter?


One line from this story has been removed since publishing because it happened during an off the record part of the interview.

People order drinks during the open bar at the Product Hunt happy hour

These places were Instagram’s most photographed locations in 2014

In its annual end-of-year tradition, Instagram has released the places in the world users capture the most with the filter-friendly app. Last year, the big question was “Why is a shopping mall in Thailand Instagram’s most photographed place in 2013?” The answer had more to do with a Thai cultural proclivity towards obsessive photo sharing then it did with the mall itself.

This year the number one location is no surprise to anyone: The Happiest Place on Earth. Disneyland topped the list after coming in third the last two years. Other returning champions include Dodger Stadium (#8 in 2013 and #7 in 2012), Times Square (#2 in 2013), and Thailand’s Siam Paragon shopping mall (#1 in 2013 and #2 in 2012),

New entrants include Gorky Park and Red Square (Moscow, Russia), the Louvre (Paris, France), Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium (NYC), and Dubai Mall (Dubai, UAE).

Although international places have appeared in Instagram’s most popular list since its first version in 2011, their dominance in this year’s list suggest that Instagram is scaling beyond America, becoming popular enough in other parts of the world that foreign locations are photographed more than American landmarks like the Bellagio, Disney World, and Central Park (which were #4, #5, and #7 respectively on the 2013 most popular places list, but didn’t make the 2014 cut).

Without further ado, here’s the top ten list of 2014 with some pretty photos to boot.

Top Geotagged Locations of 2014 on Instagram

1. Disneyland, Anaheim, California

2. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California

3. Times Square, New York, New York

4. Siam Paragon shopping mall, Bangkok, Thailand

5. Gorky Park, Moscow, Russia

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Friday night at Gorky Park Feel the heart of Moscow

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6. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

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Nu dar viena

A post shared by *Irma Straukaite* (@orobalionas) on

7. Red Square, Moscow, Russia

8. Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

9. Yankee Stadium, New York, New York:

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Blue Sky's for Brown and Maroon

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10. The Dubai Mall, Dubai, United Arab Emirates