SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc released a barrage of data, special "heat" maps and slick animations on Monday to claim the title of most-popular social network for spectators watching the Super Bowl, but a winner was difficult to pick.
Facebook, the world's largest social network, boasted that 65 million people chimed in on its service about the match that saw the New England Patriots edge the Seattle Seahawks 28-24, up 30 percent from the year earlier. Facebook even rolled out a new metric: The "people per minute" who joined in during the game's most intense moments.
Twitter declined to provide the number of users on its service during the game, but reported that they tapped out 28.4 million game-related tweets, compared with 24.9 million during last year's matchup between the Seahawks and the Denver Broncos.
The battle of the statistics highlights the stiffening competition among Internet services to establish themselves the go-to "second screen" for big events from the Super Bowl to the Oscars, and to capture a bigger slice of the brand advertising dollars that accompany such events.
"It used to be all about having this incredible Super Bowl commercial," said Linda Lagos, digital brand director at PepsiCo. Now, she said, "You can't have a campaign without social media."
A marching band and cheerleaders drummed up energy for a social media "war room" of about 40 people at Pepsi's interactive ad agency, the Barbarian Group.
When Katy Perry, headliner of the half time show sponsored by Pepsi, entered the arena on a gigantic gold robot tiger, the team blasted out an animated cartoon of a cat riding a stuffed lion.
Lagos declined to say which platform Pepsi preferred but said her company considered itself a winner because 94 percent of social media comments about Pepsi and the Super Bowl were positive.
Twitter, which has roughly one-fifth the users that Facebook does, has traditionally been the dominant place for real-time conversations online. Facebook, the world's No. 1 Internet social network, is increasingly trying to attract real-time conversations on its service.
Facebook could be "the king of real time" if it was able to immediately highlight reaction to events, Gartner analyst Brian Blau said. "I don't think they're there yet."
Advertiser Snickers, a unit of Mars Inc, had its own social media war room as well as a few people in the stands at the game.
While Snickers promoted its television ad on Facebook ahead of the Super Bowl, which drew a record viewership with an average audience of 114.4 million, it focused on Twitter during the game, said Allison Miazga-Bedrick, senior brand director for Snickers. [ID:nL1N0VC2BX]
"We are finding the real-time dialogue is happening on Twitter," she said.
Facebook noted that 676,000 people per minute commented or liked someone's comments after New England Patriot's Malcolm Butler's game-ending interception at the 1 yard line sealed his team's victory.
On Twitter, the same play generated a surge of 395,000 tweets per second, making it the most-tweeted moment in the game.
Twitter's "tweets per second" figure is strictly limited to comments related to a particular topic, such as the interception, whereas Facebook measured the overall number of people engaging in conversation about the Super Bowl at the particular moment.
Twitter counts posts from advertisers, whereas Facebook only looks at the activity of individual users, and Facebook includes "likes," whereas Twitter excludes clicks of the "favorite" button, representatives from the companies said
Twitter began counting Super Bowl tweets at kickoff and stopped the clock 30 minutes after the game ended, whereas Facebook's numbers include activity beginning on the morning of the game and continuing until about 30 minutes after the final whistle.
The variation underscores the different natures of the two: Twitter's Tweets are displayed in chronological order and are well-suited to immediate responses. Facebook conversations can play out over longer periods of time.
"These are still two truly different platforms that have overlapping capabilities," said Rebecca Lieb, an analyst with research and consulting firm Altimeter Group.
Editing by Peter Henderson and Alan Crosby