Updated Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 02:40 PM
NEW YORK — Beyonce’s splashy show, a freak power outage, and — oh, yeah — a captivating game of football combined to generate a record 24.1 million posts on Twitter during Sunday night’s Super Bowl.
That’s up from 13.7 million last year.
The Super Bowl power failure also led to a record surge in mobile traffic for AT&T, the nation’s second-largest wireless carrier.
Super Bowl XLVII, like the London Summer Olympics and the U.S. presidential election, was yet another moment in which Twitter became the platform for millions of people to share quick reactions and participate in a massive, public conversation.
Though it’s not as popular as Facebook or its buttoned-up cousin LinkedIn, Twitter’s surging popularity during big events is a testament to its reach and utility.
Tweetable events such as the 34-minute Super Bowl power outage are ripe with marketing potential, provided that brands act quickly.
“It’s really clear right now that Twitter has a lock on real-time conversation on the Internet,” says eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson.
The company makes money by charging advertisers to promote individual tweets, accounts or trends designed to spark a conversation.
To capitalize on this, Twitter has to show advertisers that it pays to promote their tweets — even though fans are likely to spread the catchiest slogans on their own, free of charge.
That’s what happened with a certain cream-filled cookie on Sunday.
It took Oreo’s marketers roughly 10 minutes after the power went out to tweet a picture of an Oreo cookie in the half-dark with the words: “You can still dunk in the dark.”
As of Monday afternoon, the image had been shared on Twitter more than 15,000 times. Tide followed suit with the slogan “we can’t get your blackout. But we can get your stains out” with more limited success. The message was retweeted about 1,300 times.”
The question is whether these moments can translate into revenue for the 7-year-old company.
The power outage was an immediate hot topic for quips and questions online. There were an estimated 47.7 million social-media posts during the game, according to the company Trendrr TV, which tracks activity on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. That compares with 17 million during last year’s game and 3 million in 2010, Trendrr said.
Total data traffic for the game, as people texted, posted to Twitter, emailed and uploaded photos, was 388 gigabytes, also a record and 80 percent higher than the 2012 Super Bowl, said Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman. There were also 73,000 mobile-phone calls during the game, he said.
AT&T reported that from 8 to 9 p.m. New York time Sunday, a span covering the halftime show and the power disruption, customers used 78 gigabytes of data inside the New Orleans Superdome, almost double the peak volume of last year’s Super Bowl and the most ever for an in-stadium championship game.
While the burst of data use was aided by the blackout, it’s consistent with the surge in data traffic AT&T is contending with as its customers snap up more smartphones. Data traffic has doubled every year since 2007, the company said a year ago.
According to estimates provided by AT&T’s online data-use calculator, 78 gigabytes would equal about 234,000 social-media posts with photos or more than 10 straight days of streaming, high-definition video. The stadium held 71,024 fans, according to the National Football League.
For CBS, which broadcast the game, it fell short of setting a viewership record, but it stands as the third most-watched program in U.S. television history.
CBS’ ratings immediately dipped by two full ratings points in the overnight measurement of big cities after about half of the Superdome’s lights went out in the power failure, which occurred just after the resumption of play in the championship football game’s second half.
The Nielsen Co. said an estimated 108.4 million people watched. The most-watched events in U.S. TV history were last year’s game, seen by 111.3 million, and the 2010 game, with 111 million viewers.
When the lights returned, so did the San Francisco 49ers. They quickly jumped back in the game (but lost 34-31 to the Baltimore Ravens) and CBS’ audience, no doubt fueled by social-media chatter, came back, too.
At the precise moment the lights went out, CBS’ Armen Keteyian was in the NFL’s control booth, conducting an interview with Frank Supovitz, senior vice president of the NFL in charge of events.
“In the NFL control room, there was no panic, but there was an undeniable amount of uncertainty about the cause,” Keteyian said Monday on “CBS This Morning.” Keteyian was filming for a “60 Minutes Sports” report scheduled to be aired Wednesday on Showtime.
During the wrap-up news conference for Super Bowl XLVII on Monday morning, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said there was “no indication” that Beyonce’s high-wattage halftime spectacular led to the power outage that halted the game for 34 minutes.
Entergy, the local power-supply company, and SMG issued a joint statement Sunday night saying that “a piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system” early in the third quarter. “Once the issue was detected, the sensing equipment operated as designed and opened a breaker, causing power to be partially cut to the Superdome in order to isolate the issue. Backup generators kicked in immediately as designed.”
Goodell said there was one minor injury on an escalator when the power went out, and the NFL is still investigating the cause for the blackout.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was in Goodell’s suite when the lights went out and the two discussed how to avoid a similar situation at next year’s Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Elise Amendola / AP
Players wait on the field with half the lights out in the Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday during a power outage in the second half of the Super Bowl between the San 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.