How Social Media Is Likely to Affect the Kind of Super Bowl Party You Have

New study shows just how digital they've become

According to the prevailing data, roughly half of Americans who watch the Super Bowl plan to do so at a party. That means some 56 million of us will be sitting on someone else’s sofa when the game is on. The Super Bowl party is, of course, a national institution. And while many of its familiar features—the bean dip, the keg in the kitchen—are as old as pigskin, there’s one newer element that’s just as important as the TV screen everyone’s watching.

It is, actually, that other screen everyone is watching.

According to a just-released survey from Influence Central, social media has become so integral to Super Bowl parties that it demonstrably affects everything from how hosts plan their parties to the number of guests they invite. Perhaps the most telling of the survey’s stats: 78 percent of fans will be busy on social platforms (Facebook’s the most popular, followed by Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat) while the game is on.

While that finding might seem obvious, Influence Central founder and CEO Stacy DeBroff explains that there are broader social trends behind it. Because the rise of social media allows partygoers to interact, if only virtually, with millions of people, Americans no longer feel the need to host large gatherings, and the length of the Super Bowl party guest list has shrunk accordingly.

“It used to be that the Super Bowl was a huge party, and you’d want to be in a big crowd,” DeBroff says, “but now people want intimate gatherings.” According to the survey, 47 percent of people throwing Super Bowl parties are inviting 10 or fewer people.

The study found that social media also plays a pivotal role in the planning of the gatherings themselves, with the majority of Super Bowl party planners looking to Pinterest (68 percent) and Facebook (26 percent) for things like recipes and decorating ideas. In fact, while a quarter of party planners still get tips from friends and family, nearly the same number (just over 22 percent) get inspiration from Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat.

Once the party starts, social media will also define how people experience the game, and that includes the minutes when football’s not even on. While 32 percent of party attendees plan to use social media to “react to the game,” a far bigger number, 38 percent, will use it to spout off on the advertising.

“The No. 1 thing that people react to is the commercials,” DeBroff said. “We live in a land where consumers consider themselves to be highly discerning about marketing. People become critics, arbiters of marketing.”

DeBroff adds that her firm’s data contains some marketing intelligence, too: Since social media plays such a central role in everything from what kind of snacks and drinks party hosts will serve to how to decorate their dens, brands should be thinking about how they can be a part of that conversation.

“Even if a brand doesn’t have a commercial in the game, they should be thinking of ways they can drop into the conversation,” she said. Food brands should be posting ideas for hors d’oeuvres, home-furnishings companies can suggest ways to decorate the den. Alcohol brands can develop and shoot team-themed cocktails, and so on. And don’t assume everyone will feel like watching whatever musical number Lady Gaga whips up, either.

“You know that people are going to be bored during halftime,” DeBroff advises. “For brands, there’s an opportunity there.”