This year’s World Cup is set to be the most social one yet. Over 10 million tweets have been sent about it so far, more than the 2010 tournament in total.
Social media is becoming a key channel for fan interaction and creating anticipation in the run-up to competitions. A well-supported team is more likely to do well and this is why we believe that social can indicate what teams will perform well in Brazil.
Skill does have to have some role in rankings so we have taken account of the FIFA rankings and bookies’ odds, as well as the internet and smart phone penetration of each country. Countries with limited access have been given additional weighting to overcome the restrictions.
Data for all rankings was captured on 25th May. Numbers will have increased in this time, metatarsals broken, and FIFA and bookies’ rankings are subject to change.
Brazil will win their 6th World Cup
This will not come as a surprise to many as they are already widely tipped to lift the trophy.
If it was down to only social rankings, then the USA would take home the trophy. However, skill and other factors (such as home advantage) clearly affect matters on the pitch and have to be taken into account. This denies the USA the win.
The top ten
Brazil has built up a solid social media platform with coverage across all major networks.
They regularly post with a variety of engaging content, including behind the scenes team images and videos.
They just miss out on the top Facebook ranking despite an impressive follower count of 4 million and growing.
One area that Brazil excels at is reminding followers of their football heritage. Celebrating past successes and memories delights fans and gets them liking and sharing.
Spain and the Netherlands will come close
It will be close between these two teams and the clash comes early as they are drawn in the same group.
While Spain has a great presence across the social media spectrum, their updates are more formal than Brazil’s. They carefully cultivate the team’s image and do so consistently across their networks.
USA will be the wild card
Our predictions put the USA in the semi-finals, with a German rematch. Regardless of their FIFA ranking, their social media presence is strong enough to take them far into the competition. With German coach and World Cup winner Jürgen Klinsmann guiding them, their journey could be a compelling one.
Football in the USA is now the second most popular sport amongst 12-24 year olds, a demographic known for being “digital natives”. This has undoubtedly cemented their popularity online. David Beckham’s ongoing promotion of the MLS has also helped the sport’s image within the country.
The road to the final
The final will be contested by the top 2 teams – Brazil and the Spain. It is difficult to rule out the Netherlands though. No one should underestimate them as they look to avenge the 2010 final and make-up for a poor Euro 2012. Social rankings between the teams are close so while we predict a win for Spain against them, a draw would not be surprising.
England has a chance of getting to the quarter-finals but their group is close. They are only just above Uruguay in the table. No Instagram account and late-to-the-party Twitter feed hurts their overall score despite dominance on YouTube and Facebook.
We are predicting that Portugal will not qualify past the group stage based on a lacklustre social performance where there is only one star performer, Facebook. This is not dissimilar to criticisms levelled at the team, pinpointing Ronaldo as the team’s great hope.
Argentina will not have a good tournament either. Knocked-out in round 2, they will draw against Nigeria. Their lack of social media organisation is hindering them. You could say they were a bit Messi…
The USA will have a phenomenal tournament, reaching the semi-final. Beating Portugal will be a highlight. They are close to Germany so 3rd place could be decided on penalties. If they went head-to-head with Germany in a social media shoot-out, it would be 5-0 to the USA.
Football and social media: a beautiful relationship
“Traditional” social networks dominate
Facebook and Twitter are almost universally used, even in countries where they are not the main networks such as Russia, Japan and the Korean Republic. Teams recognise that their popularity extends beyond national borders.
Followings and interactions on these two networks are almost always significantly greater than YouTube or Google+.
England ranks no.1 for Facebook, an impressive feat considering the popularity of USA and Brazil. Their Twitter feed has only recently been separated from the main FA one, and this has hurt their social ranking as they have not had enough time to build the following.
The Americas dominate Twitter with the top 4 rankings; Twitter’s sense of immediacy makes it a better format for following matches and providing reactions. Twitter is likely to be the main platform for social media talk during the competition.
Top ten most liked teams on Facebook
Who tweets the most?
Instagram rapidly rising
The more recent new kid on the block since the last World Cup is Instagram. It’s being embraced by teams and generates engagement that rivals Facebook and Twitter.
Top ten most followed teams on Instagram
It’s the perfect tool for “behind the scenes” material and also overcomes language barriers as it is primarily visual. The 15-second video format also lends itself well to match summaries, team arrivals and training session snippets. Almost all of the top teams have established feed. One notable absence is England – as we went to press they had yet to create an Instagram presence.
YouTube – loved by Europe
A popular network for European teams, holding 6 out of 10 top places. Streaming video requires a good internet connection so it is easier for Europeans to make this a platform of choice when following teams.
As more countries improve their internet infrastructure (and the good news is that in Africa and South America this is happening), it will be interesting to see if YouTube’s popularity rise or if Instagram and Vine will take its place.
Top ten most viewed team channels
Participation on this network is variable but one team doing an outstanding job with it is Nigeria. Their fans are highly engaged and it’s clearly the network of choice for them.
The top teams all have a presence though efforts on it are average. The feed tends to be a repetition of Facebook, with less +1s and sharing.
Again, this is a network potentially threatened by Instagram which is showing stronger adoption and interaction levels.
Top ten most viewed Google+ profiles
The only language is football
Teams tend to communicate in their native language, though some do use English.
There is less pressure for teams to worry about whether or not to update in two languages as images and videos don’t need words to explain them Visual networks break down barriers.
The tweet below from Honduras’ Twitter account can be understood by any football fan:
While using multiple languages would make feeds more accessible, it doesn’t stop engagement. When platforms such as Facebook offer translations, this is often enough for fans to engage and usually in their native language.
National teams must be social
For national teams, social is the perfect platform to keep momentum between games and interest in the team high. They are also in an excellent position to aggregate information about players.
Individual players’ following outweighs even the most popular teams by millions. Neymar Jr, for example, has over 10 million Twitter followers, making Brazil’s 4 million look rather paltry. However, national teams should benefit from their popular players’ followings and we expect follower numbers across all networks to increase significantly.
It’s clear from our research that a well-organised digital marketing strategy pays dividends for teams. Communicating regularly with fans and giving them behind-the-scenes glimpses creates engagement, loyalty and above all, a lot of talk about the team.
Teams that engage in social media well are thinking of their fans and understand the value of involving them. It also suggests a desire to be adaptable, change with the times and that there is a well-organised backroom. This is not the case with all teams as some of our rankings show – will this also show on the pitch?
We expect to see this World Cup break social media records across all networks – expect team selfies, lots of images and millions of likes, retweets, shares and the Twitter fail whale.