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World Cup: Record-breaking engagement

usa-soccerSoccer, Futbol, or jogo bonito. No matter what you call it, the beautiful game has returned to the world stage. This World Cup comes at a time when viewers and fans are more connected via social media than ever before. According to Facebook, “Facebook’s data editors have never measured an event – sports or otherwise – that has topped a billion interactions.” reports, “The most-buzzed about event was the opening game between Brazil and Croatia with 58 million people generating 140 million interactions. 31 million people participated in the conversation surrounding Saturday’s match between Brazil and Chile, generating 75 million interactions.”

Some may argue that this might signal a growth in social media usage and belay recent speculation that Facebook may be losing users. Others may claim that it’s simply a result of the fanatical nature of futbol on a global scale.

Whatever the case, the massive amount of data that is being discussed on social channels surrounding the World Cup, at the very least, represents an opportunity for us as social scientists to dive into the data and understand what these billion or so fans of the world’s sport are talking about.

Using the Visible Intelligence platform, I was able to tune into the overall World Cup conversation and uncover some interesting information ranging from the most anticipated games, to who the winners will be, to an incident involving one player biting another…yes, biting.  As in, with teeth. A grown man biting another grown man.

First let’s take a look at the overall conversation trend for the World Cup and understand how the conversation evolved over time.


As expected, the conversation started to build in anticipation of the opening day, and spiked on June 12, with the opening games. But what were people really talking about during this time? In looking at the breakdown below, we can see that the majority of the conversation centers around the actual match-ups themselves, with the story of Uruguayan player, Luis Suarez, literally biting a player during a match and being sent home as a result showing up on the radar, as well.


Another key topic of conversation, at least here in the USA, appears to be the fact that the Americans are holding their own and making a go of it. Soccer, as its called in the states, is gaining in popularity, and if the US team does well, it could mean a boon for MLS in the states. Therefore, it’s important to take a look at what users of social media are saying about the US team over the past couple of weeks.

Much of the conversation surrounding the USA has been about Jurgen Klinsmann and the fact that he has been able to assemble a team that is competitive on the world stage, followed closely by the fact that USA has made it out of the Group stage along with Germany to compete in the next round.


And, while all of this information and data is useful, particularly for knowing what is topical and current when it comes to developing a content marketing strategy, one of the most relevant insights that we can gain from examining the overall World Cup becomes apparent when we segment the conversation down to the television audience viewing behavior. By aiming our lens at the behavior of the audience, as they discuss their intent to watch the games, we can start to see what excites them about this worldwide event.


The topics range from validation that MLS fans are vindicated in cheering for a lesser supported team, to reporting an Olympic-like national pride in our team.



Every four years, the World Cup provides a little boost of encouragement that soccer might just reach the tipping point of graduating into a top US sport. And, every year following the World Cup, the conversation surrounding USA soccer seems to return to a somewhat demure volume. This year, however, it appears that the voices are louder and a bit more energetic. Could this year be the fertilizer that grows roots for the sport in the US? Judging by the volume of buzz and level of enthusiasm, it just might have a chance…

Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if the USA continues to win.

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