The Impact of Social Media on the 2014 World Cup

With the whistle blowing on the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, its time to reflect on its impact. On the pitch, the tournament has been a huge success with Germany triumphing over Argentina in Monday morning’s (AEST) final. Off the pitch, Twitter and social media saw an impact like never before.

Whilst the four week long tournament was televised to 2.2 billion people around the world, there was a significant shift against traditional mediums to the smartphone and the second screen. This shift has meant social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook have seen engagement records tumble.

Below are some of standouts:


Twitter in particular has been embraced by fans all around the world. Germany’s 7-1 demolition of Brazil in the Semi-Final became the single most-discussed sports game ever on Twitter.

Days later the Tweets Per Minute (TPM) record was also broken with 618,725 tweets recorded just after Gotze’s winner in Monday mornings Final.


Source: Twitter

One of my favourites additions to the Twittersphere during the World Cup has been the reintroduction of ‘hashflags’. Essentially a hashflag is a ‘#’ in a tweet followed by a country’s three-letter abbreviation, Twitter’s API then automatically adds that nations flag in the tweet.

Meh?! I hear you say? But for a social media and football junkie, such as myself, it has provided a whole new level of engagement. The use of hashflags has enabled Twitter’s stats gurus to create the World Cup of Tweets. The analysis shows which nation would have won the World Cup based on hashflag mentions. (And yes, the Socceroos were still knocked out in the group stage, with the USA and Brazil making the final, becoming the most tweeted about nations).

Hashflags have once again emphasised Footballs’ incredible world wide reach and its growing popularity in countries such as the USA.

Penalty Shootout Impact

Somewhat against these record breaking numbers and unlike other ‘clutch’ moments during a match, it has been discovered that tweets per second dramatically reduce during a penalty shootout. The graph below shows from the moment the referee blows his whistle to the point of a player making contact with the ball, Twitter activity drops off dramatically.


These insights show how aligned our social media activity is becoming to that of viewing a game at a stadium, a mates place or bar. The whole world literally holds it’s breath during a shoot out!


Twitter isn’t alone, Facebook has also seen records tumble thanks to the worlds most popular sport.

In early July, Facebook reported more than a one billion World Cup related posts, comments and likes had been generated by over 220 million users since the start of the tournament.

Facebook then followed this and announced on July 7th that the 2014 World Cup has already claimed the title of the largest event (sporting or otherwise) in the social network’s history.

Just like Twitter, Facebook also used this wealth of new data to analyse posts and comments since the tournament began. The aim – to solve the the age old debate – “is it Football or Soccer?”

The results for a Brit like myself were unfortunate, with Soccer coming out on top (I will be sticking with the term Football!!)


The full study can be found at:


The impact of the World Cup has also been felt on some of the smaller social channels, one of which has been Vine.

Let’s be honest, Vine’s haven’t quite taken off, it has been mainly used for comedic purposes and the odd stop motion video. However Twitter’s 6 second video app has been used throughout the World Cup to provide instant highlights and a way of conveying emotion that just cannot be captured in 140 characters.

Take for instance, the Tim Cahill volley against the Netherlands. Within seconds of the wondergoal – Twitter was abuzz with ‘goal of the tournament’ claims. Now, imagine you are sitting at home checking your Twitter-feed and want to judge for yourself.

This is where Vine excels! A six second video may not sound like alot but with the emergence of the second screen it perfectly fits with sport where a second can be the difference between a defeat and victory.

For myself and many others around the world this past month it has become the instant replay thanks to its no ads and short form convenience.

Best of all, Vine might have finally found its niche and it’s place in the social media landscape.

Oreo Moment

With the second screen revolution, brands have to do more than just run advertising during halftime to get football fan’s attention. What they need to do is stay ahead of the game and interact with fans on Social Media in order to stay front of mind. During Super Bowl XLVII when the stadium lights went out for 34 minutes, Oreo almost immediately tweeted an image that read “Power Out? No problem… You Can Still Dunk in the Dark”. Almost immediately this tweet was retweeted by over 15,000 people around the world by fans watching America’s biggest game. In marketing terms, this reaction clearly highlighted to brands the value of real-time marketing and social media engagement.

As a result, brands have been clamoring during this years World Cup for their own ‘Oreo Moment’ – Enter Luis Suarez and the infamous bite. Below are some of my favourites:



McDonald’s Uruguay (Suarez’s birthplace)

Translation: “Hi, Luis Suarez, if you are still hungry, come take a bite out of a Big Mac.”

These three tweets alone received a combined 156,000 retweets providing invaluable exposure to brands piggy backing the World Cup (Snickers and Specsavers not official WC partners).

Social Media and the second screen has come along way in the last month or so – its been to its first real world cup and best of all – its exceeded! For sports fans like myself it is now part of the furniture of watching a game – its now just as important as putting on your Teams jersey and having a bottle of beer in hand.

Dan Howe

Senior Digital Marketing Consultant (Social Media)

Dan Howe is responsible for the management and success of Reload's Social Media department. This ranges from the development of social media strategies for an array of clients, content schedules, competitions, social advertising and developing new social media services for Reload Media’s clients on an ongoing basis. The role also includes delivering other online marketing advertising across a range of online channels including search, display, outbrain and more. Huge sports fan be it Soccer (#GoRoar), AFL, NFL. Bit of an Apple nut.