A lot has been written about this World Cup so far. It’s the first truly digital tournament. It’s the one where second-screening has really come into its own. Above all, it’s the most social World Cup to date – one where our favourite networks have been much more integral to our viewing experience than ever before.
So far, so good. But drill down into behaviours in a little more detail and the extent of our “social dependency” is pretty striking. The top networks aren’t just major go-to points, they’ve become the first-choice destination during games. And, despite constant headlines about Facebook losing its appeal (and millions of users), our research shows that it still rules the roost in terms of our social conversations.
As the tournament started last month, GlobalWebIndex surveyed more than 1,000 respondents in the UK, USA and Brazil to understand how they were watching the World Cup – where they were, who they were with, how they were keeping up-to-date with news and, crucially, which social platforms they were using.
Some of the results are just as you would expect: people are most likely to be watching games at home (85%), although over a third are heading to bars and pubs to catch at least some of the matches (a figure which rises notably higher in the UK). Similarly, live TV broadcasts are the viewing method of choice, but there are much higher rates for online streaming in the US (29%). And it’s the final result (74%) or the scoring of a goal (73%) which are most likely to get us talking on social platforms (with networkers in the UK being the keenest to post a comment about the referee).
If we turn our attention to some of the other trends identified in the GWI study, though, the findings aren’t quite so predictable. Firstly, behaviours in Brazil underline the importance of WhatApp’s acquisition by Facebook: while just 10% in the US and 30% in the UK said they’d be using the messaging service during games, the figure rises to an impressive 57% of networkers in Brazil (a reflection of WhatsApp’s particular popularity in fast-growth markets more generally).
Secondly, soccer has finally gone mainstream in the US – driven, among other factors, by good performances from the national team, the encouragement of head coach Jürgen Klinsmann, a friendly time-difference and strong interest in Mexico’s progress among certain segments of the population. Significantly, American viewers are also more likely than their UK counterparts to use social networks before and during matches.
But perhaps the most compelling trend overall is the sheer centrality of Facebook within our viewing experience. It’s now a more popular way to stay up-to-date with World Cup developments than news or sports websites, suggesting that its incorporation of a “trending” section has been a success and that many people are now more concerned about developments being shared among their networks than with what’s coming through formal news channels.
Facebook’s enduringly dominant position within the social hierarchy is in fact pretty clear to see. Among networkers, a staggering 94% said they were using the site during World Cup matches and, by quite some distance, it tops the list in all three countries. Many commentators had predicted that this would be Twitter’s tournament, with the service being the ideal outlet for real-time comments. But while it’s still a significant force – being used by about 50% of networkers in Brazil and around 60% in both the UK and US – it’s not managed to displace Facebook at the top of the tree.
Given all of the recent headlines about Facebook’s supposedly waning popularity, this is clear food-for-thought. Yes, we might now be tweeting, Instagramming and instant messaging too, but that doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned Facebook. It’s still the default network of choice and the glue that holds our wider social behaviours together. Facebook fatigue? Not among World Cup fans, that’s for sure.
Jason Mander is head of trends at GlobalWebIndex