Capturing the frenetic, multiscreen, multi-venue activity that is worldwide fandom for the World Cup is hard enough. Figuring out how to target these audiences as they engage in a range of real and virtual social behaviors, often all at once, is daunting at best.
We thought we knew how people would likely be viewing and sharing World Cup experiences, but Global Web Index has issued one
of the first glimpses into how people say they actually are doing so, now that the competition has started. Surveying thousands from its worldwide panel on the first day of World Cup, GWI
finds, not surprisingly, the audience for the games is highly digital and social, with half checking for updates on social networks and a third posting comments of their own.
Facebook is the big beneficiary of this torrent. It is being used in some way by 93% of social networking Web users experiencing the games. In fact, Facebook generally outranks news and sports sites as the main source of news for connected users. But Twitter is also punching way over its usual weight, being referenced by 59% of social media users, only slightly less than the numbers looking to FIFA’s official site.
Google+ is still showing some traction, with a bit less than 30% of U.S. World Cup connected fans. But the mobile-native social and messaging apps are the ones showing some muscle here. Instagram is being accessed for game content by nearly a third of Brazil and U.S. audiences. The messaging app WhatsApp is a big winner in Brazil, where 51% of respondents are using it for game-related content, compared to 28% in the U.K. and 12% in the U.S.
None of which is to say that the social messages and the act of posting are more than gestures and rituals. The most common social postings involve either the final score (74%) or acknowledging goals as they score (73%). About half of social networkers say they are discussing individual team members, and about a fifth are discussing referee calls.
It's also good to keep in mind that all of this virtual social activity is happening within a context of real-world social interactions. About 60% of respondents say they are watching the games with friends, and more than half with their partner. Home is still the dominant setting, with over 80% watching mostly from there, but 40% are watching at least occasionally from a friend’s house, and about a third are at bars and pubs. And despite the increased mobility of access via handheld screen, less than 10% say they are watching on phones or tablets.
The audience is truly unprecedented. GWI found that 85% of all Internet users said they were watching the World Cup, 81% in the U.S.And yet, for all of the money and effort being poured into support by official sponsors to get special identification with the games, many consumers don’t make such fine distinctions. While Coca-cola, Adidas and McDonald's all were recognized by respondents as official sponsors, former and non-sponsor brands like MasterCard, Nike and Samsung were mistaken as sponsors almost as often.