Almost 40 percent of Facebook’s 1.28 billion users are fans of soccer, or “football” outside of the U.S. and Australia. On Tuesday, the world’s biggest online social network is adding new features to help fans follow the World Cup —- the world’s most widely viewed sporting event -— which takes place in Brazil from June 12 to July 13.
Facebook users can track their favorite teams and players throughout the tournament in a special World Cup section, called “Trending World Cup.” Available on the Web as well as mobile devices, the hub will include the latest scores, game highlights as well as a feed with tournament-related posts from friends, players and teams. In addition, an interactive map will show where the fans of top players are located around the world. The company is also launching a page called FacebookRef, where fans can see commentary about the matches from “The Ref,” Facebook’s official tournament commentator.
Social media activity during big sporting events such as the Olympics and the Super Bowl has surged in recent years and should continue as user numbers grow. In 2010, when the last World Cup took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, Facebook had just 500 million users. Now there are as many soccer fans (people who have “liked” a team or a player) on the site, the company says.
Facebook has recently concentrated on making its mobile app usable on simple phones with slower data speeds, as many of its newest users are in developing countries. As a result, the World Cup hub will also be available on so-called “feature phones,” said Rebecca Van Dyck, head of consumer marketing at Facebook. The section will be a “little less graphical” than what’s shown on smartphones and on the Web, but will include the same information.
Users can get to the World Cup hub by clicking on “World Cup” in the list of trending topics on the site. In a nod to Twitter, Facebook, earlier this year, began displaying trending topics to show users the most popular topics at any given moment. The feature is currently available in the U.S., U.K., India, Canada and Australia.
“This is our first foray into this, especially for a big sporting event like this,” Van Dyck said. “We’re going to see how this goes. If people enjoy the experience it’s something we’d like to push on.”
Not to be outdone, Twitter commented in a blog post last week that the “the only real-time #WorldCup global viewing party will be on Twitter, where you can track all 64 matches, experience every goal and love every second, both on and off the pitch.”
Fans can follow individual teams or players and use the hashtag #WorldCup to tweet about the matches, and follow official accounts such as @FIFAWorldCup, @ussoccer for the United States team and @CBF_Futebol for Brazil’s soccer governing body, for example.
The World Cup is the planet’s most widely viewed sporting event. According to FIFA, which organizes the tournament, an estimated 909.6 million viewers watched at least one minute of the final 2010 game when Spain beat the Netherlands. In comparison, nearly 900 million people watched at least part of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics. On Twitter, more than 24.9 million tweets were sent out during this year’s Super Bowl, a rise from 13.7 million just two years earlier.
Report compiled with information from The Associated Press.