If you haven't had a chance to check out Twitter's new World Cup site, do so now. It's an amazing source of news for FIFA's tournament--and perhaps a glimpse at how we'll be socializing during events, in a Twitter-dominated future.
The site provides helpful flags for each participating country, a list of upcoming matches, top tweets, and a what's-happening-now button that takes visitors right to the soccer pitch, focusing in on games in progress, with custom-Twitter feeds for each match. During a match, tweets originating from each team's home country flow face to face, so that you can get a sense of the trash talk.
Unfortunately, the site's already been hijacked by spam--that is, an annoying convention called "Hashflags," which are the virtual of equivalent of bellicose yelling: #USA #USA #USA. (You can see the lame effect above.)
Still, the site provides lots of useful data that is easier to find than through Google or an info-overloaded ESPN.com. If this foray into live-event social networking isn't part of Twitter's expansion plans, it should be. (Whatever they do, they need to solve that spam problem, on the double. At least put a cap on the Hashflags, k?)
Imagine if Twitter branched this service out to other sports and tournaments--say, the NFL, NCAA March Madness, and the Olympics. The events could be designed just as the current World Cup site; branching the service out should be a no-brainer, and it's an angle that apps such as Hot Potato have already tried to capitalize on.
But with Twitter's massive, skyrocketing audience, which just grew to some 2 billion tweets per month, the 140-character powerhouse may have found a new market to tap in the live-event arena.
Launching this service at the World Cup is deft on Twitter's part--the event has an estimated cumulative audience of some 26 billion. And Twitter's own user base, once dominated by Americans, is now over 60% international. FIFA is a perfect match for those demographics, as Biz Stone noted on Twitter's blog. "This will be the most widely-viewed sporting event in the world," he wrote. "Twitter's rapid international growth means we are part of this global phenomenon as people everywhere seek to discover what's happening with their favorite team, their favorite players, and breaking news related to this worldwide event."
According to Mark Evans of Sysomos, a Toronto-based social media monitoring company, "The World Cup could represent Twitter's big international coming out party and result in sudden growth in nations consumed by soccer."
"This is going to be unprecedented, I think, in terms of the amount of traffic we're going to see," Evans told CTV News, which reported that global Twitter use during the tournament will "explode."
A rep from Twitter did not get too specific about the company's plans, but sounded positive about the service's potential. "We think sports, Twitter, and live events go together well," the rep said in an e-mail. "We made this special site for World Cup, and we'll see what happens."