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Look to Twitter to see what Brazilians really think of the World Cup. EPA/Abedin Taherkenareh

View from Brazil: Twitter as a tool for protest – and procrastination

Twitter activity this week, just like the World Cup, has definitely not slowed since the opening match.

Here, we look at the shift in conversation as the tournament begins to take shape – who is excited, bored or really winning on Twitter? – but first, a taste of what’s happening on social media in Brazil.

The opening ceremony and first match, Brazil vs Croatia, were huge successes on television and on social media. Brazilians, of course, probably talked about nothing else that day – but in Brazil, much of what was said was politicised.

FIFA was massively criticised for choosing a Belgian producer over Brazilians for the opening ceremony.

Francamente ! Na terra de Paulo Barros e Rosa Magalhães chamam um belga pra fazer uma bobagem de abertura destas!

— Leda Nagle (@Lnagle2) June 12, 2014
Translation: Honestly! In the land of Paulo Barros and Rosa Magalhães [two of the most successful Brazilian Carnival producers] they called a Belgian to do a silly opening like this! – Leda Nagle, Brazilian journalist.
The dedicated fans and patriots at the Columbia vs Greece match this week. Ana Vimieiro

Another major disappointment was the disappearance on the official FIFA images of the moment that a paraplegic gave the initial kick-off using a mind-controlled exoskeleton built by the Brazilian scientist Miguel Nicolelis.

O genial exoesqueleto usado pelo rapaz que daria o primeiro chute infelizmente se perdeu na transmissão da abertura. Uma pena.

— Fernando Meirelles (@fmei7777) June 12, 2014
Translation: The exoskeleton worn by the guy that would do the kick-off unfortunately got lost in the opening broadcast. What a pity. Source: Fernando Meirelles, Brazilian film-maker.

E teve exoesqueleto mesmo. Lamentável o desprezo total da transmissão ao que deveria ter o principal destaque.

— Impedimento (@impedimento) June 12, 2014
Translation: And there was the exoskeleton indeed. Regrettable the complete disdain in the broadcast to something that should be in the spotlight. Source: Impedimento, popular website dedicated to South American football and culture.

Still, others strongly criticised the crowd chants attacking the Brazilian president.

Parte do estádio grita: “Ê Dilma, vai tomar no c.. ”. Outros gritam: “Ê Fifa, vai tomar no c…”

— Jamil Chade (@JamilChade) June 12, 2014
Translation: Part of the stadium shouts: hey, Dilma, f* off. Others shout: hey, Fifa, f* off. Source: Jamil Chade, Brazilian journalist.

Updating the top matches

In our last article, we noted that Brazil vs Croatia was the most talked about match on its official hashtag (#BRAvsCRO), some distance ahead of England vs Italy, which was closely followed by Germany vs Portugal, Spain vs the Netherlands and Argentina vs Bosnia and Herzegovina. The updated chart, through the matches of June 21, looks as follows:

Top matches: including games to June 21. Social Media Research Group

Of particular note here is that we have a new leader, in the Brazil vs Mexico match (an otherwise unspectacular 0-0 draw), with the Argentina vs Iran fixture (a 1-0 Argentina win, which Iran looked like winning at times) in second place.

The prominence of these two matches raises questions of whether people look to Twitter to fill in boring games, as well as to comment on exciting ones. The next three are familiar fixtures from the first week of matches.

Many of those at the bottom are the result of people using reversed hashtags in their tweets. Noticing this for the England vs Uruguay fixture, we also tracked the reverse hashtag specifically (#ENGvsURU), and recorded in excess of 27,000 tweets compared to 88,236 on the official hashtag (#URUvsENG).

So, while the official hashtags are performing as some form of marker, their success is not universal. One explanation for this is that while in Europe, the standard form is “Home Team vs Away Team”, for Americans the familiar format is “Away Team vs Home Team”, and so ordering hashtags for international audiences can be difficult.

What’s being shared?

Last time, we discussed how brands were dominating the conversation on official World Cup hashtags. This time, we’ll take a look at what is being shared on the match hashtags themselves.

Top retweets: including matches to June 21. Social Media Research Group

As with last week’s data, we again see @worldsoccershop heavily represented, with their offer to give away free shirts if you retweet and a specific event happens (such as Ronaldo scoring in the Germany vs Portugal match) drawing a massive response.

Tellingly, the other tweets are largely dominated by US related content, the top two being ESPN responses (@Sportscenter being an ESPN-operated account) to the US’s victory over Ghana.

The first non-US tweet comes from the UK’s Sky Sports, and their @SkyFootball account, asking for responses on a penalty in the Brazil Game. Sky, interestingly, are not broadcasting the World Cup in the UK.

Other notables in the top 20 include celebrities such as Piers Morgan and Kobe Bryant, the US’s Comedy Channel (also not a World Cup broadcaster), asking Americans to “RT if you think WE WILL WIN”, and a quote from an unofficial Simpsons Quote Of The Day account, but really, @worldsoccershop was the huge winner.

The limitations of the 1%

As we discussed last time, the representativeness of Twitter research by those not subscribing to data providers such as GNIP is unclear with the World Cup, as Twitter traffic continually exceeds 1% of the total amount of tweets published at any particular time.

The flip-side of that limitation is we are able to graph the times at which conversation around the World Cup; through the team accounts, tournament hashtags, match hashtags and television hashtags we are tracking, exceeds that 1%, and by how far.

Of course, at any particular time, there are also many tweets relating to the World Cup which do not contain any of the previously mentioned identifiers:

Total tweets published above the 1% threshold per second; June 13-22. QUT Social Media Research Group

The blue indicators in the graph above are the number of total tweets per second that exceeded 1% of total Twitter traffic.

Notable is that the World Cup is generating a smaller portion of the total Twitter traffic as it continues – which may not be much of a surprise – but also that while the opener generated the most prolonged period of >1% traffic, the matches on the morning of June 14 AEST (the matches of June 13 in Brazil) were the most prolific of the tournament on a per-second basis, with a particular peak during Spain’s demolition by the Netherlands.

It has yet to be seen how the next phase of the tournament will play out, and least of all what role Twitter will play; whether as a tool for excitement or boredom.

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