July 14, 2014 Insights, News & Events

This 2014 FIFA World Cup placed both sport and data on center stage for the world to see, with everyone able to marvel at just how connected we all are these days.

In some cases, the data has been just as entertaining as the actual competition, and at times, maybe more so. Almost none of us will step onto the pitch in the World Cup, but the data around the event tells a story about us.

We might not have been on the field of play, but this event was as much about the way we interact with our world as it was about sport. The data from the 2014 FIFA World Cup shows how we are amazingly connected, in ways that previous generations of humanity would consider the work of science fiction. Even better, the data tells a story of how we possess the potential for connecting with our brothers and sisters all over the globe, and how, when we really want to, we can share ideas and cooperate in very quick intervals. It is important to realize that, given the global appeal of soccer/futbol/football, we just lived through our first “global conversation.” Such a thing would have been impossible until very recently.

There has been no shortage of data around this event. However, not all data is good data. Nor is all data relevant all of the time.  I’m reminded of the movie “The Color of Money” starring Tom Cruise and Paul Newman. In that movie, largely about Tom Cruise swinging his pool cue around like some kind of 80’s billiards ninja, the song playing in the background during an epic montage is Eric Clapton’s “It’s in the Way that You Use It.” Eric Clapton could have just as easily written that song about data. It’s not a question of whether or not you have it, but success depends entirely on how you use that data.

We can learn a lot by taking the data shared around the World Cup and applying it to the world of social media marketing.

Example 1: Have a look at this data visualization from Germany’s 7-1 drubbing of Brazil, courtesy of Twitter and CartoDB. The busy conversation literally explodes after the cluster of early goals. This is clearly a win. It’s fun to watch, and to understand that all of those people are joined on the same medium of exchange, around a similar set of topics.

Take-away: Marketers should look at this more abstractly to understand how fast and far news travels and just how many people could affect your plan. However, this is the same scale and power that can burn you. If you engage poorly with your audience this same bubbling cauldron of human activity can be used against you.

Example 2: Another fan, Emil Johansson from Sweden, charted the position of all the goals scored in the World Cup and made it sortable by player or by country as well.

Take-way: Sometimes the best way to get your point across is by distilling the very relevant data into a chart or visualization. Success is more about choosing the right things to do and say to get your point across, than it is to just keep blasting away at people. When you have a chance at the attention of your audience, use it well.

Example 3: Some ways of viewing the data miss the mark, even when the process seems right. Andrew Yuan, via Visua.ly is from Brazil. His research showed that Brazil was a pretty hefty favorite to win. If you clicked on the link to the Twitter-provided visualization during Germany’s goal explosion versus Brazil, you’ll see why that didn’t pan out. There is a lesson in here for marketers, as well.

Take-away: There are a few take-aways here, but most importantly, you should always know that past performance is not indicative of future success. Things change in real-time, all of the time. While historical data is helpful in constructing scenarios and planning, the map is not the territory it represents. When things change, you should use the best and most recent data you can to change with the circumstances. The competition for attention is extremely tough, and the ability to change according to the real opportunities in front of you is as important as the planning you put into your approach.

At SocialFlow, we use data in everything we do, and we build our products so that we surface the right data at the right time. In many cases, the platform provides automation to take action for you in order to help you get the most from your efforts. If anything sticks with you after reading this post, it should be that the world is extremely connected, and winning attention in a world where the competition for attention is so fierce that it requires very advanced technology to stay ahead of your competitors. Contact SocialFlow to learn how we can help.

Written by Frank Speiser