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Esquire Misses the Point on Twitter and the World Cup

Esquire has done what it calls a “semi-scientific” analysis of tweets about the World Cup and found that following the event on Twitter “will not enrich your game-watching experience whatsoever, despite what the mainstream media would have you believe.” Why? Because, according to the magazine’s exhaustive analysis of some 2,000 tweets (a thousand using the #worldcup tag and another thousand using the #USA tag), Twitter offers “almost nothing of importance, beyond score updates you can already see on TV and blind patriotism (laced with casual racism) that you can hear in a bar.”

No offense intended to Esquire or writer Peter Knox, but arriving at such a conclusion hardly takes any kind of analysis at all, semi-scientific or otherwise. The World Cup is a sporting event, with some of the most bitter rivalries since the Second World War — and Esquire is somehow shocked to find blind patriotism and casual racism in people’s tweets about it?

The magazine makes it sound as though someone was expecting more from Twitter. But what? In-depth analysis of soccer strategy? Trenchant observations about the coaching of Britain’s squad or the passing mechanics employed by Argentina? Esquire says that the observations people can draw from Twitter are no better than one would hear in a bar, but the fact is that in many cases, particularly during a sporting event like the World Cup, Twitter *is* like a bar — albeit one in which people can only speak in 140-character bursts.

Of course people shout out the score (virtually), or moan about a referee’s call — what Esquire called “useless observations” — but that’s part of the point. It’s called social media because it’s social. In other words, it’s a conversation; and yes, sometimes it’s like a conversation in a bar.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Social Advertising Models Go Back to the Future

Post and thumbnails courtesy of Esquire.

17 Responses to “Esquire Misses the Point on Twitter and the World Cup”

  1. There is no Britain squad. It’s England. Britain squad would be composed of players from Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. It’s like me suggesting that the USA is part of some hybrid North America team featuring Canadians i.e. wrong.

  2. I use twitter to promote my blog, post blog updates and inform my followers of my writing activity, posting links to articles I’ve written as they are published. Twitter also allows me to follow the blog updates of fellow food bloggers. But other than that, I use twitter as a social outlet. I can “chat” with friends who live far away, sharing information, gossip, laughs and simply immediate thoughts and reactions. I have a very good South African friend who lives in a different country than I, so when France played SA we could share the match as if we were watching it together, sitting side by side on the same sofa in my living room. So, what, pray tell, is wrong with that?

  3. Victor

    I think Peter’s article alludes to the fact that there is something really off-putting about how self-important people act on social networks. There’s a difference between displaying your outrage at a bad call in the World Cup game while watching at a bar and writing about it on Twitter – one is an genuine emotional expression, the other is far too often a cry for attention.

    Twitter has it’s value (mostly as a tool for businesses to reach customers, in my view) but the amount of inane commentary is so staggering that finding true gems of intriguing thought is a difficult and tedious task.

  4. It is amazing to me how much Old Media still doesn’t get social media. It’s about participation. And network effects. Apparently in their elitist posture they just cannot be bothered to look a little closer or deeper.

    BTW their sampling is just way too limited. I wonder if the guy would have said the same thing had he looked at the 1,000 most retweeted World Cup tweets.

    I know I for one have seen some real gems, here is a very small sample:

  5. So in essence with your article you agree with the esquire article that nothing of value was produced, much like talking at a bar. Different words, same conclusion.

    Twitter = nothing of value.

    • Josh, are you suggesting that talking at a bar has no value? I have yet to ever walk into a bar with everyone ignoring each other.

      I like Twitter because when the ref blows a call, I like to commiserate with fellow fans. When Messi has a stunning run, I like to celebrate it. When Ronaldo takes yet another dive, I like to hate on him. Twitter enhances my World Cup experience.

      • I agree with Christopher’s use of Twitter in the sense that it serves as an outlet for whatever you’re feeling and a collective to validate those thoughts. I have no problem with that.

        What did become clear when reviewing thousands of World Cup related tweets over the past 10 days is that I wasn’t missing as much as CNN and would lead you to believe.

        Twitter is still Twitter, with or without a soccer game in the background and to think it’d be elevated to a level worth all of this attention, I was let down and didn’t see anyone else expressing that. Thankfully, Esquire was also on board.

        I don’t disparage anyone’s use of Twitter, much less to enjoy during the Cup, but it didn’t enhance my experience the way having a surround sound flat panel widescreen tv did, and not a lot of people had those kind of tvs four years ago either.

      • Thanks for the comment, Peter — perhaps CNN and others have been hyping Twitter up too much, and your post was clearly a response to that. For me, watching the stream during a match is far more interesting and enhances the game much more than any widescreen ever could. If you can’t (or don’t want to) watch it in a bar, Twitter is the next best thing… plus you don’t get beer spilled on you :-)

  6. I think it is a fair point for them to make. The public has a right to do a little research and push back when they are told all the time how Twitter is a game changer (no pun intended), and how it will change how they get the news, and interact with the rest of the world, and celebrities are begging for followers before they’ll make a donation to charities, what a huge success it is, blah, blah, blah. We were even told that what happened in Iran was going to be the “Twitter Revolution” until it turned out not to be a revolution, and research proved it had almost nothing to do with Twitter.

    • Thanks for the comment, Mike. But I don’t think it’s fair to say the Iranian situation had nothing to do with Twitter — I think the use of Twitter did a lot to spread information about what was going on there, regardless of whether it was coming from actual Iranian dissidents or not.

      • Mehdi Yahyanejad said, “Twitter’s impact inside Iran is nil.”* I think the difference between the world being told that use of Twitter was a major driving force behind the efforts to bring about a change in the Iranian government versus what actually happened as described by Mehdi Yahyanejad is vast enough to say that Twitter had nothing to do with the efforts there to change the government. As for your point that Twitter helped spread information, let’s not forget that there were still other ways of communication, including other Internet services, being used, and that much of the information that did show up on Twitter was either redundant or incorrect.

        *”Foreign Policy Magazine: ‘But it is time to get Twitter’s role in the events in Iran right. Simply put: There was no Twitter Revolution inside Iran. As Mehdi Yahyanejad, the manager of ‘Balatarin,’ one of the Internet’s most popular Farsi-language Web sites, told the Washington Post last June, Twitter’s impact inside Iran is nil. ‘Here [in the United States], there is lots of buzz,’ he said. ‘But once you look, you see most of it are Americans tweeting among themselves.”

  7. so besides beating up esquire for not getting the point, what exactly is the point of all the breathless hype in the media and sky high valuations for twitter?

    yes, they are a facilitator of conversations that companies dream and pray will include their brands in a positive light, but beyond that, i’m still searching for the significance beyond “throwing it on the pile’ of the media mix.