Facebook and Twitter compete head to head for sports fans’ attention

If you’re seeing a lot more sports content on your social media feeds lately, it’s no coincidence.

Both Facebook and Twitter have been pushing sports to the top of the agenda with a number of new initiatives. For Facebook, it was the launch of the online Sports Stadium earlier this year. For Twitter, it’s been the announcement of live streaming deals with major sports leagues as well as some original programming.

The two powerhouse social networks are often seen as competitors, and when it comes to sports traffic, both sites want to be number one. Twitter has historically been known to dominate live events, but Facebook has made a push to change that recently.

According to a Facebook spokesperson, Facebook has become the primary ‘second screen’ during live TV broadcasts, with 85 per cent of social media users online during live broadcasts visiting the site. The spokesperson did not specify if these live events were related to sports, but pointed out that Facebook is the largest community of sports fans in the world with 650 million people connected to sports pages.

Sports Stadium was launched in time for Super Bowl 50 in February, although it was received with a fair amount of criticism according to CNET. Some fans claimed that the technology lagged, while others complained that they could not even locate the Sports Stadium on Facebook.

Twitter’s recent debut of livestreaming has also been met with a twinge of disappointment. For Wimbledon, the video was embedded on a page that also showed tweets using the #Wimbledon hashtag. It featured only analysis, live interviews and match replays, while the majority of fans were hoping to watch live game footage.

Despite the lukewarm reception for the Wimbledon stream, Twitter is moving ahead with live streaming planned for the MLB, NHL and NFL later this year.

“When we analyze any of the data around any big sporting event, you see essentially this ‘roar of the crowd’ on Twitter,” said Christopher Doyle, head of media partnerships at Twitter Canada. “It’s really become a shared experience for fans.”

Doyle says that Twitter has become a place for fans to:

  • Follow along with other fans, no matter where they are
  • Receive instant news updates for their favourite teams or players
  • Break down the barriers between them and their favourite players

Twitter Canada has also recently announced a partnership with the CBC through Twitter Amplify for the Rio Olympics.

“[We’re going to be able to] pair their great content in near real time with a brand partner,” said Doyle. “We know people are celebrating these moments, and now they can have… near-instant access to that moment on their smartphone.”

Based on the reaction to Wimbledon and the launch of Sports Stadium, the success of the partnership might be determined by how fast CBC will be able to get highlight videos circulating online. The longer it takes to get them posted, the less impact they’ll be able to have on fans. Twitter ranked first for being most up-to-date in a Global Olympics survey when compared to all other digital platforms, which means that users have come to expect instant updates on any major event going on.

Live streaming video has been outlined as an important part of Twitter’s business moving forward by the company.

“Overall, it’s a way to keep current users engaged and potentially attract new users,” said Cameron Gordon, head of communications at Twitter Canada in an email. “[Users] will be drawn to the interactive viewing experience on Twitter, since it includes live commentary from… fans and personalities Tweeting during the game.”

As for Facebook, the Rio Olympics will be another defining moment for how Sports Stadium can fit into the world of sports fans. With a less than optimal performance during its debut at the Super Bowl, it will be important for Facebook to take advantage of the global appeal of the Olympics.

While Facebook may be the larger social network of the two, it seems that Twitter still has a tight grip on the second screen sports audience. If Facebook wants to be a serious threat to Twitter’s sports demographic, it will need to integrate more meaningful sports content in a more accessible way.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jackie Atkins
Jackie Atkins
Jackie Atkins is a competitive alpine skier, student and aspiring writer who primarily contributes stories about the intersection between technology and sports to ITBusiness.ca.

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