Social media and the 2011 Rugby World Cup

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The world of social media has changed dramatically in the four years since the last world cup - back then, MySpace was the largest social network in North America with more than 110 million active monthly users,  Facebook had a mere 50 million active users and Twitter hadn’t even launched.

Move forward to the 2011 Rugby World Cup kicked off and while New Zealand are again the heavy favourites, as was the case four years ago, things are very different in the world of social media.

At the last count, Facebook had over 750 million active users, which, as I saw in an interesting infographic, would make it the third largest country in the world. Twitter has reached 100 million active users (although there are approx. 200 million registered accounts) and MySpace, which at its peak had 125 million active users, now has around 63 million.

Social media stats about the rugby world cup discussion so far:

Image and data source: Ubervu

Since the start of the rugby world cup last Friday there have been almost 32,000 mentions of “RWC” or “Rugby World Cup” on social media sites - unsurprising 71% of these from men. The potential total impressions has been almost 24m to date.

The majority of these (almost 24,000) featured on Twitter, with Facebook discussion coming in second. It’s important to keep in mind though that this is only the content from Facebook that people have made publicly available.

Different Twitter policies for teams at the rugby world cup 2011:

Graham Henry, the New Zealand head coach, has decided to take a simple approach to preventing players from causing gaffes on Twitter by banning them from using the platform for the duration of the tournament:

“We haven’t had a policy up till now,” he said. “We’ve just asked them to make good decisions about that and, in the All Blacks camp, most of the time, they’ve made good decisions. But, at Rugby World Cup time, zilch.”

Meanwhile, the England team has not been banned from using Twitter, but they have been given some simple guidelines, and told to “think before they tweet”. Toby Flood, the England player was asked about the instructions given to the team and said:

“You just use your common sense. Don’t write anything that will become controversial or daft, and I think that’s the safest way to be.”

Of course, while sports stars and celebrities have much higher followings than the average person, the principles are the same for everyone. Back in January, O2 who sponsor a number of international rugby teams, including England, wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece on the O2 blog titled ‘5 Twitter Commandments for famous rugby players’.

And what about the numerous, non-celebrity social media users and what they discuss on social media during the rugby world cup?

The message for everyone should be the same – you are accountable for your actions, or in this case Tweets or comments on social media. The chances are that your boss will be following you, as well as some of your clients, so like the England rugby team have been warned, always “think before you tweet”.