Why don’t Facebook and Twitter understand sport?

Posted on December 8, 2016


Some people fear that social media knows too much about us. When we tell it who we are, what we like, where we live and what we’re doing, it’s not surprising that sites like Facebook can make some impressive conclusions as to what sort of subjects interest us.

However, if Facebook and Twitter were to play Trivial Pursuit, I think Sports & Leisure would be the category they did everything they could to avoid. When it comes to sporting knowledge and suggestions, they me remind of the hapless Roger Nouveau, John Thomson’s enthusiastic but clueless Arsenal-supporting character from 1990s comedy, ‘The Fast Show’.

They’re like the bloke who goes into a crowded room of people watching Match of the Day and shouts out all the results, who cheers when the wrong team scores, and who constantly asks “which way are we shooting again?”

Am I being harsh? I don’t think so. If you like or follow any football team or football news source, you’ll surely have noticed that random dribs and drabs of information pop up all over the place. They’re often unwelcome, irrelevant and out of date, particularly on Facebook, making us wonder whether new football social media platform Dugout could be one to keep an eye on instead.

It’s not just football that has this problem though, but the whole sport spectrum. Our snooker loopy Technical Director Darren had his patience tested last weekend by Facebook’s treatment of the World Snooker page. The UK Championship final saw Mark Selby beat Ronnie O’Sullivan on Sunday night, but that didn’t stop various World Snooker updates from the previous day cropping up all over his timeline well into Monday, including this one at nearly 2:00pm. This was 22 hours after the post was made, and about 17 hours after the final had finished.

When it comes to sport, Facebook needs to learn of the importance of chronology and time sensitivity. If a football team goes 1-0 up but then concedes five minutes later, the news that they’ve gone 1-0 up is only relevant for five minutes. It’s certainly not of any meaning the following day, but it’s not unlikely Facebook will decide that it’s one of the first things you should see in your newsfeed a full day later.

In other words, a Liverpool fan doesn’t want to be reminded on Monday morning that Emre Can put his side 3-1 ahead in the 64th minute of yesterday’s game against Bournemouth when they went on to lose the game 4-3. It’s out of date news, and there’s been more significant news since it.

Twitter tends to be a little more structured in the way it orders tweets, and is generally a better social platform for sport lovers, but where it falls short is in its page recommendations. Earlier this week, Darren again noticed that Twitter was suggesting he should follow these accounts:

Quite innocently, Twitter has probably noticed that a lot of Darren’s tweets and interaction is centred on football, and thought that he must therefore want to follow more football accounts. What it seems to overlook is that Darren is a keen Liverpool supporter, and that suggesting he follows Arsenal, Chelsea or (perish the thought) Manchester United is about as welcome as a city centre pub with a late licence suggesting everybody has an orange juice.

I get it as well as a Chester FC fan. Given I’m someone following a lot of local footballers and sports reporters, Twitter seems puzzled as to why I haven’t started following Wrexham FC yet. Here’s a bit of background reading if you’re not sure either.

So, come on Facebook and Twitter, you can do better than this! Sort out your sport, and give the millions of people around the world who follow football, snooker, cricket and every other competitive activity a platform that at least seems to ‘get’ it.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray

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