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Twitter World Cup analysis shows silencing effect of penalty shootouts

As with all global sporting events in recent years, Twitter users are enjoying the conversation around the clock, commenting on key moments, discussing controversial incidents, and generally throwing in their two cents’ worth.

However, after analyzing recent tweets during the Brazil World Cup, the social media site has discovered there’s one moment when the Twitter community – or at least, the bit of it that’s interested in soccer – falls completely silent; a time during a game when events on the field are so intense that, even for the most hopelessly addicted social media users, Twitter suddenly doesn’t matter.

That moment comes, you may not be surprised to learn, during a penalty shootout, which takes place in the knockout stages of the competition if the score is still level after extra time.

Looking at posts containing at least one World Cup-specific word during the Brazil-Chile game last week that ended with a shootout, Twitter’s analytics team examined the tweets-per-second (TPS) count to see how users were interacting with the action, as well as with each other.

It quickly noticed a pattern for each penalty kick taken: an average amount of activity as the player gears up to take the shot, a sharp drop when the referee blows the whistle for the player to shoot, and a massive leap in tweets right after the shot’s taken, with the rollercoaster pattern repeating with every subsequent penalty taken.

penalty_snapshot“If you’ve been to a World Cup viewing party, you’ve probably noticed the same phenomenon: the bar buzzes with excitement as a player gets ready for his shot, and bursts into an emotional reaction based on its outcome – but went silent in between, for that moment as his laces met the ball and it curled towards the net,” Miguel Rios, Twitter’s data science manager, said in a blog post Thursday.

He added, “The last penalty kick, which sent @CBF_futebol through to the quarterfinals, generated the highest single-minute activity we’ve seen thus far in the World Cup, with 388,985 tweets per minute.”

With the final taking place in a couple of weeks’ time and the stakes increasing with every remaining fixture, we can expect to see a few more Twitter records broken during the course of the competition, as well as several nail-biting silences when those cruel penalty shootouts are once again called upon to settle a game.