The World Cup is not only gripping TV audiences, online is all a Twitter (and Facebook) with the football tournament all over the social media.

Take the contrasting week-over-week change in overall buzz levels for the England team and the USA team, highlighting the different effect Saturday’s 1-1 result had in each country.

Social media discussions around the England squad dropped by 21 percent, reflecting the disappointment and subdued reaction to the game in England. In stark contrast, buzz levels around the US squad increased by over 250 percent, highlighting the delight with the result in the USA.

Thanks to a goalkeeping blunder in the 40th minute, the United States escaped with a 1-1 draw versus England last Saturday. Furthermore, the player responsible for the mistake, England’s Robert Green, was not only pulled from relative obscurity into the social media spotlight but his error has helped to fan the flames of World Cup fever in the US.

According to a Nielsen analysis of online messages surrounding all US and English national team players in the week ending Mon June 14, Green garnered 11.4 percent of the total buzz, the most of any man from either squad.

It was also notable that David Beckham, who isn’t playing in the tournament, still managed to feature among the most buzzed players. It seems the obsession with the star plays out in social media just as it did with the TV cameras, which frequently cut to slow-motion clips of Beckham’s reaction to events during the course of the game.

World Cup Social Media

Nielsen’s study also found that his name was seven times more likely to appear in a World Cup message in the last week than in the prior seven-day period.

Nielsen’s study, conducted the week ending Monday June 14 2010, looked at English language World Cup-related messages on blogs, message boards, groups, video and image sites – including Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter – that mentioned at least one of the players related to the 2010 US and England Team Squads.

It was the second most dramatic week-over-week change behind US goalkeeper Tim Howard, whose gutsy performance earned him “Man of the Match” status. His buzz levels soared more than 750 percent week-over-week.

Despite a somewhat muted performance, English star Wayne Rooney still managed to garner the second highest levels of buzz last week among the teams’ players with a 9.1 percent share.

Howard finished third overall with a 6.7 percent share, while the game’s goal scorers Clint Dempsey and Steven Gerrard rounded out the top five with 5 percent each.

There was, however, one positive for England’s Green; the buzz levels for England’s backup goalkeepers, David James and Joe Hart, actually decreased in the last week - suggesting that even if fans are unsatisfied with Green, they weren’t eager to discuss the need for a replacement.

Pete Blackshaw, VP of digital insights at Nielsen, observes, “What’s happening in social media indicates that the error could help fan the flames of World Cup fever in the US and help the sport gain a mass share of mind it’s not previously enjoyed for a tournament held outside its own shores.

“If Green hadn’t made the blunder, the US would have lost their most anticipated match and interest could have dwindled before it had a chance to really start going.”

“Nielsen’s analysis illustrates just how much the online community discusses these games,” said Blackshaw.

“Moments of greatness - or even the briefest of errors - can thrust any of these players’ names under the social media microscope for hours and days at a time and can have an effect that spreads far beyond the 90 minutes of game time.”

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