Tweet Until the Whistle: How to Win the Twitter World Cup in 2018

1 May, 2018

It’s almost time for the latest summer of chaos, sporting passion and enormous commercial prominence. The quadrennial FIFA World Cup returns to us for another outing this Summer, this time in Russia, and the very biggest brands will be clamouring to take advantage of the highs, lows, hopes and fears of football fans globally. 

Whether it’s Daniel Sturridge promoting his favourite sandwich or retired legends sporting their favourite Swiss watches, it seems like every major brand is involved. But what about smaller brands without seven-figure advertising budgets?

Fear not! You can still get involved and take advantage of World Cup fever to grow your online presence, boost engagement and increase awareness. So, without further ado, here are 5 dos and 5 don’ts for getting your brand involved in the World Cup.

These are occasions where the engagement and viral potential of Twitter is enormous, so that is what we’ll be looking at.

DO understand your goals and set realistic expectations

This is NOT a sales exercise.

No, really – it isn’t.

Unless your brand is directly involved in football, any attempts to shoe-horn ads into your World Cup related content will be rumbled by Twitter users very quickly. They know the score but will be unlikely to engage with an obvious advert.

This is instead an opportunity to grow social media engagement, increase brand awareness and develop a more human and less corporate dynamic between brand and customer.

Social media users enjoy it when brands have a sense of humour, self-awareness and remind people that they are, in fact, people too. It’s ultimately an opportunity for a brand to have a bit of fun with its followers.

DON’T try and wing it

If Twitter users are quick to reject obvious advertising masquerading as engaging content, they are even quicker to pick up on errors.

Don’t score an own goal by misspelling Kylian Mbappé or by wondering why Sven-Göran Eriksson doesn’t bring David Ginola on for Sweden.

There’s no need to be a footballing expert to get involved (the majority of your audience won’t be), but do undertake sufficient research to give yourself a reasonable understanding. Better still, assign Twitter duties to a team member with a keen interest in football already.

If users join in your discussion, responding well can lead to much broader engagement.

DO Tweet during the action

Before, during and after any game of the World Cup, the official game hashtag will almost certainly be one of the top trends in the UK. Countless users will be clicking this to read reactions, analysis, jokes, memes and, of course, GIFS. This is where and when you want to appear.

Consider setting up a member of staff for a light-hearted ‘live Tweeting’ of a key game. This can, and perhaps should, be entertaining and humorous due to the subject matter.

Providing your content is organic, timely and non-salesy, it may not matter if your brand isn’t directly linked to the football.

DON’T over-do it

Like a striker taking on a world class goalie, choose your shots carefully – you will only have so many. Quality always trumps quantity and one strong Tweet is more likely to garner a positive response than a series of rushed ones. By Tweeting too often, you may run the risk of losing followers.

DO address controversy (with good humour)

Every World Cup has a handful of controversial stories, whether that be a ‘Hand of God’, Beckham red card or stratospheric penalty miss. These stories are a gold mine for potential viral engagement if you respond at the right time and hit the right notes.

One such example was in the 2014 World Cup where Uruguay’s Luis Suarez was shown biting an Italian defender. The incident quickly became the biggest talking point of the day, and, almost on cue, the brands piled in.

Be creative, be a little bold and engage with the big talking points, then watch the likes fly in.

DON’T state the obvious

This itself may be an obvious one, but in order to set your Tweet apart from what will certainly be a lot of noise, your offering must be interesting or notable in some way.

Simply tweeting “Ronaldo should have buried that chance…” along with tens of thousands of others is likely to fall on deaf ears. Make sure your Tweet offers something fresh: make it funny, insightful or even controversial (but carefully so) to make it stand out from the crowd.

DO encourage debate

When a user interacts with you on Twitter, your brand also becomes visible to their followers. Having users respond to your content, as well as retweeting and liking it, should be a principal aim.

There are a number of ways to achieve this, including the following:

  • Ask direct questions: Who do you think will score first? Was that Neymar goal offside? Does this prove that Messi is better than Ronaldo?
  • Run a poll: Who will score England’s first goal?
  • Be controversial: Make statements or ask questions that are likely to polarize and stir up a discussion between debating sides.

This is where a solid understanding of football discourse is important – some issues and debates are particularly passionate, and passion leads to engagement.

DON’T feed the trolls

Twitter, like any social media platform, is home to ‘web trolls’. These are people who sow discord and deliberately try to start quarrels and upset others. Understanding who these users are and not engaging with them is very important when venturing into a public discussion.

Not all ‘trolls’ use obscene language so, at first glance, there is a risk of inadvertently giving unsavoury characters a platform by responding and not taking appropriate action. It may be also difficult to distinguish between a troll and a genuine dissatisfied customer; if in doubt, assume any complaints directed at you are genuine. You will see fairly quickly if they are not. Otherwise, do not feed the trolls.

DO your meme homework

Memes can be hard to pin down for those who don’t spend much time on social media - but they can also be your (not very) secret weapon for social media engagement.

“A meme is an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture—often with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme.”

Memes are digital trends that most often appear as images or animated GIFS and, when executed correctly, can be excellent for engagement. Your social media team will almost certainly have some level of familiarity with memes and should recognise opportunities to use them.


Memes are a multifaceted phenomenon and many carry overtones, symbolism or socio-political connotations that you may not wish to have associated with your brand. Always check you understand the full context of a meme before using it.

DON’T be antagonistic or negative

By all means, identify with and support the country where your business operates or where your target audience lives. A genuine investment in the action may drive more engagement than neutrality; however, your involvement should always be positive and never against a certain opposition or country.

Be supportive, be passionate, but your message should always be positive.

DO know your audience 

This is perhaps the most important of all considerations when venturing into a popular social media discourse such as the World Cup. The points raised in this blog will not necessarily be compatible with all brands or all audiences. Nobody knows your target audience better than yourself, so make sure you ask yourself the following:

  • Is this the sort of content your existing followers will want to read?
  • Are the new followers you may gain through this exercise of any long-term value to your brand?
  • Is your Twitter primarily a customer service channel? If so, is Tweeting about football appropriate?


We hope this has been a helpful read. If you decide you want to get your brand involved in the biggest sporting event in the world this year, we wish you the best of luck and success in achieving the final result you’re hoping for. Remember, the more fun you have, the more likely your followers are to have fun too. 

Written by Tom

Tom cites his key strengths as communication, writing and presenting. He enjoys working in digital due to the way it satisfies both the creative and logical sides of the brain.

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