Facebook’s Sports Stadium Is No Threat Yet To Twitter’s Live Event Dominance

Facebook is trying to push Twitter out of the way when it comes to live events and social conversation, but Super Bowl 50 proved that it still has a long way to go.

The company’s Sports Stadium product struggled for much of Sunday’s game. So-called “live” updates often lagged several minutes behind the actual game action and, at one point in the first half, the live updates stopped altogether for an extended period of time.

Sports Stadium is the live experience that Facebook launched last month as a real-time hub to let users connect while talking about live events on Facebook. In the big picture, though, its purpose is to show the world — consumers, brands, celebrities and more — that real-time conversation happens on Facebook and doesn’t belong solely to Twitter.

Here’s how Facebook tried to capture the Super Bowl conversation in real time on Sunday.

Please Post About Super Bowl 50

The first step to showing how much real-time conversation is happening on your platform is to get people talking on your platform. Early in the game, Facebook expanded its “Update Status” with a specific callout asking users to post something about the Super Bowl.

I checked a few times throughout the game, and, at least for me, this prompt stopped showing in the second quarter.

Sports Stadium’s First-Half Struggles, Second-Half Recovery

Credit to Facebook for making the Super Bowl Sports Stadium experience easier to find today than when I tried to use it during the recent NFL playoffs. Searches like “super bowl” or “sb50” led you quickly into the Sports Stadium experience, and I eventually noticed that Facebook had inserted a direct link to it right in the mobile News Feed.

But early in the game, once you found Sports Stadium, Facebook fumbled the ball. About an hour into the game, when the score was 10–7 Denver with 11:18 to go in the second quarter, Sports Stadium was telling me it was 10–0 Denver, with either 1:59 (left image below) or 4:38 (right image below) left in the first quarter.

That was the last play-by-play update for a while. Then, for several minutes of game action, Sports Stadium seemed to go dormant. When I checked again about 20 minutes later, the live updates were flowing again, but they were still about two minutes behind the actual game clock.

Unlike the Carolina Panthers, Sports Stadium actually completed its comeback in the second half of the game and was doing well with play-by-play updates that were very close to what I was seeing on TV.

Beyond Play-By-Play: Friends & Experts

Play-by-play isn’t what Sports Stadium is all about; the idea is to prove that people are using Facebook to talk about live events and help users find those conversations. That’s what the “Friends” and “Experts” tabs that you see in the images above are all about.

I’m not a Facebook power user, so seeing that there were only seven updates from friends as the game was reaching its climax isn’t a big surprise; I only have about a hundred Facebook friends, and I think I saw all seven of those updates in my regular News Feed. Someone with 500 or more Facebook friends would probably find that Friends tab more helpful in seeing what people are saying.

But I was surprised to see only 10 updates on the “Experts” tab — these are from Facebook accounts that I’m not connected to, and surely there had to be more than 10 such updates. (I can get 10 updates from experts every minute via my Sports Twitter list.) Ironically, when I clicked on that tab, the first message had a featured image that was a screenshot of a tweet. Heh.

Trends: Facebook Vs. Twitter

Even outside of the Sports Stadium experience, Facebook appeared behind the curve early in the game. As Danny Sullivan pointed out (on Twitter), 11 minutes into the game there was nothing Super Bowl-related showing in Facebook trends.

As I tweeted about six minutes later, Twitter trends were almost exclusively about the Super Bowl. And it stayed that way throughout the game. While the Super Bowl quickly took the top spot on Facebook’s trends, it was just that single trend item about the game — no mentions of advertisers, commercials or anything else going on. Compare that to Twitter trends, which changed throughout the game with mentions of the teams, players and — very importantly — advertisers and commercials.

Big brands that are spending millions on Super Bowl visibility no doubt love that their name, commercial or hashtag can get seen in Twitter trends — something that didn’t seem to happen on Facebook.

Sometime in the next 24 hours, both Facebook and Twitter will likely publish official data showing Super Bowl-related activity from their users. Whatever those numbers are, today’s game is evidence to me that live event conversation is still where Twitter rules.

Postscript, Monday February 8: Facebook’s communications team has sent the following prepared statement regarding Sports Stadium’s problems in the 1st half:

Due to overwhelming traffic and activity, people visiting Facebook Sports Stadium during the Super Bowl may have experienced a delay with the scores and play-by-play information available in the Matchup and Stats tabs, or a problem with posting in the Friends tab. Content in the Experts tab was unaffected. We are actively working to correct the issue.

Furthermore, the company tells me that the “10” count showing on the “Experts” tab in the screenshot above is not the total number of posts available on that tab. Facebook says there are/were hundreds of posts on that tab, but the counter showing unread posts maxes out at 10.

About The Author

Matt McGee
Matt McGee joined Third Door Media as a writer/reporter/editor in September 2008. He served as Editor-In-Chief from January 2013 until his departure in July 2017. He can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee.