If you were online, on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, near a TV, at a bar/restaurant and even in your car listening to the radio, you probably heard that there was a (huge) soccer (ahem, fútbol) game going on between Belgium and the U.S. last Tuesday, July 1st.

A bit about soccer:

Tim Howard's gloves

During a usual match, a game lasts about 90 minutes, with about four to five minutes added of extended time. However, since the teams didn’t score during the regulation play time, the match went into overtime; and that’s when things got really interesting. By now, you might know that (spoilers) the USA lost to Belgium 2 to 1 and are no longer playing for the 2014 World Cup. But those last 30 minutes of extra game time showed the world what the U.S. spirit is made of… and, today, it’s mostly about Tim Howard, the USA soccer team goalie (Photo right: That’s the guy with the large Mickey Mouse-like gloves that prevents the opposing team’s soccer balls from entering the U.S. net to score; photoshopped by a fan/Mashable)

A star is born:

Tim Howard made 16 saves, setting a World Cup record. That means that the Belgian team maneuvered itself into U.S. territory and kicked that ball 16 times into the net, only to meet our goalie, like a wall, slapping, kicking, flinging his body to avoid a goal. Only two made it through (of a total of 18 Belgian attempts in less than 30 minutes) and the USA team managed to score one goal during that extra time as well.

Now, if you don’t know much about soccer, just so you have an idea how difficult it is to encroach on the opposing team’s territory, a lot of times, games end in a 0-0 or 1-0 score. So now you can imagine watching the goalie block attempt, after attempt, like a busy bumblebee protecting the hive.

The numbers:

This feat of strength, resilience and adrenaline, obviously made for an exciting game on social media, because it is estimated that 9.1 million tweets were about the game (tweets that only mentioned the game; this number doesn’t include reactionary tweets). According to Twitter’s data team estimates, there were 178,608 tweets per minute (tpm) when Belgium scored its first goal, 187,413 tpm when USA’s Julian Green scored and 216,659 tpm when Belgium defeated the U.S.

The game seems to have broken viewership records as well for both ESPN and Univision, with an estimated 21.6 million people watching the game, although that number doesn’t count the viewing parties held around the nation. In Chicago, an event at Soldier Field drew 28,000 fans, according to the Huffington Post.

Howard Mount Rushmore

A meme is born:

On Twitter, people decided to post images of “Things Tim Howard could save” like Earth, Kim Kardashian’s first marriage, Lord Eddard Stark’s head (from Game of Thrones), thus creating a new meme. An Internet meme is a concept that spreads rapidly from person to person, usually through social media and other Internet forums like Reddit or 4chan, and it is distinguished by its creativity. Oh, and did fans get creative, even photoshopping Howard’s face on Mount Rushmore, in between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson faces on the mountain (photo by a fan/Mashable)! Companies, brands, and regular people have joined in celebrating Howard’s meme.

How to tap into that “virality”?

Now, that’s the million dollar question. You can sometimes foresee how trends are going to keep growing or die out, but to claim that you have a “prediction tool” out there for what’s going to be viral would be eye opening. Maybe it does exist… But, in this case, you have events like the World Cup that are worldwide attention-grabbers and that in itself presents plenty of opportunities for specific incidents to “go viral” in the social-media-sphere.

Other times, you’re extremely lucky and believe in keeping your social media strategy “organic” just like the restaurant Waffle House’s communications specialist, Meghan Irwin, said about her “We don’t believe in Belgium waffles” tweet on the company’s official Twitter account last Monday. That tweet was retweeted 23,284 times, favorited 12,718 times and their Twitter account gained about 1,500 followers since it was posted; normally, they gain 50 followers a day. We can only hope that the “typo” was intentional (*fingers crossed*).

Waffle House

And maybe being organic is what works for Waffle House, but in our industry, advisors can’t throw their social media strategy to the wind and “hope for it to go viral” because we have to be careful about our posts being compliant. All posts should be well-thought-out and part of a plan. You can integrate some level of “organic-ness” to your posts by having a clear image of who your brand is.  

And I would say that you could doctor a photo with Howard’s face, but by now, I think that ship might have sailed.

See also:

7 multimedia secrets that will help you sell

5 ways to improve social media engagement

How to improve your practice online