NFL Teams and Alternative Media

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Have you ever noticed the little Twitter and Facebook icons on the left side of the BTB front page? They're right below the training camp thermometer. As of today, BTB has 806 Facebook fans and 1,556 Twitter followers.

You may wonder why I'm bringing this up. Well, apart from asking you to sign up if you haven't done so already, it's the offseason, and I have to indulge my fetish for numbers somehow. And because those two numbers caught my eye, I decided to do a little vestigatin'.

Alternative media, and Twitter in particular, has changed the way fans interact with the game and its players, and has ramped up the NFL experience to an entirely different level. Reggie Bush (@reggie_bush) has 1,160,942 Twitter followers, Chad Ochocinco (@OGOchoCinco) has 915,057 at last count. As far as I can tell, these are the two NFL players with the highest number of followers. This is clearly not your father's NFL anymore.

To my knowledge, the Lakers (@Lakers) are the pro sports team with the most Twitter followers (1,525,643). Now you might argue that those numbers are inflated because they just made the NBA finals. Perhaps. But the Celtics (@Celtics) have only a fraction of that with 43,159 followers, despite making it to the finals as well.

Who is America's team in alternative media? After the break, we look at how NFL teams have embraced alternative media by looking at the number of Twitter followers, Facebook Fans and the page rank of their internet sites.

The table below ranks the NFL teams according to the reach they generate with each alternative media tool. Here's what I looked at:

Twitter Followers: Number of Followers as shown on a teams' official Twitter site.
Facebook Fans: Number of Fans on each teams' official Facebook page.
Home Page Traffic Rank: Traffic rank among all US internet sites for the official team homepage (as listed on NFL.com) according to Alexa.com

Obviously the numbers are just a snapshot per end of May. Also, in case I have chosen the wrong page/site, please let me know and I'll change the table.

Alternative Media Reach by NFL team (click column header to sort)

Team Twitter Followers
Page Facebook Fans Page Homepage Traffic Rank
Cowboys 26,004 @dallascowboys 622,239 DallasCowboys 2,302
Eagles 788 @OfficialEagles 205,564 pages/Philadelphia-PA/Philadelphia-Eagles/7686697187 3,204
Bears 17,624 @ChicagoBearscom 501,237 ChicagoBears 4,735
Redskins 6,301 @RedskinsBlog 246,106 redskins 5,196
49ers 25,956 @SF_49ers 150,844 SANFRANCISCO49ERS 7,110
Bengals 19,422 @CinBengalsNFL 175,023 bengals 8,646
Steelers - -
No official account 585,946 steelers 8,660
Ravens 13,613 @1winningdrive 107,899 baltimoreravens 8,795
Packers 18,148 @packers 274,897 Packers 9,505
Broncos 16,779 @Denver_Broncos 191,618 DenverBroncos 9,961
Jaguars 5,601 @jaguarsinsider 46,738 jacksonvillejaguars 10,470
Chargers 37,206 @chargers 224,107 chargers 10,791
Raiders 25,813 @raiders 116,036 pages/Oakland-CA/Oakland-Raiders/26438426324 10,968
Bills 12,605 @buffalobillscom 84,929 BuffaloBills 11,166
Patriots 38,936 @realpatriots 427,144 newenglandpatriots 11,432
Dolphins 23,839 @MIAMIDOLPHINS 199,397 MiamiDolphins 11,508
Giants 11,606 @giantspathanlon - - No official account 11,957
Jets 26,601 @nyjets 129,259 Jets 12,398
Seahawks 13,355 @seahawks 154,612 Seahawks 13,061
Browns 12,922 @OfficialBrowns 116,722 clevelandbrowns 15,218
Buccaneers 7,158 @TBBuccaneers 63,193 TBBuccaneers 16,074
Lions 5,139 @DetroitLionsNFL 71,697 DetroitLions 16,173
Falcons 16,098 @Atlanta_Falcons 48,514 atlantafalcons 18,976
Vikings 24,921 @VikingsFootball 394,138 minnesotavikings 20,226
Colts - -
No official account 360,941 colts 20,691
Texans 5,233 @houstontexans 59,339 HoustonTexans 21,237
Cardinals 1,802 @cardschatter 64,072 arizonacardinals 22,490
Chiefs 13,392 @KC_Chiefs1 90,122 KansasCityChiefs 22,962
Panthers 7,899 @cpanthers 29,740 CarolinaPanthers 26,467
Rams 5,073 @OneRamsWay 28,404 Rams 31,535
Saints 2,485 @NOScom 584,028 Saints 31,947
Titans 15,389 @tennesseetitans 57,038 titans 41,969

Notes on the data:

The Giants do not appear to have a Facebook page. The Raiders Facebook page seems to be a fanpage, and not an official page.

I couldn't find Twitter sites for the Steelers and Colts. The Giants and Cards Twitter pages are linked to from the teams' official homepage, but are not run by the franchises themselves.

Observations:

Reggie Bush and Chad Ochocinco both have twice as many Twitter followers than all NFL teams combined.  Twitter clearly is a medium that NFL teams have not yet embraced, and probably have not fully understood either.

The SBNation blog with the highest traffic, the Chiefs fansite Arrowheadpride.com, is ranked as the 13,899th most frequented internet site by Alexa.com. That ranks just behind the Seahawks in 20th place on the list above, and ahead of 12 NFL teams. Now consider that the guys running Arrowheadpride, Chris and Joel Thorman, probably get a pittance for their efforts, while most NFL teams are likely to have a significant budget for their internet activities, and you have to wonder why there aren't more teams out there trying to emulate the success of some of the premier blogging sites.

In case you're wondering, BTB ranks 25,336th. Still ahead of the Panthers, Rams, Saints and Titans.

The NFC East rules. Except for the Giants, but what else is new? The Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins rank first, second and fourth in internet traffic to their homepages. The Giants rank 17th, just one spot ahead of the Jets. I cringe at the thought, and I'm definitely not a Giants fan.

The Facebook Fan numbers are from 10:00 am EDT on Sunday, May 30th, 2010. I initially compiled the Facebook numbers on Saturday. Between Saturday and Sunday, 12,080 new people registered as fans on the official Facebook page of an NFL team. EVER SINGLE TEAM gained new fans in those 24 hours.

Do the test yourself: enter the Facebook team page name (e.g. http://facebook.com/dallascowboys) in your browser and I will guarantee that the number of fans listed will have increased vs the numbers in this post. For every single team.  

The Cowboys gained the most new fans, with more than 2,000, but they already have the largest base of fans on Facebook to start with. The Buccaneers grew the fastest. Their Facebook fan base increased by 1.8% (1,145 fans) in less than 24 hours. In the middle of the darkest days of the offseason, no less!

Clearly these numbers are a mere snapshot, but they do show how fast everything is moving.   

Obviously, some teams are better at this alternative media stuff than others, but the numbers overall paint a rather sad picture. It's time the NFL teams looked outside of traditional media and embraced alternative media as an additional vehicle to increase fan experience. [And revenues, but let's keep that between us, the teams might get all sorts of ideas ...]

Oh, and by the way, the Cowboys are America's Team. The numbers prove it :-)

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