On April 29th this year, just after the draft, our BTB Twitter account reached 10,000+ followers through the heroic efforts of our own KD Drummond, who mans the BTB account. Two years ago, in May 2011, we had 2,729 Twitter followers, a year earlier, in May 2010, those numbers stood at 1,631 followers.
Social media, and Twitter in particular, has changed the way fans interact with the NFL and its players. Social media has ramped up the NFL experience to an entirely different level. Twitter, for better or worse, is now the number one source of breaking news in the NFL. Adam Shefter for example has 2,277,300 followers on Twitter, which is four times more than any single NFL team.
Which just goes to show that the NFL and the individual teams still have a long way to go. All 32 NFL teams combined have about 8.6 million followers on Twitter. Cristiano Ronaldo of Spanish soccer club Real Madrid alone has 18.3 million followers, the most of any professional athlete. His teammate Kaká is second with 15.4 million followers in a top ten that features eight soccer players and two basketball players - LeBron James (8.2 million) and Shaquille O'Neill (7.1 million) - but no NFL players.
In terms of raw numbers, NFL teams look a lot better on Facebook, where all teams combined have accumulated about 52 million Facebook Likes. But even the Dallas Cowboys, with 5.4 million the most 'liked' NFL team, pale in comparison to the European Soccer titans (In order: 1. FC Barcelona, 42.5 M; 2. Real Madrid, 38.2 M; 3. Manchester United, 33.5 M; 4. Chelsea FC, 17.0 M). The most liked North American professional team, the Lakers, weigh in with 16.3 million Facebook likes.
The table below ranks the NFL teams according to the reach they generate in three categories. Here's what I looked at:
Facebook Likes: Number of Fans on each teams' official Facebook page.
Twitter Followers: Number of Followers as shown on a teams official Twitter site.
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, who compute the average daily visitors and pageviews over the last three months to arrive at their ranking.
Aggregate Rank: Average NFL rank across Facebook, Twitter and Internet Traffic. (E.g. Cowboys are ranked No. 1 on Facebook, No. 1 in Internet Traffic and No. 3 on Twitter for an aggregate rank of 1.7)
Social Media Reach by NFL team (click on column headers to sort)
|Team||Facebook Likes||Twitter Followers||Traffic Rank||Aggregate Rank|
*Jim Irsay's personal Twitter account (used here) has more
followers than the official Colts account.
Social Media has taken the NFL by storm. Two years ago, the 32 NFL teams had 27.2 million fans following them on Twitter and Facebook, this year that number has reached 60.5 million and is showing no signs of slowing down. I collected the numbers in the table above yesterday afternoon, May 18. I'm pretty sure that every single team has gained new followers and more likes since then.
Yet individual players like Chad Ochocinco Johnson (4,313,005 Twitter followers), Reggie Bush (2,806,955) and Tim Tebow (2,253, 049) have more followers than any single NFL team. Twitter appears to be a medium that NFL teams have not yet fully embraced, and may not have not fully understood yet either.
For your reference, the SB Nation blog with the highest traffic, the Chiefs fansite Arrowheadpride.com, is ranked as the 10,163rd most frequented internet site in the US by Alexa.com. That ranks them just ahead of the Jets, the 22nd-ranked team in the NFL by traffic rank. In case you're wondering, BTB ranks 15,547th. Still ahead of the Rams, Saints and Titans, and the second best value for an SB Nation NFL blog according to Alexa.com.
Now consider that we writers here at BTB do what we do purely for the fun of doing it, while most NFL teams have a significant budget for their internet activities, and you have to wonder why they aren't able to generate more interest and traffic for their teams.
Obviously, some teams are better at this alternative media stuff than others. The Cowboys have certainly embraced social media. The official Cowboys twitter feed @dallascowboys (used for the stats above) is just one of many twitter accounts used by the Cowboys, as the staff writers each have a separate account which they use heavily. And compared to some of the wastelands I've seen masquerading as team sites, the mothership is a veritable Garden Of Eden. Also, the Cowboys have taken the whole social media thing a step further when they announced a deal last year with Livingsocial to offer fans in-person "unique experiences" like getting access to the team’s war room during the draft, attending a cheerleader photo shoot and appearing in the official team picture - at a price, of course.
Overall, the NFL is putting a lot of effort behind their social media strategy.
"We have been taking advantage of a lot of the new technologies out there to engage with our audience more than we have in the past," Duane Munn, the social media manager for NFL.com and NFL Network, told Mashable. "Whether it's through a call-to-action prompt on TV to tweet opinions and participate in a Twitter poll — which is later discussed on air by analysts — or just respond to web sentiment, one of our main goals is to do a better job communicating with fans online."
Until recently, the NFL's social media strategy was a purely traffic driven approach. More recently, the focus has shifted towards engagement, acquisition and community via an increased focus on social media platforms. And while the NFL loves to pump out headlines like "NFL continues 47-year run as America’s most popular sport", compared to global soccer, the NFL still has a long way to go.
Oh, and by the way, the Cowboys are still America's Team, the numbers prove it once again.