Perusing Twitter last night the idea suddenly occurred to me of ranking football clubs according to the number of their Twitter followers. After all Twitter seems a good basis for judging relative popularity, or at the very least media exposure. With every single one of the 92 Football League clubs now boasting an official Twitter feed it’s also possible to come up with a complete list.
So who are the most popular and least popular clubs. Well, the title of most Twitter followers is taken by Arsenal who currently have 3.74 million followers. This is no surprise to me as anyone who spends time in the football part of the Twitter realm will soon see how much Arsenal dominates the platform: I even have a game where if I want to reduce the number of accounts I follow, but can’t make a decision I arbitrarily cull the first person Tweeting, or re-Tweeting anything mentioning Arsenal – and usually it only takes a matter of seconds. At the other end of the scale the wooden spoon goes to poor old League Two Morecambe, whose official Twitter account has a mere 4580 followers.
Looking at all the clubs it is clear how uneven the distribution of Twitter followers is. The top four clubs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United each have more Twitter followers than the whole of the Championship, League One and League Two put together. There is also a big gap between the clubs at the top of the Premier League and the rest; For instance there is difference of almost two million followers between Manchester United, the club with the 4th highest number of twitter followers, and Newcastle United whose following ranks them just three places lower 7th. By contrast the difference between Newcastle and the club ranked 19th among Premier League clubs for Twitter followers, Crystal Palace, is just over a quarter of a million.
Outside the Premiership the number of Twitter followers per club declines significantly; Where the average number of Twitter followers is 891 225 in the Premier league in the Championship the Championship is 57 717. Although the average for the premier league is rather skewed by the big clubs it still shows the effect of the worldwide exposure the Premiership attracts, all but Hull City attract an amount of followers numbered in the hundreds of thousands . The three Championship clubs with the highest numbers of Twitter followers – and the only ones in the division to be able to count their followers in six figures – QPR, Wigan and Reading were all relegated from the Premiership the previous season. Of the three clubs relegated from the premier league the season before them however, at the end of 2011/12: Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves have 54 000, 55 900, and 83 700 followers respectively which suggests that failing to make a swift return may result in a large-scale desertion of followers which only goes to show just how fickle popularity on Twitter can be.
Finally, for a sense of wider perspective I decided to look at how Arsenal’s number of twitter followers compared to other benchmarks. Shockingly the official Twitter feed for the England national team has a mere 65 000 followers, putting them on a par with Derby County (63 400 followers); Whether this highlights a failure in media engagement, or the decline of the international game is anyone’s guess. The Spanish pairing of Real Madrid and Barcelona however, dwarf Arsenals followers, both breaking the 10 million mark with 10.8 an 11.5 million followers respectively. And standing over them all like a colossus is none other than Britney Spears, who currently boasts 36.9 million followers.