Football Clubs on Twitter – An analysis

At first the issue of a clubs Twitter followers might seem unimportant, flippant even, but as a measure of clubs profile it is actually quite a good gauge. We’re used to seeing attendance used as a measure of underlying support and by extension its revenue generating potential, but there are two issues; firstly the big clubs are held in check the difficulties with expanding capacity in terms of planning constraints, land availability and the ability of transport infrastructure to support development. Twitter however, is, in economic terminology, scalable in that there are virtually no physical limits to how many Twitter followers a club can attract therefore it can reveal the true differentials between clubs profiles. Secondly commercial income been growing in importance to clubs and according to Deloitte overtook match-day revenue for the first time in the 2010/11 season, so what matters more to clubs is not the number of people who physically watch their games, but how many replica kits they can expect to sell and how much sponsors will pay to be associated with the club.

Top 10 followers (1)

What looking at the number of twitter followers does reveal is a massive inequality. Based on figures gathered on the 5th of August the combined number of followers for the top four clubs: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, significantly exceeded the total for the rest of the football league – some 14.2 million compared to 8.6 million – and that’s not even including the followers of the foreign language Twitter feeds that some of the bigger clubs possess to engage with their overseas support. Manchester United’s official Spanish language account, for instance, has over 130000 followers which is more than the majority of Championship clubs.

Total Twitter followers Top 4 (1)

The difference between the elite few and the clubs at the bottom of the football league is correspondingly vast. Arsenal, who sit at the very top of the table, boast 4.2 million followers, only just holding off Chelsea who themselves have 4.1 million followers. At the other end of the scale League Two Morecambe count just 5662 followers, a mere 0.1% of Arsenal’s total. This is indeed a stark divide considering that with average attendances 2013/14’s bottom club Accrington’s average crowd was around 2.1% of top club Manchester United’s.

The raised profile of the Premier League as a whole is demonstrated by the difference in followers between clubs in the two divisions. Among the Premier League clubs the median number of followers is 254500 whilst for the Championship it is a much lower 57550. The clubs in the Championship with the most followers have all had recent spells in the Premier League; newly relegated Fulham, and Norwich, lead the division with 237000 and 208000 followers respectively, while Wigan and Reading, relegated the previous season, also have followers numbering in the six figures. The number of followers for Blackburn and Bolton, however, both relegated at the end of the 2011/12 season, are much closer to the division average suggesting that being away from the spotlight of the top tier for more than a season can cause clubs profiles to shrink dramatically.

Median Twitter followers Graph

The numbers for League 1 and League 2 are even lower with the median number of followers per club being 19650 and 17250 respectively. Despite this clubs outside the Premier league have proved among the most enthusiastic adopters. Only three of the top 10 Tweeters, in terms of the total number of Tweets made since their accounts were started, are current Premier League clubs. It is a Championship club, Charlton Athletic, who lead the field having managed 59600 tweets. Also in the top five are fellow championship side Huddersfield and League One sides Notts County and Scunthorpe, each making over 50000 tweets: incidentally Manchester United on just over 7300 tweets are 6th from bottom. No doubt, these clubs have like many others from Premier League to grass-roots level found that Twitter is a valuable tool in engaging with supporters and enhancing their profile. Hidden in those numbers though is a story of deep inequality which will be unsettling to many.

Top 10 tweeters

Club Followers Tweets
Arsenal 4200000 35000
Chelsea 4140000 36900
Liverpool 2970000 34000
Man Utd 2930000 7389
Man City 1900000 57200
Tottenham 874000 31500
Newcastle 405000 22300
Everton 404000 40800
West Ham 313000 26500
Aston Villa 259000 27100
Sunderland 250000 30800
Southampton 246000 31200
Swansea 244000 11300
Fulham 237000 18800
Stoke 211000 8995
Norwich 208000 28100
QPR 190000 35800
West Brom 151000 13400
Wigan 149000 16300
Reading 132000 49600
Cardiff 124000 23300
Crystal Palace 118000 28000
Hull 108000 21000
Doncaster 107000 10200
Wolves 88600 47300
Nottm Forest 88100 9565
Leeds 82300 8350
Derby 75500 43300
Leicester 72300 11800
Birmingham 66900 23100
Blackburn 60700 21800
Sheff Utd 60700 11900
Sheff Wed 57800 26200
Bolton 57300 15000
Blackpool 44300 13300
Middlesbrough 42800 18700
Portsmouth 41600 22700
Burnley 38900 36200
Brighton 37700 18200
Millwall 36000 16100
Charlton 35600 59600
Coventry 34000 16900
Ipswich 32800 9517
Bristol City 31600 13400
Huddersfield 31300 56800
Watford 31000 14100
Bournemouth 28000 22100
Bradford 26400 8421
Barnsley 25700 13900
Brentford 25600 23600
Wimbledon 25000 9341
Swindon 24300 16400
Peterborough 23800 9334
Chesterfield 23400 26000
Leyton Orient 23100 15800
Plymouth 22900 26400
Luton 21900 23900
Notts County 21700 56200
Preston 20700 17000
Southend 20300 17000
Northampton 19700 21400
Tranmere 19300 15500
Oxford Utd 19100 19200
Rotherham 19000 10000
Walsall 18600 12700
Burton 18400 11500
Exeter 18100 18500
MK Dons 17800 21300
Carlisle 17800 12500
Fleetwood 17500 25200
Cheltenham 17300 27100
Shrewsbury 17200 6458
Hartlepool 17000 21400
Crawley 16800 23300
Colchester 16500 31200
Gillingham 16400 9115
Accrington 15900 10100
York 15800 5523
Scunthorpe 15600 52100
Newport 15500 14600
Bury 15300 17400
Crewe 15300 6335
Stevenage 15000 18200
Oldham 14900 10500
Yeovil 14900 10400
Wycombe 14800 27600
Rochdale 13200 22200
Port Vale 13200 12600
Cambridge 12600 9243
Mansfield 12000 13200
Dag & Red 11500 6389
Morecambe 5662 5314
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