The Rise of Social Media in Football
Social media has affected football like no other and is prevalent throughout the game. It’s a relationship which can be described as a match made in heaven.
Twitter in particular has given fans, players, clubs and even journalists a means of engaging with each other that was previously not available. Fans can access their favorite stars through their smartphone and in turn, players can give their follows an insight into the personal lives.
With the click of a button, clubs have a platform to communicate with fans, and it’s an effective tool for both parties. Fans no longer have to pick up the newspaper or go onto the club’s website when they want to find what’s going on, a tweet from the official club’s account can sum it up in a 140 characters.
Manchester United are amongst of the Premier League’s most followed clubs with a total of 7.43 million followers, despite being last on the bandwagon. The club only joined the social media site in 2012 but quickly caught up.
In North America, the club’s Twitter account is one of the most popular with 18.02% of their followers based there. The club used their large following contingent to their advantage and developed a marketing strategy. United realised the potential and delved into an unnoticed market, tweeting photos of their pre-season tour of the continent and friends against MLS clubs, which were then retweeted and shared by fans globally.
Statistics from Twitter show that the World Cup has allowed the MLS to evolve. Following the 2014 Brazil World Cup, MLS conversations on Twitter were up 64% from 2013 to 2015.
Not only has Twitter influenced global events and domestic competitions, but it has also inspired fantasy teams.
A social media 11, complete with four substitutes, featuring the most followed stars in the top flight has a combined following of 81 million. That’s an average of 5.4 million each! Wayne Rooney, however, has almost treble that figure with a follower count of 12.8 million.
There are many accounts, and even hashtags on Twitter to assist football fans with their fantasy teams. A fantasy football scouting account, dedicated solely to helping fantasy football fans with teams has more followers than the official Sky Fantasy Football account, 46,300 compared to Sky’s 43,600.
However, for all its good, not everyone is a fan of social media’s ever growing influence in football. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger lamented Arsenal fans use of Twitter, and sees it as a hindrance rather than helpful. The longest serving Premier League boss claims it is a tool to fuel aggressive fan behavior towards his club.
Unfortunately for Wenger, Twitter’s effect shows no signs of slowing down. The total follower count of the Premier League clubs is 38.2 million, meaning the top flight’s following makes up a tenth of total active Twitter users.