Durban — The Springboks are heavy hitters on Instagram – Manchester City fans express themselves best on TikTok, while Liverpool receives the most Facebook fan reactions.
Those findings emerged in a recently completed study confirming that social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok had rewritten the script on how sports fans connect with teams.
The Gruelling Truth, an organisation offering predictions, analysis and unique insights on international sporting events, conducted the research and released their findings last week.
The purpose was to determine who, among the best-supported teams across certain sporting codes, enjoyed the healthiest engagement (likes, comments and shares) on social media platforms. Football, American football, basketball, baseball, rugby and ice hockey were the codes under scrutiny.
While open days, meet-and-greets and autograph signings were popular and placed fans within touching distance of their heroes previously, modern-day demands on an athlete’s time has minimised such engagements.
According to the study, social media has filled the void, reconfigured and reconnected fans to sports stars, resulting in “monetisation opportunities” for clubs through interactions.
“Sponsors are more likely to invest in teams that have an active and engaged fan base with revenue streams potential. Engagement rates (ER) on social media go beyond numerical metrics. It not only measures popularity but also signifies the effectiveness of clubs’ social media strategies to build and sustain fans’ enthusiasm,” said the report.
It stated that social media experts believed less than 1% was a low ER, 1 to 3.5% was good, 3.5 to 6% was high and above 6 was very high, except for TikTok, where anything between 4 and 18% is considered good.
American football, baseball and ice-hockey fans are overall the most responsive on social media. The Springboks topped Instagram’s rugby ratings with 1.2 million fans and a 3.09% ER.
The Irish had all the luck on Facebook with a 4.7% ER with 662 000 Facebook followers.
From all the codes in this study, Argentina is at the top of the TikTok pile with an ER of 15.79% from their 409900 followers.
In football, Real Madrid has the biggest social media following (Instagram 150 million, Facebook 114 million, TikTok 38.4 million, trailed by Barcelona and PSG.
Manchester United are fourth overall and leaders in England (Instagram 63 million, Facebook 76.2 million, TikTok 24.3 million).
However, in terms of football’s ER ratings, it's a whole different ball game, with English teams dominant. Liverpool’s 40 million Facebook followers have generated the most ER (4.5%) on this platform and Manchester City are at TikTok’s summit with an ER of 2.6 with their 22.9 million followers.
It appears that football fans are not as interactive on Instagram: Arsenal are the leaders, but only managed an ER of 0.44% from the 28.5 million followers on this platform.
Mahesh Parekh, an executive member of Official Liverpool Supporters Club-Durban, said the “acceptability” of their posts on Facebook endeared them to fans.
“Good Facebook administration ensures that non-Liverpool comments are removed, resulting in good-spirited banter.”
Parekh said ever since the mythical “liver bird” delivered Jurgen Klopp as the manager, their fortunes took off.
Puvendran Akkiah, the Durban co-ordinator of Man United supporters Club South Africa, acknowledged they were a big global brand but fans were not reacting enough because of indifferent results on the field.
“There has been an ownership adjustment and changes in key leadership positions. Perhaps it could translate into better performances, but fans remain cautiously optimistic,” said Akkiah.
Local football personality Enzo Coppola, who played professionally for Durban City and has been an ardent Liverpool supporter for many years, said social media had transformed how fans followed football.
“Nowadays, we don’t only get to watch the games on TV. Social media has exposed us to so much more – what goes on in the background at clubs, player interviews, who also have their own social media platforms, chat shows, podcasts, etc.”
As a demonstration of the impact it had on local football, Coppola said that he founded the South African Football History group on Facebook in 2015 and its membership had grown to 342 000.
Independent on Saturday