I’d like to start by apologising to FC Business magazine, who are normally a fairly interesting bunch. They just happened to post one of my pet peeves – the social media ranking table by followers.
So here we have a league table of the Premier League’s most liked clubs on Facebook and most followed teams on Twitter. And for good measure, we have the three clubs with the highest Klout rating.
Ah, you may sagely nod, Manchester United are the most liked team on Facebook while Arsenal lead the way on Twitter. But what does this actually mean? Football clubs are using social media? Great. One of the world’s biggest clubs has by far the biggest number of fans on Facebook? That doesn’t exactly come as a surprise to me.
In fact there’s very few surprises here. Perhaps you could say Hull are doing better than expected in the Facebook stakes. Or that Manchester United look off the pace on Twitter. But again, that doesn’t really tell you anything.
Hull may have had to work incredibly hard at engagement, or just chucked a lot of advertising budget at social media. And Manchester United have just joined Twitter, hence their poor showing. Not that you’d glean anything from the tables. Nope, it’s just a fairly predictable popularity contest.
As for Klout, Chelsea’s profile, for example, lists them as being influential about Chelsea, football and soccer. It’s a level of insight that even the most banal of pundits may hesitate to offer up on the grounds that it’s probably a little too obvious.
In fairness, these complaints could easily be transferred from ranking football clubs to, say, drinks brands, West End theatres, or any grouping you like. The gripe would be the same. We have all this data and that’s it?
The small ‘Most talked about’ section is the closest we get to any nugget of insight – Liverpool generate more conversation than Arsenal on Facebook. Nothing more, but it’s a start.
What’s really needed to make any kind of ranking system in any way useful is the data and story behind these accounts – we’re talking both qualitative and quantitative here.
Do the accounts actually engage with the fans? How open are their walls? What’s their retweet percentage like? Is anybody actually listening? What particular benchmarks are you measuring them against?
It’s perfectly conceivable that a club like, say Rochdale, could lag behind Premier League teams but still have a more engaged fanbase on social media than, say, West Brom. They probably don’t, but it’s certainly worth seeing if any lower league clubs are particularly effective at using social media.
And what about other networks? A while back, I circled most of the Premier League clubs on Google+ for research purposes. QPR might not have one of the biggest followings but their G+ content is seriously impressive. Manchester United, on the other hand, don’t even have a page. And so on.
(In fairness, FC Business do mention G+ as a trend for the new season, although plenty of clubs are pretty well established on there).
It’s a lazy trap that social media far too often falls into. Yes, follower numbers are important, but that almost goes without saying. What really counts is the action behind these often large numbers. A social media account with a large follower count that gets no engagement is ultimately an account that gets no engagement. And no league table can gloss over that, no matter how big the initial number is.