Study reveals Social Media successes & failures of SPL clubs

FIFA claims that supporters are the lifeblood of any professional football club and clubs need to be doing more to interact with them with social media being an ideal opportunity to do that.

Digital strategist Alex Clough said “platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed a new generation of fans to connect with their football idols and teams in ways that they haven’t been able to within the modern game and clubs need to embrace this”, however, how many clubs are using social media to interact with fans and bridge the gap and how many are simply shouting from the stands?

Research was conducted to discover how clubs in the SPL use Twitter and whether they embrace the two-way nature of conversation.

Clubs that use a large amount of ‘plain’ tweets (tweets that don’t electronically tag other others) and ‘link’ tweets (tweets that provide a hyperlink to another website, mostly their own official site) tend to simply be ‘broadcasting’ rather than ‘interacting’ with supporters.  However, clubs that have high percentages of replies, mentions, retweets and pictures are using Twitter in a more interactive manner and trying to bridge the gap between supporters and fans. The aim of the following research was to provide statistical data which demonstrates how football clubs in the Scottish Premier League are using the social media platform Twitter.


The following table was created by compiling a condensed history of all the clubs in the SPL’s Twitter activity. In order to measure engagement, it’s important to note their interactivity of each club and their Twitter usage. So now for the results.

What is clear as a result of the statistical analysis is that all clubs are different. There are no clubs that use social media in the same way. Only generalisations about their uses of social media can be made, but even then they won’t apply to every team on account of the lack of resources available to each club.

What is clear however is that the most interactive capabilities of Twitter (Retweets, Replies and Mentions) are most commonly the lowest percentage of all the teams’ outputs, suggesting that more clubs are interested in ‘Interruption Marketing’ rather than ‘Permission Marketing’ (rather than building fan loyalty through conversation, they are simply interrupting people’s online conversations rather to broadcast information rather than joining the conversation). This is backed up by the fact the greatest percentage of every single team active on Twitter is ‘Plain Tweets’ and ‘Links’.

Jessica McLaughlin, author of the article ‘How Often Should You Tweet?’ highlights the importance of interactivity on Twitter by saying “Being a part of the conversation is one of the most important aspects of being on Twitter. If tweets consist mostly of broadcasting messages and less on interaction, a user may be tweeting about them self too much”.

Broadcast tweeting is failing

When talking to football fans it became clear that supporters follow their teams on Twitter for a number of reasons including information and broadcast tweets, however, most fans would like to see their clubs try harder to interact with fans.

All clubs accounts were then analysed by the website which assesses any Twitter account’s outreach levels. People Browsr measures influence and outreach in online communities connected by interests and analyses billions of social media posts from the last 1,000 days to calculate outreach ( This will offer an indicator into how engaged they are with their supporters and how concerned they are from hearing what fans have to say.

After viewing these results, it could be argued there is a correlation between the size of the club and their interactivity via Twitter which was explored further.

This table shows clearly that clubs with greater attendances (and consequently greater resources, financially and in terms of manpower) tend to score higher with interactivity.

Team Average Attendance Outreach Levels
Celtic 49967 4
Rangers 46519 6
Hearts 13605 4
Hibernian 9654 4
Aberdeen 9449 4
Dundee Utd 7412 5
Kilmarnock 5845 0
Motherwell 5751 6
Dunfermline 4965 3
St Mirren 4682 0
Inverness CT 4091 0
St Johnstone 3923 3


The conclusion drawn from the research states that whilst some clubs (particularly clubs with greater resources) are interactive in their uses of social media, many clubs are simply not trying hard enough to narrow the gap between supporter and club.

Considering the cost of following a team, it could be argued attempting to engage fans with the club via social media is the least clubs could do to repay fans for their support. This should apply to all clubs, not just ones with the great resources to do so. Finally, an argument may be made which states that if not used to connect with fans, social media may increase the chasm between supporters and their clubs which could be extremely detrimental to the future of any football club.

This research and study comes courtesy of our newest contributor Andrew Jenkin who used this data for his dissertation on Football Social Media. Follow him on Twitter.

Andrew Jenkin

Co-founder and Trustee of @africaontheball, founder and Editor of @UScotFootball and avid Hammer! Twitter: @andrewjenkin

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