Yesterday’s major news story that Sir Alex Ferguson was set to retire at the end of the season sent Twitter into a frenzy, with over 1.75 million tweets being sent about the topic in just 24 hours. Ferguson is the Premier League’s longest standing manager with 26 years service at Manchester United, so news that he was due to step down was met with great sadness from United fans, as well as jubilation from opposition fans who see it as the almost certain demise of United’s dominance in England.
According to data from Topsy, the official #ThankYouSirAlex hashtag set up by the club (and plastered across their website) generated a very healthy 220,000 tweets in the last 24 hours with a plethora of journalists and players using it in their tribute tweets.
The second highest ranking hashtag was quite simply #fergie, that continued to trend throughout the day and perhaps was being used by opposition fans who probably didn’t want to publicly thank their longest standing nemesis. Notably, it was the choice of long time Arsenal fans and super Twitter troll Piers Morgan. The #fergie hashtag generated just under 30,000 mentions.
A simple search for mentions of “Ferguson” yesterday revealed an astonishing 1,442,772 mentions on Twitter yesterday alone – as the news broke via Twitter, it was full of tributes and speculation around who will be the next manager to take reign at Old Trafford.
Noticeably, the Manchester United Press Office account was considerably more active than usual, as it tweeted out tributes, quotes and website updates about the United legend. Furthermore, the account reverted from its usual RSS feed style broadcast posting of website news and began to retweet player reactions to the news. However, due to United not currently having an official account (and being the only club in this years Champions League and Premier League to not have an official Twitter presence), this was probably only reaching a small 169,200 followers – which begs the question, why are Manchester United not using Twitter?
Yesterday, the Press Office account @ManUtd_PO only saw growth of around 5,000 new followers from their activity. Arguably, if they had a proper official club account (and by official – regularly updated, engaging with fans, promoting content and being used on a matchday) they may well have capitalised on the Twitter buzz and seen a higher engagement level for the official #ThankYouSirAlex hashtag.
United’s 33 million fans on Facebook surely must be a good indication that they see the value in Social Media and understand how it can help promote their brand. Whilst United have been coy about joining Twitter until they have a proper strategy in place, surely it’s time they get involved before the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Chelsea get too far ahead?