43 million Twitter users follow a football club as Football Social Media grows in 2012

Nearly a year ago, we analysed the following of football clubs on Twitter and made the prediction that Football Social Media was set to surge in 2012 and quickly become a dominant topic in the Social Media industry. Recent stats from the brilliant Folos.im have shown an incredible growth in the past 12 months and suggest that 2013 will be more important than ever for football clubs on Twitter.

In December 2011, there were 1,127 clubs on Twitter with a combined following of 17,199,600 followers. During this time, many clubs were still broadcasting to their followers and hadn’t been utilising social media or content to better engage with their fans.

In December 2012, we’ve seen a growth of 424 clubs signing up to Twitter putting the total at 1,551 clubs. In terms of combined followers – this number has absolutely sky rocketed to 45,047,845 followers – considerably more than double than 12 months before. This huge growth is most likely down to a combination of Twitter becoming increasingly mainstream and football clubs creating more engagement with their fans on Social Media.

On average, 3 million Twitter users are following a club every month – which is a huge figure when you consider that the largest club on Twitter – FC Barcelona has 7 million followers as a whole. This suggests that smaller clubs are achieving some great successes and growth – with often smaller budgets than major teams.

Furthermore, the stats indicate that Football Social Media is a worldwide concept – with clubs in South America, Asia, Africa and the US all signing up to Twitter in the past year. There has been a huge growth in smaller sides – from professional to amateur using Twitter as way to market match day tickets, engage fans and raise awareness for the club in order to generate commercial growth.

The top 10 clubs on Twitter

The graphic to the right shows the growth of the top 10 clubs on Twitter in the past 12 months. Interestingly, the growth of Barcelona and Real Madrid has been hugely significant as these two massive Spanish clubs are growing at a much faster rate than the rest of the clubs. Barcelona surpassed Real Madrid on Twitter in March 2012, and since then has continued to thrive and will soon hit the 10 million mark in the next 2 months.

Another interesting insight is the inclusion of South American sides Corinthians, Flamengo and Sao Paulo, as well as Mexican side Chivas CD Guadalajara – who despite a smaller global TV audience, have all had huge success on Twitter. This is particularly surprising when you consider that these 4 teams ranks ahead of the likes of AC Milan, Juventus and Manchester City.

Undoubtedly 2012 has been a huge year for Football Social Media as it’s been the formative time where clubs have got their act together and really started to use Social Media strategically in order to harness fan engagement. As clubs begin to employ Social Media Managers and start to create digital content teams internally, this growth will only continue.

Predictions for 2013

Now that clubs have built a strong foundation and community on Social Media, the next step for many in the football industry will be monetizing Social Media. A tremendous amount of resource, money and time has gone into earning this growth, so clubs will now be looking at how they can gain a return on their investment. With that, we can expect to see clubs working harder to get the balance between engaging with fans and promoting commercial content. Whilst it will be important to generate revenue, clubs need to ensure they don’t go too far in becoming too marketing focused.

Sean Walsh

Founder of Digital-Football.com and leading Football Social Media expert.

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4 Responses

  1. MrMyXI says:

    I totally agree that Twitter is an excellent way to engage with fans, other established social networks also have a firm place in this growth too.

    From what I have seen, there are quite a few new social networks gearing up to take them on.

    Do you think they will be able to compete against the giants?

  2. Mark C says:

    Not surprised to see three Brazilian teams on there because it’s supposedly one of the fastest growing markets, but I am surprised United’s official account only has 780,000 or so, less than 10% of Barcelona’s.

    • Sean Walsh says:

      Hi Mark,

      Brazil is absolutely flying at the moment – as are other clubs in South America. The WC in 2014 will only help this further. United have only recently joined Twitter, which is why their figure is much lower.


  1. July 25, 2013

    […] on from a similar report commissioned in 2012 looking at how many Twitter users football clubs have, we’ve teamed up with the excellent data guys at Folos.im to have a look at how football […]

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