To say that professional sports leagues and athlete rely on Twitter to advance their brand is colossal understatement. Twitter is an essential tool in creating hype, raising awareness, selling jerseys and product for both League and athlete. And, it’s not just the leagues, look at ESPN, nearly every reporter and guest displays his or her Twitter handle along with their name. ESPN actually reads fan tweets and by-and-large, some professional teams have integrated Twitter into in-game-day experiences. The social experience for fans and leagues alike continues to be defined as these platforms provide fans the opportunity to get closer, more engaged with the game, and the leagues to get a more engaged fan base.
In this research brief we look at the major sports leagues in the US and run their Twitter accounts through TwitterAudit.com, a website which allows us to determine by the site’s algorithm what percentage of each league’s followers is fake. At this stage we’re calling a technical foul for the NBA, throwing a flag for the NFL, a ground ball out for MLB, and off-sides for the NHL. We looked at the accounts for the aforementioned Leagues to bring to the surface the considerable “undermarket” for fake followers. Needless to say, fake followers is an issue that confronts every business and person on Twitter. It important to note that Twitter accounts can be easily infiltrated by bots which has a direct impact on the “value” of the Twitter accounts for professional sports leagues.
The fact of the matter is Twitter accounts can’t, and shouldn’t be put on autopilot and celebrated with each additional follower. It’s always about the quality of the follower and not the number. The NBA leads all leagues with just under 7 million followers, and of those just over 3 million are fake. The NFL comes in second with about 3.7 million followers and over half, about 2.2 million followers are fake. Major League Baseball come in with just under 3 million followers, yet about 1.2 million are fake followers. The NHL has about 2.1 million followers with about 1.1 million fake followers.
Professional sports marketers and advertisers must be aware of these trends because they live in a more consequential digital world – not a simply social. So other social media platforms suffer the same ills as Twitter. Leagues, athletes not unlike businesses everywhere point to the number of Twitter followers as a measure and testament of the power of their brand. This is precisely why fake followers are a threat and can pose real damage to the reputation of the Leagues and the brands that support them. This study was conducted over a period of 5 business days between 6/23/14 and 6/30/14 and certainly has its limitations; which includes how and when TwitterAudit.com calculates fake twitter followers. However, we believe these data present a strong baseline and points of departure for these professional leagues to review their Twitter platform and social networks strategies across the board.
Provided you’re human, not a fake follower, and like what you’re seeing, follow us on Twitter: @verasoni