Tag Archives: Twitter

30 per cent of Premier League followers are fake

Is popularity the best measure of success? Maybe in some cases, but in the world of social media it’s fraught with problems.

Following on from my last blog, I decided to look at the follower numbers of Premier League clubs in a bit more detail. Is this particular vanity metric everything it seems?

Fake followers are an increasing problem. The black market for them is worth an estimated $360 million a year. Unsurprisingly websites have began to spring up to help users monitor their own dodgy fans.


Fake followers are big business

With the help of statuspeople.com, and because I had nothing better to do with my Monday night, I set about finding out the percentage of fake followers each club has. It is worth pointing out that the clubs in question probably haven’t acquired these followers in an underhand way, but have been targeted by bots because of their popularity.

The results are as follows:

Followers Fake Inactive Active
Arsenal 2,672,000 43% 32% 25%
Aston Villa 203,000 31% 35% 34%
Cardiff City 65,000 17% 35% 48%
Chelsea 2,676,000 37% 30% 33%
Crystal Palace 57,000 18% 40% 42%
Everton 242,000 30% 38% 32%
Fulham 163,000 32% 42% 26%
Hull City 50,000 20% 40% 40%
Liverpool 1,941,000 31% 31% 38%
Manchester City 1,151,000 38% 33% 29%
Manchester Utd 872,000 30% 27% 43%
Newcastle United 284,000 32% 39% 29%
Norwich City 142,000 28% 42% 30%
Southampton 141,000 29% 39% 32%
Stoke City 135,000 30% 42% 28%
Sunderland 162,000 34% 44% 22%
Swansea City 154,000 26% 38% 36%
Tottenham 630,000 31% 37% 32%
West Bromwich Albion 96,000 27% 41% 32%
West Ham United 212,000 29% 40% 31%

It’s pretty apparent fake followers are a problem for all clubs to some degree. On average clubs have 602,400 followers, 30 per cent of which are duff.

Is this a big problem for clubs? Fake followers do nothing for credibility, however football teams are in a privileged position compared to other brands. The damage probably isn’t as severe for those as it is others, however it has repercussions on engagement particularly when tallied with the number of dead accounts. Take Arsenal, who can boast over 2,672,000 followers, but only 25 per cent of those are active. Only 668,000 people are getting the message.

And, of course, this exercise just further highlights the folly of putting so much stock in this sort of metric. Followers mean little if your content isn’t engaging, but they mean even less if a third of them don’t exist either.


Louis Saha announces his retirement on Twitter

Is this another Twitter first? We’ve had signings, we’ve had new contracts and today we’ve seen a professional player announce his retirement after a series of tweets from the ex-Man United and Fulham striker Louis Saha.

The French striker, who was without a club after being released by Lazio, clearly thought his fans deserved to hear the news first. He forwent the usual method of informing the media and decided instead to broadcast directly to his 350,000 followers.

Top 5 close season Twitter campaigns

Missing the beautiful game? Sick of preseason? Don’t worry, the lads and lasses on Twitter have you covered.

The football may have stopped, but community managers are still working hard to ensure that fans are as engaged as they possibly can be during the off-season.

Here are five of the best:

Football fans are romantics. They’re suckers for history and love reading about past glories, which means Fulham’s 50 Moments series is a winner. The club have used a combination of their website and social media to bring the history of the club to life.

The staggered nature of the series keeps fans visiting the website regularly at a time when football news may be at a minimum, but details of preseason games are being finalised, kits launched and commercial deals announced.

Everton fan cup

Everton have challenged fans to show their love for the Toffees by sending the club photos of them flying their colours. The best 32 will then go head to head with supporters voting on the winner.

Fans are encouraged to engage on two levels – as competitors and as voters. Those fans who make it to the last 32 are expected to try and drum up support for their entry too, helping spread the message about the Fan Cup and creating a bit of friendly competition.

  • #LFCPubQuiz

Liverpool’s social media efforts have been one of the best in the league for quite some time, mixing innovative ways of engaging supporters with genuinely interesting content. The #LFCPubQuiz is no different.

As you might have guessed from the hashtag, fans are asked to answer a series of questions with the individual who gets the most right winning a prize. The real joy comes from the difficulty of the questions, which seek to reward supporters who really know their onions.

Simple, but effective.

  • Favourite player from previous Premier League seasons 

Crystal Palace went back in time in an effort to find a way to build even more excitement after their promotion to the top flight.

They asked their Twitter followers to pick out their favourite player from previous Premier League campaigns, selecting the most frequently mentioned and posting some classic photos to those individuals to their Twitter feed.

That’s one way to get the blood pumping for the new season.

Arsenal Hadouken

When clubs try to hijack to meme it usually looks contrived and doesn’t really work (those Harlem Shake videos, anyone?), but #ArsenalHadouken bucked that trend by encouraging fans to turn the camera on themselves.

After the club did their own photoshoot fans were told they could win a signed shirt if they did their own. The results were mixed but it gave supporters the chance to get creative and meant that there was a steady stream of interesting content floating around online at a time when most discussion among fans is limited to tedious transfer chatter.

Have I missed any other interesting time killers from football clubs this summer? Let me know.

How could Newcastle United take advantage of #ColosParty?

On Wednesday night, while most UK football fans were watching and tweeting about Chelsea’s last gasp victory over Benfica in the Europa League final, a small corner of the country was tweeting relentlessly about a house party in Ponteland.

When Sammy Ameobi posted pictures on his Instagram account showing Newcastle United’s squad enjoying a night in at the Coloccini residence it was always going to generate a stir. Fans started tweeting about the photos using the hashtag #ColosParty and it soon went viral in a huge way. By 11pm it was the top trending topic in the UK, surpassing any mention of Chelsea’s win in Amsterdam.

Colos Party

Sorry Rafa, but we’re top of the league

Some of the tweets were kind, some were cruel but almost all were relentlessly funny and perfectly encapsulated the power and imagination of social media savvy football fans.

These moments aren’t uncommon in themselves but they’re transient. It’s rare a club have such a perfect opportunity to take advantage a movement for PR purposes and build bridges with its support at the same time, so when I saw the popularity of #ColosParty I started to think about ways Newcastle United could do just that.

The most obvious (and laziest) way for NUFC to get in on the #ColosParty action would be to slap the hashtag onto its regular tweets. There’s one problem with this – hijacking hashtags is not popular and the number of adverts the club sends out on social media is the main bugbear of NUFC’s fans. The club wading in and throwing out 2 for 1 offers on NUFC branded shot glasses, affixing #ColosParty to the end of their tweets, would backfire.

It became clear that to exploit this opportunity to the fullest the club would have to look offline. One particular idea stood out to me:

Rename Shearer’s Bar.

Shearer's BarDon’t worry, I don’t mean permanently, just for the final day of the season. Call it Colo’s Bar and after the Arsenal match invite supporters to attend an event called #ColosParty.

This stunt would work for a number of reasons – it’s cheap, it’d be easy to organise even at such short notice and the story would be guaranteed to generate column inches across the local and national press in addition to chatter on social media. It would also give the club a chance to pay tribute to those supporters which made #ColosParty the most talked about topic on Twitter for a short while and act as an opportunity to celebrate the NUFC career of a very popular player.

What would the benefit for the club be? Well, it would increase footfall in Shearer’s Bar on the day of the match while reinforcing the bar’s identity as the premier NUFC themed venue in the city. Furthermore it would show Newcastle’s commitment to listening to supporters on social media channels which is something that the club has so far struggled to do.

So, does Colo’s Bar sound like a good idea? Let me know below.

Six solutions to Newcastle United’s Twitter problems

Earlier this week I published a post looking at the attitude of Newcastle United fans towards the club’s use of Twitter. The results didn’t make good reading.

The main criticisms included that the near constant stream of spammy links to the club shop made the feed unusable and there was an irritating lack of engagement with supporters. Questions went unanswered, comments ignored.

While I’m very good at it I don’t particularly like being the person who sits around criticising others without offering up some solutions, so I took a closer look at Newcastle’s Twitter problems and came up with a six ways they can improve on the status quo. Some are my own take on broad rules for social media use, others are very specific ways in which they could make immediate improvements. Let me know if you agree.

Newcastle United stadium St James' Park

1. Dialogue not monologue

Twitter is a conversational medium. Dialogue is the name of the game and as Ross Wigham recently wrote communicators need to come up with ways of “dealing with the new world of two way conversations”. This is something that seems to have been missed by the social media team at Newcastle United who use the platform to simply broadcast information. This would be a no-no for any organisation, let alone a football club that has an eager audience who are dying to interact. It’s simple – engagement with followers will increase satisfaction and further entrench the support of the thousands of brand advocates on Twitter who fly the flag for the club.

2. Question and answer

Newcastle United ticket for match against Deportivo la Coruna

Questions about ticket availability and prices are often asked

There are some relatively easy ways to engage these fans. I know from experience that the club is often posed questions about issues such as ticketing via social media, but little is communicated until an announcement is made on the official website. No one likes being ignored. Answering these simple questions would go a long way to improving relations with stakeholders. Even holding regular Q&A sessions so queries are concentrated during a particular period of time, which in turn would make them easier to field, would drastically improve engagement.

3. Ask more of those outside the club…

But it’s not all give, give, give. The club should take advantage of the creativity of the audience and begin to ask questions of supporters. Football fans love to share photos and videos that they believe will cement their credentials as a ‘true’ supporter. Being recognised for this dedication, either by a kind word or a simple retweet, by the very club they follow is the best type of peer recommendation. Not only are they being recognised by the one account that matters, but they’re being recommended to hundreds of thousands of other supporters.

Using Twitter as a conduit for collecting contributions from supporters regarding relatively trivial matters, such as the songs that should be on the DJs half time playlist or the design of a new kit, is another fantastic way to engender a feeling of ownership and show that their opinion has value while being extremely simple to do.

4. …And those employed by the club

Look inwards. Football clubs employ hundreds of people who work in a myriad of roles however many supporters don’t know much about what goes on day to day within the club. Why not hand control of the club account over to a different member of staff once a day every week? One week it could be the tea lady, the next it could be Yohan Cabaye? It generates a feeling of exclusivity by giving Twitter followers something fans offline will not be able to access. If an entire country can manage to do it then a football club can.

5. The right messages on the right platforms

I’m aware that all of this leaves very little time for promotion of the club shop, however I haven’t completely forgot about it. The fact of the matter is that Twitter isn’t a medium that’s particularly conducive to producing great sales leads when the plan is to spam, spam and spam some more. That’s not to say it should be avoided at all costs, but it should certainly be cut down on, particularly as there are platforms out there which would allow the club to push products while contributing to the conversation.

Pinterest screenshot

Put the club shop on Pinterest rather than pestering Twitter followers

One such platform, and it’s one that Newcastle United have no obviously official presence on, is Pinterest. Why not, like AS Roma, put the entire contents of the club shop on there? Link images back to the club shop so supporters can quickly and easily buy any products they want. Encourage users to repin items they like with a simple competition and watch as they promote the club’s products organically.

Newcastle United will have access to a huge number of photographs locked away in the bowels of St James’ Park that supporters would love to see. Tumblr is the perfect platform to showcase and sell prints of these images as Liverpool FC found out when they launched The Reds Gallery. Newcastle are already adept users of Flickr and the sharing of these galleries on Twitter was something which was commended by respondents in my earlier survey. As many of the same principles apply with Tumblr it feels like an opportunity is being missed.

6. Cross promote

Social media should not operate within a silo. It should be part of a wider strategy and be promoted across different channels to form a cohesive digital communications plan. This same rule  can be applied to specific social media platforms, which should be put to use promoting one another and mirroring each other’s messages.

Chris Hughton celebrating Newcastle United's promotion to the Premier League

Promotion is important in more ways than one

Take, for example, the Pinterest and Tumblr accounts that’ve just been mentioned. Cross promote these profiles successfully and make the over half a million people that Newcastle United reach directly, whether that be on Twitter or Facebook, aware these channels exist and uptake will be swift. Chances are if they follow you on one platform they’re likely to do so on another. And the benefit of having multiple profiles across different accounts? Access to different audiences and the ability to deliver the same message (tailored for the platform, of course) multiple times without appearing to spam the audience.

The bottom line

Few brands can boast an audience like sport clubs can. In the words of We Play, “sports fans are the most influential advocates in the world”. It’s a privileged position. For club’s like Newcastle United success on social media is an open goal and a poor digicomms plan is not a valid excuse for failing to capitalise.

Newcastle United fans have their say on club’s Twitter use

Newcastle United supporters – a passionate bunch

Luddites may disagree, but it’s pretty apparent that digital communications is now the front line when it comes to fan engagement for football clubs. The Premier League is a world wide brand and online means messages can be disseminated around the globe in an instant. Just look at the number of followers your typical Premier League side commands – many are well in excess of their average league attendance, with more supporters lurking elsewhere in the deep, dark bowels of the internet. It’s no real surprise that social media and how clubs use it to connect with stakeholders generates strong opinions from supporters.

Newcastle United have been using Twitter for a few years now and currently have around 200,000 followers, one of the largest numbers in the league. I asked supporters about the club’s use of the platform to find out whether they thought NUFC’s use of Twitter put them top of the table or that the club were involved in a basement battle.

Supporters were asked five simple questions – whether they followed the club, what they liked, what they disliked, what they wanted to see more of and what they wanted to see less of.

First off, of those fans who responded 25% didn’t officially ‘follow’ the official Twitter account. The main reason for this, mentioned by 61% of respondents, was the glut of marketing messages sent out by NUFC. It turns out that spammy and invasive tweeting will put off even the most ardent supporter.


This complaint was not simply restricted to those who have opted against following @NUFCOfficial. 84% of all respondents made reference to the use of the Twitter account as a vehicle for little more than adverts as one of their main dislikes of NUFC’s use of Twitter and it was a commented on frequently by those surveyed:

  • “Too many tweets about club shop offers”
  • “They just use it to sell stuff from the shop in the main. They never reply to genuine questions”
  • “The amount of tweets about selling items instead of news about the club”
  • Getting spammed by offers of merchandise from the club shop. The club shop should get a separate account”

Oh dear. It’s pretty apparent that the club’s policy of using Twitter to drive traffic and increase sales isn’t well liked and probably isn’t working either. 85% of fans said they wanted to see much less of it. But anyway, what about plus points?

To the surprise of no one, fans said they want to hear more about new signings.

When asked what they liked about the club’s Twitter almost 55% could muster an answer that wasn’t a variation on the word “nothing”. As you’d expect many of these responses focused on information that the club could publicise before anyone else, such as team line ups, signings and other breaking news:

  • “Team news on match day”
  • “Ticket announcements”
  • “Goal updates from matches are usually the quickest on Twitter”
  • “Picture galleries”

So it turns out there are a few redeeming features of the club’s Twitter use. However that cannot escape from the fact that the feeling among many supporters is that if engagement is the name of then game then the club’s presence is not fit for purpose. When pushed on what they’d like to see from the account an increase in interaction was at the top of the pile:

  • “More interaction with supporters. Better use of social media tools in general to connect with fans”
  • “Interaction with supporters. Greater innovation in terms of how it is used too. Twitter can be used for great things but Newcastle have not embraced it.”
  • “More interaction with fans”
  • “Fan engagement. A teeny tiny bit of opinion now and then and the odd exclusive signing pictures rather than having to pay for NUFC TV”

A nice, round 40% of respondents made some mention of increased engagement with supporters in some form or another. There was also a clear interest in more exclusive, behind the scenes content similar to Manchester City’s Inside City video series. Granted, that’s not strictly a comment on Twitter but it’s more proof that social media use must be coordinated cross platform.

I’ll leave the final word to one respondent who was pretty damning in his assessment of Newcastle’s use of the platform…

  • “They’ve totally missed the point of Twitter”

Keep your eyes peeled for a follow up post in which I’ll explore the ways Newcastle United can improve their use of social media.

Liverpool’s Twitter presence goes global

We’re often told about the Premier League’s international appeal, usually when the staggering details of the next multi-billion pound TV deal are leaked to the press or the dreaded 39th game idea is floated for the umpteenth time, but social media has really brought home the allure of England’s top flight to those abroad. Check out the Facebook or Twitter accounts of any of the top clubs and you’ll see a large number of responses, many of which are from supporters based outside the UK.

Tough crowd, Rafa

They can’t boo from the stands, but they can sure leave nasty messages!

It may seem easy to ignore these supporters, after all they’re not able to boo from the stands if things aren’t going so well, but as more money flows into the game from abroad and teams decide to take their pre-season training camps to the USA, Asia and the Middle East communicating with this contingent of foreign fans takes on a new importance.

But is communicating with these supporters through your existing channels satisfactory when you take into considering the language barrier and other difficulties? Liverpool don’t seem to think so.

The past few weeks has seen several accounts created and verified simply to cater to Liverpool’s army of fans from across the globe. Supporters in Thailand, Indonesia, India, Spain, France and the Arab world will now get the latest club news in their language at a time suitable for them.

Liverpool are not the first to create foreign language social media profiles and I’m certain they will not be the last. For a fan-base that may occasionally feel unappreciated or disconnected from events that occur several thousand miles away this is a lifeline. For Liverpool it’s a fantastic way to solidify the allegiances of those Reds from far flung corners of the globe and gain access to an audience that will surely continue to grow.

Jen Chang’s threats are a PR own goal

On at least one occasion I’ve used this blog to prattle on about Liverpool FC’s brilliant use of social media. They, out of all of the Premier League clubs, seem to have understood what the medium is all about and more importantly what it was capable of.

‘perspiring journalist’ Duncan Jenkins

That’s why I was shocked to read the most recent post on the blog of fictional football journalist Duncan Jenkins. Jenkins, who is either a stunning take down of the growing crowd of wannabe football journalists that inhabit Twitter or a joke that got very boring very quickly depending on who you talk to (I’m in the latter camp), managed to call one or two of Liverpool’s incoming transfer deals on the back of existing press speculation. Given the litany of accounts which predict transfers, or at least try to, this was nothing unusual however the sheer popularity of the account meant Duncan’s predictions got much more coverage. This upset someone at Liverpool, namely their Director of Communications Jen Chang.

I’ll not go into detail about what happens next, however Mr Chang comes across like the lovechild of Magnum P.I. and Reggie Kray. Suffice to say the tale of what is essentially flat track bullying has spread across Twitter in double quick time, giving Liverpool yet another avoidable PR problem to deal with.

Can anyone give me odds on Jen Chang being told to “Walk on” by his bosses?

I would have thought that Liverpool would’ve been aware of the risks in making threats to any fan, let alone such a well followed individual. Chang’s decision to drop the threats probably resulted from the realisation that trying to destroy a man’s life because of a few hopeful punts on a parody Twitter account would eventually be more damaging to him than it would Jenkins. And he’d have been right.

The most disappointing element of this episode (and there are a few) from a public relations point of view is that the go to option to stop these supposed leaks was not conversation or mediation but to bully. It goes without saying that the role of PR should never be to threaten, no matter how red-faced an organisation is left. Is this reaction indicative of a club who have spent much of the last 12 months with their backs against the wall as they battle allegations of racism, poor on-pitch performance and not entirely unjustified jibes at their record in the transfer market? I’d say so, but that’s no excuse.

Furthermore proper public relations should save organisations time and money. The amount effort that went into compiling a dossier on Jenkins’ creator is dozens of times what it would’ve cost to develop an understanding through less nefarious, more conventional PR methods. The £300,000 extra that Roma bagged from the deal as a result of the tweets does not matter. Anyone could’ve posted a speculative tweet linking the club and player.

This doesn’t just mean bad PR for Liverpool either. It’s a story the communications industry could do without too. Granted it’s no Bell Pottinger and I expect coverage on conventional media will remain minimal but it doesn’t do us any favours.

The 2012/13 Social Media Premier League

The beginning of a new Premier League season doesn’t just mean the return of  hours of inane punditry from ex-professionals in dodgy designer shirts. No, it also marks the return of the Social Media Premier League (which, due to my love of acronyms that don’t quite make sense, will now be known as SMEPL).

Just like the professional game, relegation is a fact of life in the SMEPL so out go Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves – three clubs who had contrasting fortunes in previous versions of the SMEPL table – and in come Reading, Southampton and West Ham. How will the new boys fair? You can find out below.

Klout Peer Index TOTAL
1 Chelsea 83 80 81.5
2 Liverpool 84 71 77.5
3 Manchester City 82 68 75
4 Tottenham Hotspur 82 68 75
5 Aston Villa 71 71 71
6 Norwich City 80 61 70.5
7 Sunderland 80 55 67.5
8 Arsenal 83 47 65
9 Newcastle United 71 59 65
10 Reading 80 50 65
11 Queens Park Rangers 72 57 64.5
12 Wigan Athletic 79 50 64.5
13 West Ham United 71 57 64
14 Southampton 69 58 63.5
15 Fulham 72 52 62
16 West Bromwich Albion 70 50 60
17 Stoke City 69 39 54
18 Everton 78 23 50.5
19 Swansea City 11 69 40

Previous versions of this table have seen Chelsea lead the way by some considerable distance and at the start of the 2012/13 season it’s apparent that very little has changed, however the gap has began to close ever so slightly.

Elsewhere it’s clear that Everton have tailed off dramatically while Wigan Athletic have began to climb the league, Swansea are still struggling at the bottom due to a low and possibly unfair Peer Index score, in the North East Sunderland have overtaken Newcastle as social media top dogs and Manchester United still don’t have a Twitter account.

Across the board it’s apparent that scores are rising. Is this down to a greater understanding of how to use social media amongst football clubs, or is it simply due to the recent formula rejigging undertaken by Klout? Have you seen an upturn in the level and quality of interaction from clubs over the summer months? Let me know.

Dissertation – Professional footballers and Twitter

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have been inundated with requests over the past 24 hours to complete a short survey regarding how a number of Newcastle United players use Twitter. First off I’d like to thank you and apologise. Cheers for not immediately deleting me the moment I began to spam your timelines with links, because I know had I been in your place I’d have been reaching for the big red unfollow button within minutes of the first few links hitting my profile, and sorry for having to resort to such measures. It won’t happen again!

Now the apologies are out of the way I’d like to explain a little bit more about why I’m asking you to explain in great detail how you feel about Sammy Ameobi’s tweets. The end of any university course is marked by some sort of practical project and that is the stage I find myself at now. The topic I am studying is the impact that the use of Twitter amongst footballers has had on the way that their adoring public perceive them. Has social media worked wonders as a public relations tool for professional players or is it a nightmare when it comes to reputation management?

As well as studying the accounts of a couple of players I also want to hear from my fellow fans as, after all, it’s your opinion that really matters here. I’ve conducted this via an online survey which I have distributed exclusively through Twitter (well, almost exclusively. If you’re yet to complete it you can click here). The results will the be used to help form the basis of my conclusion, so it’s important I get as much feedback as possible.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress and my findings on the blog, so keep your eyes peeled. Once again I’d just like to say thanks for putting up with the constant stream of updates asking for your help. It wont last much longer, I promise!