It was the season in which Instagram scored.
During the 2016/17 campaign, the photo-led social media platform made significant gains in followership among football clubs all across the world.
Figures just released from Result Sport show Instagram attracting more new followers than Twitter among clubs in the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1. In the Premier League, football’s biggest club competition, it added 23 million, better than Facebook and Twitter (both 19m).
Among four of the six most-followed clubs in the world (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich), Instagram is the second most popular platform behind Facebook, knocking Twitter into third. Given the current trend and ‘the bird’s’ minimal lead, it is safe to assume the other two clubs (Chelsea and Arsenal) will follow suit next season.
Of course, these figures cover followership not engagement but, right now, they still remain relevant to clubs and, especially, their potential partners.
Result Sport say there are 148 clubs with over a million followers across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Periscope, Google Plus and You Tube. Half of those come from Europe, a third from the Americas, 15% from Asia and the rest from Africa.
The ‘space race’ continues between two big Spanish sides, Barcelona and Real Madrid. They are way out in front with total followings of 207m and 205m respectively. Manchester United are third with 112m then the remainder of the top 10 possess 76m to 43m followers. Only 28 teams in the world have more than 10m followers and 44 have over 5m.
The top 14 teams are all European before Brazilian side Corinthians (19.6m) breakthrough. The top African side is Al-Ahli of Egypt in 18th with 16.8m and the leading Asian side arrives two places later, Persib Bandung of Indonesia with 13.7m.
Most of the major European Leagues seem to have a single stand-out club. For example, Manchester United added 15m new followers last season, almost double their nearest rival. Juve’s 11m was over four times the increase of Italy’s second club, Milan, while PSG (8m) had a similar gap to Monaco (2m). Germany followed suit with Bayern (10m) possessing a significant advantage over Dortmund (4m). Spain was slightly different because of its two leading teams and their utter social media dominance. Real (39m) added followers more than Barca (31m) this season. The next nearest club was Atletico Madrid with a mere 3m in uplift.
It was interesting to see Leicester City maintain a healthy proportion of their stellar growth from last season. Even though they struggled with the mantle of title winners on the pitch, they grew by 2.6m, almost 1m more than Tottenham, who enjoyed their best season for a decade. Perhaps the power of their fairytale and a decent Champions League run came into play. Elsewhere RB Leipzig ‘only’ added 276,000 despite their own meteoric rise, but their sentiment of their story has been portrayed very differently to Claudio Ranieri’s former side.
In total, the La Liga ‘universe’ added 98m social media followers last season, the biggest jump in Europe but over 70% of that leap came from the big two. The League’s own accounts add 21m, more than 21% of the overall jump. This is a trend that we have seen elsewhere, particularly among the competitions looking to chip away at the Premier League’s global dominance. Another of the chasers, the Bundesliga, added 5m or 18% of the German’s top flight ‘universe’ (27m).
The Premier League added 12m themselves last season, 18% of the 66m total. Serie A’s accounts jumped 1.4m (6%) while Ligue 1 put on 790,000 (6%).
Speaking of overseas expansion, Sina Weibo’s growth in followership was small yet significant. In percentage terms, the Bundesliga saw the largest overall increase, 2.3m (8.5%). However, the Premier League (3.5m, 5%) and La Liga (1.5m, 1.5%) also saw some uplift. Given the conspicuous investment from China, it was perhaps surprising to see that Serie A only saw an increase of 257,000 or 1.2%.
Community growth in 2016/17 among the top European leagues