The top most-followed footballers on social media is a surprising list
When it comes to footballers on social media, there seems to be a new gaffe of some kind making the news every week.
Now and then, there’s something good to say about a footballer on social, but quite a lot of the time, if it’s not a mistake, it’s a bland post about how the fans were great and they’re now focusing on the next game.
But that doesn’t stop huge swathes of the world’s population to follow them on social media. And why not? These days, footballers are celebrities in their own rights. People now seem to follow individual players, rather than clubs themselves. They seem to focus on the player’s celebrity status rather than his athletic ability – although, to be fair, athletic ability is surely a prerequisite for that celebrity status.
And over at German digital sports media platform, Result Sports, they’ve done all the hard work compiling a list of the top footballers ranked by their audience on social media and categorised by the league in which they play.
It’s a handy list, and an even greater feat of compilation given that each player’s total is taken from their totals on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
— RESULT Sports (@resultsports) November 23, 2016
It also happens to be quite an interesting list: there are some interesting results.
For one thing, everyone’s favourite footballing megalomaniac, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is beaten into the Premier League’s second place by Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil. Those two make up half of a relatively tight top four in the English league. Surprisingly enough, it’s David Luiz who comes in second – perhaps owing to his reputation as a bit of a joker, accumulating follows perhaps in the hope of an entertaining post or two – with Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney third. It’s then a huge jump before you get to Manchester City talisman Sergio Aguero.
But the Premier League’s following pales in comparison to La Liga’s. The English league is usually talked about as the best league in the world. The evidence for that claim seem to come from the fact that it is watched by so many people around the world, and that it can attract such huge revenues from television rights. On social media, however, not one current Premier League player would make it into La Liga’s top five most followed players – each of whom play for either Real Madrid or Barcelona.
Finally, it certainly won’t be a surprise that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo lead the way in terms of social media following, but what is interesting is the lead of just under 100m followers across all platforms that Ronaldo has over Messi – though that may have to do with Messi’s lack of a Twitter presence – and the fact that Messi is only just ahead of his teammate Neymar.
Social media following doesn’t mean success, of course, neither on a sporting nor even on a business level. But it does measure popularity amongst a younger fan base, and that in itself poses a question for all sports moving forward: how much does it matter to your club – particularly your club as a brand – to have players with a huge social media following? And will it matter when the younger audience of today becomes the median audience of tomorrow?
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Dan sat down with Mark Gilbert, until recently the Head of Digital Communications at The Football Association. Previous to that he worked at The Sun and News of the World, bringing together a great mix of sports and technology knowledge.