Entertainment - Written by Denis Hancock on Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:20 - 11 Comments
Starting the comparison of NBA teams on Twitter
A couple of weeks ago I explained why how the NBA – the league, the teams, the players – uses Twitter would be a fascinating and fun research topic. With the help of my colleague Yuan Ding, we’ve been slowly building the data set for this research, with an early focus placed on comparisons between the “official” Twitter accounts for each of the 30 NBA franchises.What makes this data interesting is that while comparing one company to another is inherently difficult (since business models, brand positioning, etc. vary so widely), the underlying objectives of each of the 30 NBA teams should be more or less the same. In turn, if (say) the popularity of different team accounts vary widely, we have a bit more of a “controlled experiment” in which to explore the reasons why.
While we haven’t had time to get into much of the analysis yet, I think we’ll have a lot to work with – the popularity of different team accounts do vary widely. Using simple follower counts as a starting point (we’re working on a “fan score” to index these I’ll talk about another time, but the basic idea is to account for the fact small market teams should naturally have a smaller audience), here’s the raw statistics on a 29 team sample (Golden State was excluded do to lack of use) as of August 12th:
- Average number of followers: 49,877
- Median number of followers: 7,871
- Lowest number of followers: 2,921
- Highest number of followers: 782,019 (has since grown to 875,510 and counting)
Those that remember being in stats 101 may note that the massive difference between the average and the median implies a skewed distribution – which is absolutely the case here. Of the 29 teams in the sample, 27 of them had less than 20,300 followers. The top two had 431,920 and 782,109 – or twenty to forty times more than the third place team. That seems like a difference with exploring.
These top two teams are… The L.A Lakers and The Orlando Magic. Notably, these are the two teams that made the NBA finals. Thus, we conclude that being active on Twitter means your team will win . Just kidding of course – but this is going to be an interesting thing to dig into. While intuitively it makes sense that the more successful teams will be more popular (etc.), it’s hard to fathom there would be a 20 to 40 fold difference that stemmed from simply making the finals. Did perhaps the NBA start marketing the teams Twitter accounts for the first time during the finals? Don’t know – yet. But hope to figure it out.
The reason we need to figure it out, of course, is that while “being good at what you do will lead to more Twitter followers” is an important point, what we really want to isolate is the effect of how different teams use their accounts to acquire more followers, deepen customer engagement, etc. To find clues into where to look, we started looking for teams who’s Twitter follower counts (either the straight number, or adjusted for franchise value) seemed to stick out as possible anomalies.
Overall, if you look at the list it is pretty predictable – successful teams (and those in bigger markets) tend to have more followers, unsuccessful ones (and those in smaller markets) less followers. For example, after LA and Orlando, the next three are Cleveland, Chicago, and Boston (all in the 17,000 to 20,000 range) – Lebron, big market, last year’s champ / big market. But the next team is the first one that sticks out a bit – the Phoenix Suns. They didn’t make the playoffs, the market isn’t THAT big, and they have the 6th most followers. That is one account definitely worth exploring. But on the “good” side of things, the team that REALLY stands out is the LA Clippers. To put it mildly, they’re not known for having great fan support, the team has been bad for quite a long time (and some say cursed), they have one of the lowest franchise values in the league… they’re by far the worst team that’s in the top-10 of Twitter followers. Interesting.
Then there’s the bottom of the list, and I’m sad to report that the biggest anomaly is easy to find – my hometown Toronto Raptors. Of the 29 teams examined in the sample, they have the absolute fewest followers – which doesn’t really make sense due to market size, popularity, etc. As noted in the last post, their official account is a peculiar one – Raptors_web_guy – who’s bio is “Coding HTML, Creatin’ Graphics, Cutting Videos all with my finger on the pulse in Raptors Nation.” Let’s just say it doesn’t appear the team is into this twitter thing – even though their best player is all over it – and it shows.
So that’s just a sprinkling of some of the top line numbers and what’s starting to stick out – over time we’ll be digging into how the different accounts are used, types of messages sent, how they’re integrated into the team’s overall web presence, whether or not players are involved or not, what other companies can learn, etc. If you have any thoughts on this – or what we should be digging into – please let me know (here, at my website, @denisbhancock, etc.).
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