Monday, February 13, 2012

Facebook Engagement of MLS teams

Earlier this week we looked at the Twitter stats of the 19 Major League Soccer (MLS) teams to see if there were any baseline trends.  This week we will take a look at Facebook as a social media platform for reaching out to fans and the soon-to-be fans.  I do have some updated stats from February but I thought the first set of stats would be good to keep them all in January so we get a similar baseline. So these were taken on January 2, 2012.

As with the Twitter stats I used the metro area population as a reference point to normalize the widely variable populations among all the different MLS cities.  The two stats we took from the official Facebook MLS pages are Likes and 'people talking about.' Likes you should probably already comprehend, but it is important to realize that it can be a passive measure, since you could click once and forget you ever clicked a few days ever and never engage with the brand again.  For a better understanding of the "people talking about' (PTA) metric see Mashable's overview. Basically 'talking about' means any time someone interacts or mentions your brand on Facebook or its' various platforms it will count you as a 'PTA'.

So looking at the Facebook stats sorted by likes, we can see the two teams (LAG and NYR) near the top based simply on the enormous population advantage. Also LA would likely be at the top on sheer numbers because of the recent MLS Cup win, ownership group AEG and the efforts put into securing world-renowned players giving it the likely top spot in most recognized MLS team.

But also impressive is Seattle being in the number 2 spot, likely reflective of the Northwest city enthusiastic embracing of the Sounders FC as evident in the sheer numbers that attend matches.  Also at the bottom of the table, you can find Chivas USA as they are overshadowed by their neighbors/host at the Home Depot Center, the Galaxy.  But to get a better sense of the degree which a team has made an impact we can calculate Facebook likes per 10,000 people:

Facebook likes per 10k = (FB likes/Metro Pop)*10,000

Biggest winner:  +8 Columbus Crew moving from 17 to 9 and San Jose Earthquakes moving from 14 to 6.
Biggest loser: -14 New York Red Bulls from 3 to 17

Now we sea that 4 small-market teams (Real Salt Lake, Seattle, Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City) have jumped to the top with Salt Lake and Seattle having nearly twice the number compared to even the #3 spot.  External factors that may help explain some of the high ratings here:
  • Real Salt Lake: 2009 MLS Cup champs, Strong CONCACAF run in 2011, Soccer Specific Sttadium (2008)
  • Seattle Sounders: Breaking Attendance records every year, MLS expansion team ('09), strong Cascadia rivalry, Three time Lama Hunt US Open Cup Champs ('09,'10,'11), strong supporter culture with Emerald City Supporters
  • Portland Timbers: MLS expansion team ('11), strong Cascadia rivalry, strong supporter culture in the Timbers Army
  • Sporting Kansas City: Successful rebranding in 2011, new Soccer Specific Stadium (Livestrong Park), strong finish in 2011
Again some surprises at the bottom with Chivas, FC Dallas, and the Red Bulls being bested by newcomer Montreal Impact.  The Red Bulls have a well known international brand with Red Bull but do not be able to capitalize on this locally with the diverse population, probably because of lackluster play on the field as of late and the wide range of entertainment options in New York.  FC Dallas also is surprising to see near the bottom with entertaining players like Brek Shea and David Ferreira (injured in 2011) and a recent rebrand and soccer specific stadium (although it is pretty far from downtown.)

Now let's look at 'People talking about' abbreviated as either 'PTA' or 'Talking.' (See the beginning for the explanation).

Again the Galaxy are on top when sorting by raw number of PTA.  But before analyzing this too much lets again adjust for population as we did before. (NB: I had to increase the per number from 10k to 100k to make the number a little more meaningful without resorting to decimal points.)

Facebook PTA per 100k = (FB likes/Metro Pop)*100,000

Again we see the rise of the small market clubs like Real Salt Lake and San Jose jumping up.  But as I looked at this chart I began to think if this stat really captures engagement by fans on Facebook.  Is population the best denominator here to even out different size cities?  What if we looked at PTA in comparison to total likes?  This would help weed out the effect of  'click and forget fans' who never log on to Facebook again or go see what DC United is up to.  This shows a little bit better how well a team is able to keep fans coming back for more.  This shows the teams that gets fans to like, comment, share and talk with their friends about the team, which is MUCH more valuable.

PTA per 1k FB likes = (PTA/Likes)x1000

Why did I use this calculation instead of percentage?  Because looking at 2.9% vs 0.8% of fans engaging wasn't very exciting.  With this stat you can say for every 1,000 people who like the page, you can expect X number of people to talk about you.  With this chart you can see the difference between teams that continue to engage fans at the top and those who are having a harder time capturing that same enthusiasm.  Of course the PTA stat is related to time but I'm not sure how long it looks back.  We will take a look how this evolves in the regular season on a day after all teams had played. But again this gives us a baseline.

Feel free to share your comments or ideas about other stats to compile!


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