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The Semifinal Teams of the UEFA Champions League 2010/11

Use of the Social Networks Facebook and Twitter: Comparative Study of the Publication Flow and Fan Activities


Prof. Emilio Fernández Peña Author:

Živadin Katanić

Departament de Comunicació Audiovisual i de Publicitat I Màster Oficial de Recerca en Continguts a l’Era Digital

JUNE, 2011

Abstract Social network sites have found a home in the sports world. Athletes and sports teams use social network services to connect with their fans worldwide and to bring fans closer to the game. This study investigated the use of the social network sites Facebook and Twitter, by the semifinalists of the UEFA Champions League. The study is focused on the clubs’ posts related with UEFA Champions League during the semifinal series. The findings indicated that the clubs have used these services to keep fans informed about everything related to the team, as well as to seek fans activity on their social network presentations. The analysis of the posts that were uploaded by the clubs during the data-collecting period refers that these famous football teams have been using social networks for two main objectives: to engage with their enormous global fan bases and to drive traffic to their official Internet sites.

Acknowledgements My first thanks go to Professor Emilio FernĂĄndez PeĂąa for accepting me as a master student, for helping, supporting and guiding me through this journey. I would also like to thank my friend Maurice A. GĂłmez, owner and professor of Links&Lynx School of languages, for spending his time reading my thesis and giving me valuable advice. Finally, my special thanks go to my parents and my girlfriend for their patience and ongoing support during my studies.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction .....................................................................................................1 1.1 Introduction .............................................................................................................1 1.2 Research objectives .................................................................................................1 1.3 Definition of the object of study ..............................................................................2 1.4 The interest of the research .....................................................................................2 1.5 Limitations of the study ..........................................................................................3 Chapter 2: Literature review .............................................................................................5 2.1 History of Football: the Origins, the Modern History and the Global Growth .......5 2.2 UEFA Champions League: the Most Prestigious Football Club Competition ........8 2.3 Understanding Football Popularity .........................................................................8 2.4 Media and Sport: the Fruitful Relationship ...........................................................10 2.5 Social Media: the New Communication Channels ................................................12 2.6 Social Network Sites: A Public Display of Connections .......................................14 2.7 Sports Fan Identification and Social Media ..........................................................17 2.8 Fan engagement: Fans vs. Active Fans ................................................................19 2.9 Social Networks in a World of Sport .....................................................................21 2.10 The context: General information of the Facebook pages and Twitter accounts ...24 Chapter 3:Research Design ...............................................................................................27 3.1 Justification of the sample .....................................................................................27 3.2 Method ..................................................................................................................28 Chapter 4: Results .............................................................................................................31 4.1 Post format ............................................................................................................31 4.2 Post Content ..........................................................................................................32 4.3 Fan Engagement ....................................................................................................33 4.3.1 Fan engagement by format of the posts .................................................................34 4.3.2 Fan engagement by content ...................................................................................37 4.4 TOP fan engagement posts ....................................................................................39 4.5 Tweeter results .......................................................................................................40 4.5.1 Tweet format ..........................................................................................................40 4.5.2 Tweet content ........................................................................................................41 Chapter 5: Discussion ........................................................................................................42 5.1 Fans, followers and clubs ......................................................................................42 5.2 Different cultures in the management of social media ..........................................43 5.3 Fan engagement .....................................................................................................48 5.4 Twitter ...................................................................................................................53 5.5 Limitations .............................................................................................................55 5.6 Future research ......................................................................................................56 Chapter 6: Conclusion .......................................................................................................57 References .........................................................................................................................60


1. Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 Introduction With their exponential growth, social media have had a profound effect on our lives and therefore on sport as an important part of today’s society. During the last few years, social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become popular communication tools for many sports entities (athletes, teams and leagues) in order to connect with their fans. These two-way communication channels allow direct spreading of messages to the fans and their feedback without any third party mediation. Sports teams have used social networks to break geographic barriers and create an online community of their fans worldwide. Based on football popularity, the famous clubs’ success on social networks has been guaranteed and the football giants, FC Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid, have become by far the best clubs using social networking (Hernandez, 2011). Considering the short history of social network sites there are relatively few studies about the sport entities’ use of these services. Therefore, the aim of this study is to detect strategies that these clubs use not only to increase the number of online “followers” but also to transform these users into active participants on their social network presentations.

1.2 Research objectives This study seeks to discover the way most popular sports brands (in this case the UEFA Champions League semi-finalist clubs) tend to use social networks to their own promotion, popularization and fan engagement for its own brand. In addition, we are going to analyze fans reaction to the presence of the biggest sports teams on the social networks and interaction between these entities. The aims of the research are the following: - Compare the degree of fan engagement between the teams - Classify the type of topics of teams publications 1

Introduction - Reveal what types of content are more attractive or encourage public participation through responses - Analyze if there is a relationship between a particular content format (text, photo or video) and greater public participation

1.3 Definition of the object of study Selected teams for this research are semifinalists of the UEFA Champions League and therefore, they are some of the biggest sports clubs in the world. Football is the most important global sport with hundreds of millions of fans all around the globe, while UEFA Champions League is the most prestigious football club competition (Bolchover and Brady, 2006: 190) and so one of the most popular annual sports tournaments all over the world. We have analyzed their presence on Facebook and Twitter during 4 weeks - from the moment of passing to the semifinals to the week after finalizing the semifinal matches. The work focuses on social network activities of these football teams as well as on fan reaction to these activities. We have selected the official club’s pages on Facebook and Twitter and left aside, in this first investigation, those pages produced by fans. However, one of the semifinalists, Schalke 04, has no official social networks presence and is not analyzed in this work.

1.4 The interest of the research The impact of sport on our everyday life is enormous. Sport has a growing influence on the main areas of human activity, including political, economic and cultural scene. Although some people consider sport as a peripheral social institution, most probably sport does not deserve such qualification, because it is often surrounded by attention of central institutions (governmental, economic and political institutions). Sport is a cultural phenomenon, a way of life of modern society, part of people’s everyday life, and therefore it needs to attract attention not only of sociology of sport but also of other social sciences. It can serve as an extraordinary instrument and a form for an explanation of the society and the culture. 2

Introduction Media are the most important and most visible intermediaries between sport and society. News and comments in the media represent unavoidable mass literature of urban man (Boyle and Haynes, 2009). Due to the numerous resources of mass communication and new media, people are able to participate in various sporting events, to read or watch reports from the matches and read or write comments. With the appearance of the social networks people’s connection with sport has moved to another level. It was born an unprecedented way of communication between sports entities (organizations, teams and athletes) and fans. This two-channel communication medium allows direct and immediate connection between sports entities and social network users. The popularity of this form of communication has reached huge proportions. Logically, popularity of football, as a popular global sport, on these networks is growing. At the moment of writing this work the most popular athlete on the social networks is Real Madrid football star Cristiano Ronaldo with more than 25 million Facebook fans and according to six football teams are in the TOP 10 ranking sports teams and organizations on social network sites. This shows the importance of sport, precisely football, in today’s society. However, some sports entities still do not use social networks or use them in a wrong way, therefore, this work could be a guide for other entities showing how to take advantage of online services, since the study analyzes some of the leaders in this field.

1.5 Limitations of the study From the beginning of the research some limitations has been apparent. As we mentioned before, Schalke 04 does not have presence in social networks in the official form. There are a lot of groups and pages related to the club at the popular social networks, but they are regulated by fans and not by sport entities. FC Manchester United, another semifinalist has not been present on the social network Twitter in an official form. The research focuses on the presence of three teams – FC Barcelona, FC Real Madrid and FC Manchester United, on social network sites Facebook and Twitter. Accordingly, three Facebook pages (about these three teams) and two twitter accounts (FC Barcelona and FC Real Madrid) have been analyzed. It is important to mention that FC Barcelona has three Twitter accounts in three different languages – Catalan, Spanish and English, while FC Real Madrid has same account for Spanish and English language. They have unique Facebook pages with posts in all the mentioned languages. Therefore, research encompassed only posts and twitter accounts in English language. 3

Introduction The research includes analysis of content related only to the UEFA Champions League with a brief reference to other content types. However, we should mention the specific situation of the “Spanish” semifinals. Barcelona and Real Madrid, in a very short time, which coincided with a time of the research, have played four games in three different competitions (The Spanish League, The King’s Cup and UEFA Champions League). Considering the specific relationship between these teams, that is much more than an ordinary rivalry of two clubs based on distinct national (and political) diversity, there is no doubt that the other two matches have influenced on occurrences around UEFA Champions League matches in the media, and therefore on the social networks too. On the other hand, the limited period for completion of this thesis disabled opportunity to include the final match in the research because date of the match was 28.05. 2011.


Literature review

2. Chapter 2: Literature review

2.1 History of Football: the Origins, the Modern History and the Global Growth Modern football originated in Britain in the 19th century. It all began in 1863, when rugby football and association football branched off on their different courses and the Football Association in England was formed - becoming the sport’s first governing body (FIFA, 2011; Taylor, 2008; Witzig, 2006). A search down the centuries reveals several different ball games, varying to different degrees, and to which the historical development of football has been traced back. Whether this can be justified in some instances is disputable. Nevertheless, the fact remains that people have enjoyed kicking a ball about for thousands of years. (FIFA, 2011) There are records of earlier forms in China from two and half thousands years ago. During the reign of dynasty Han (206 BCE – 220 CE), it is referred to the ball game with called Tsu-Chu and involved kicking a leather ball filled with feathers and hair through an opening, measuring only 30-40cm in width, into a small net fixed onto long bamboo canes. According to one variation of this exercise, the player was not permitted to aim at his target unobstructed, but had to use his feet, chest, back and shoulders while trying to withstand the attacks of his opponents. Use of the hands was not permitted (FIFA, 2011). An ancient ball game in Japan was Kamari (Witzig, 2006). This game appeared 500 to 600 years later likely by Chinese influence. The object of the game was to keep the ball up in the air using only the feet. Kamari is still played at Shinto shrines for seasonal festivals (Witzig, 2006). In Europe first ball games were Episkyros in Greece more than two millennia ago (Witzig, 2006) One of the basic rules was that players were allowed to use their hands, which really suggests that it has a closer relation to rugby than football. However many of the characteristics of the game are similar to football - particularly the dimensions of the pitch and the fact that 12 players formed a team (footballnetwork, 2011). Roman version of the game was called Harpastum (Witzig, 2006). It was still a rugby 5

Literature review style game and was used by Julius Caesar and his generals as a form of military training to improve the physical fitness of the Roman Army (footballnetwork, 2011). It is not known whether the Romans influenced the development of the game in Britain, but it is certain that 1000 years since their departure in the UK there were a lot of games and the most popular was “folk football� (Taylor, 2008). Folk football games had been played in towns and villages according to local customs and with a minimum of rules. Most likely these games had an influence on football, but the development of the modern football game occurred in England and Scotland. The game that developed in the British Isles from the eighth to the nineteenth century had a large number of local and regional forms that were later framed and improved to the present concept of football and rugby. Those games were unlike any previously known forms, less organized, more violent, more spontaneous and usually played by an unlimited number of players. Occasionally, games were competition between entire villages and settlements, and were played in the streets, village squares and fields. Hitting a player was allowed, as well as, after all, everything else. The number of players was no limited and rules almost did not exist[1]. A series of laws and restrictions, sometimes strict, sometimes mild, show that the enthusiasm for football was enormous. The Lord Mayor of London 1314 issued a proclamation in which prohibited football due to disorder it usually caused (FIFA, 2011). During the Hundred Years War between England and France the game was also banned. Kings Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V banned football because it, as favorite recreation, dissuaded soldiers from the military exercises (FIFA, 2011). All the Scottish kings in the fifteenth century banned football, as well. People liked this rough fight for a ball so much that none of these measures had any effect and the popularity of the game was growing. In Italy, in sixteenth century, people played some kind of football called Calcio (Witzig, 2006). It was more organized than football in England. The most famous game of Calcio took place on 17th February 1530, in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence (footballnetwork, 2011). At the time the entire city of Florence was under siege from the Medici. Calcio was an incredibly popular game in Italy and its influence even stretched to the Vatican where popes such as Pope Clement VII, Leo IX and Urban VIII were known to play occasionally. The name of Calcio is still in use as the Italian football league official title. In England, nothing has changed until the beginning of the nineteenth century when famous public schools accepted football. It is initially played as a winter game between residence houses in public schools such as Winchester, Charterhouse, and Eton. Each school had its own rules; some allowed limited handling of the ball and others did not. The variance in rules made 1

According to a record from Workington in England in order to achieve the goals everything was allowed except murder.


Literature review it difficult for public schoolboys entering university to continue playing except with former schoolmates. Attempts to standardize the rules and eliminate the differences were made at Cambridge University 1843 and 1846. Most public schools adopted what they called “Cambridge Rules”[2] , which were further spread by Cambridge graduates who formed football clubs. On 26th of October 11 eleven London clubs and schools sent their representatives to the Freemason’s Tavern for a meeting where they agreed to publish the rules of football, and The Football Association was born (FIFA, 2011; Taylor, 2008: 29 ). Later that year they prohibited the carrying of the ball and left rugby outside the newly formed The Football Association (FA). The new rules were not universally accepted. Many clubs continued to play by their own rules, especially in and around Sheffield. In 1867, The Sheffield Football Association was established and that was predecessor of later county associations. Sheffield and London played two matches in 1866, and the duration of the game was limited, for the first time, to an hour and a half. Only eight years after its foundation, The Football Association already had 50 member clubs. The first football competition in the world, the FA Cup, was established in 1872. By 1888 the first league championship was under way (FIFA, 2011). Popularity and attendance at games grew. In the final of FA cup, in 1893, there were around 50,000 spectators[3] and in the same final in 1901, 114,000 supporters[4] attended the match. The First international match was played in 1872 and was contested by England and Scotland. In that moment Scotland even did not have their association. The Scottish FA was founded after three months in the beginning of 1873 (Taylor, 2008: 39), and after few years the FA of Wales (1875) and the Irish FA (1880) (FIFA, 2011). In the first moment the spread of football outside the Great Britain was slowly but it soon affected the masses and rapidly expanded throughout the world. The first countries after the Britain which formed the football associations were Netherlands (1889), Denmark (1889), New Zealand (1891), Argentina (1893), Chile (1895), Switzerland (1895), Belgium (1895), Italy (1898), Germany (1900), Uruguay (1900), Hungary (1901) and Finland (1907). The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in 1904 in Paris. It had seven founder members: France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain (represented by Madrid FC), Sweden and Switzerland (FIFA, 2011). The German Football federation was interested in joining on the same day. By 1925, the number of members increased to 36. In 1930 FIFA had 41 members and same year organized the first World Cup in Uruguay. Today, FIFA has 208 members in every part of the world. 2 “The Cambridge Rules were a code of football rules first drawn up at Cambridge University, England, in 1848, by a committee that included H. de Winton and J. C. Thring” - 3 4 According to Phil Soar. Tottenham Hotspur The Official Illustrated History 1882-1995. Hamlyn.


Literature review

2.2 UEFA Champions League: the Most Prestigious Football Club Competition The Union des Associations Européennes de Football (UEFA), of the six continental confederations of FIFA, was founded in 1954 in Basel, Switzerland (UEFA, 2011). UEFA created competition for European football clubs for the 1955/56 season with the name European Champion Clubs’ Cup usually known as European Champions’ Cup or just European Cup (UEFA, 2011). The format and name were changed in 1992 when UEFA involved a group stage in addition to the traditional knockout phase and the competition got the name UEFA Champions League. Due to the popularity of the group phase the competition has grown from eight to 32 teams. According to Lars Christer Olsson, UEFA Chief Executive from 2003 to 2007, the changes in the competition were driven by the needs of the television companies (Desbordes, 2007: 24). It was possible to know how many matches each club would play, and TV schedules and sponsorships could be arranged accordingly. It was important because the competition attracts an extensive audience throughout the world. With television, football has become extremely popular in every corner of the world. Today UEFA Champions League is the most prestigious club competition (Bolchover and Brady, 2006: 190; BBC sport, 2010) and so one of the most popular annual sports tournaments all over the world. In 2009, final match between Barcelona and Manchester United was the most-watched annual sports event with an audience of 109 million (BBC sport, 2010b).

2.3 Understanding Football Popularity “What is so different about football (soccer[5]) from other team sports that make it the overwhelmingly preferred team game worldwide?”(Witzig, 2006:9). It is one of the intriguing questions that occupies not just researchers but all people who have passion for this game. Researchers, writers, and some passionate fans gave a wide palette of explanations for this phenomenon. Analysis and researches have shown that due to the first logically designed rules that explicitly protected players from the former, almost gladiatorial brutality in “rugby football”, football enjoyed rapid spread and popularity in the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Also, the new rules did not just enable football players to express and develop physical skills, but also to express intellectual and creative abilities (Aleksic and Jankovic, 2006). In this climate of the game creation, it is understandable that the game was popularized 5 Soccer is the name for the football game in USA, Canada and Australia. They have a different game called football which is in the rest of the world known as USA-football.


Literature review by English intellectuals, professors and students, and later accepted, with no exception, by other social classes. Nowadays, after more than a hundred years, the original concept and relationship has not been changed. Among the supporters and active participants in football, there are people who belong to both the lowest and highest social and intellectual strata of society. In addition to straightforward rules, football’s popularity is based on its simplicity and human basic instincts. Also, very little equipment is recommended so everybody, rich or poor, can play. Welford (2008) gave an interesting thought about football popularity: “The reason for this popularity is not hard to work out, namely that it is a natural game to play. If you roll a ball towards a young toddler who has just learned to walk, its first instinct might be to try to pick it up, but in doing so it is quite likely to kick it instead. The youngster soon discovers that a kicked ball will go further than a ball propelled by hand, and it is in any case easier to control where it goes. When he or she starts wearing shoes, the action of kicking a ball becomes painless, and fun to do. … If you have a ball, your next discovery is that other kids want to kick your ball too.” The simplicity is one of its greatest attractions and one of the major reasons why every child, virtually from the time that it can stand, begins to learn to play football. In some areas in Latin America football is called “pelota” (ball) (Witzig, 2006:9) which shows football dominance over other ball games. Witzig (2006) gave several reasons for football´s popularity and explained the difference between football and Big Four USA sports[6]. In addition to the already mentioned facts, he highlights football dynamics and players autonomy. Unlike USA-football and baseball static nature where the only constant are the frequent interruptions, football allows free-form play that people love to see (Witzig, 2006: 9). These interruptions provide an opportunity for more strategizing by the coaching stuff. Football game is the opposite of this over-strategized sport model and players only can be coached before the game and during the half-time period (Witzig, 2006: 9-10). This gives football players more autonomy and therefore more responsibility than in other ball sports. He also gave an interesting comparison of scoring in these sports: “The less frequent but more significant scoring aspect of soccer is more apropos of life itself. One does not normally have a significant success every few seconds, like basketball, or every few minutes, like USA-football or baseball. A good moment or success naturally arrives more selectively, and there is usually “good” tension and anticipation involved. An accomplish6 Big Four USA sports are four major and most popular leagues in the USA: Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Football League (NFL).


Literature review ment, a union, or a birth is a rare and usually anticipated life event. Soccer is more like life; the apprehension and anticipation are high, and when a goal is attained, there is a great emotional release. It appears that being gratified all the time – as one potentially is in the rampant materialism of the consumer culture – is a surefire recipe for glorified boredom. An antidote for apathy in the world outside the USA has certainly been soccer.” Witzig, 2006: 9 Apart from the aspects we have explained and discussed the essential factor in the football popularity on global scale resides in the role of the media, particularly television. From 1938, when for the first-time a whole match was shown live on television, this type of media has brought football games into the homes of people not just in Britain and Europe but in all parts of the world. With media power football has become hugely popular in every continent in the planet. This statement can be supported by the fact that by now the FIFA World Cup, the world’s biggest football tournament, has been played in all continents except Oceania (FIFA, 2011b). The development of mass media led to the enormous popularization of the sport, and according to football (or soccer) is undeniably the most watched sport in the world, with over 3.5 billion fans. Today, football is worth billions of Euros through such incomes as television rights and club merchandising, and “it is extremely unlikely that it will lose its popularity anytime soon” (Tours, 2008).

2.4 Media and Sport: the Fruitful Relationship Function of media focuses not only on informing people about ongoing events, but also on fulfilling their leisure, where sport occupies a significant place. It seems that sport is the most attractive of all “fun for the masses”. Sport brings a huge contribution to the media. In terms of content there are hundreds of television and radio programs, newspapers, magazines, video games, and hundreds of thousands of internet sites dealing with a topic of sport. Many years ago huge potential that brings sport content has already been noticed as well as the insatiable appetite of users (readers, listeners and viewers) for sports information (Moragas, 1996; Rowe, 1996; Boyle and Haynes, 2009; Boyle and Haynes, 2003; Fernández, 2009; Boyle and Whannel, 2010).


Literature review Over the years sport has become an important source of news for the media industry. For a long time sport has been playing a key role in the media content in all media technology (radio, newspapers, television and internet) and many people would agree that sport will have even brighter future on the stage of new media. Television channels are competing for whom will cover a greater number of sporting events and provide more sport information in order to attract the attention of users. Television channels, through sport content, show and enhance their importance in the eye of public. Broadcasts of big sport events like FIFA World Cup, Olympic Games, UEFA Champions League, etc. provide great audience and therefore large profits from advertising (Fernández, 2009). Media skillfully used and is still exploiting the fact that sport was an integral part of people’s life and social groups around the world long before the development of mass media. Coupling of sport and media is far deeper than it appears at first glance. Sport by sport content allows media to reach the desired and otherwise hard to reach users (audience), while, on the other hand, media allows sport to increase its popularity and to become financially secure and more profitable (Noll, 2007). As Miquel de Moragas has indicated: “the mass media, and television in particular, were not just interpreters or informers of sporting activities but became true co-authors” (Moragas: 1996: 7). During the last two decades there has been rapid development of new media technologies. The fact that men in mid-twenties and mid-thirties are the highest consumers of sport (especially football as the most popular team sport around the globe) and new media technologies, sets football on the centre stage in the evolution of new media services (Boyd and Hayes, 2004). Relationship between football and technology development is best seen in next statement: “Sometimes it seems to me that all today’s progress in electronics is made only and exclusively to further a more complete, a more satisfying representation of football.” Parks, 2003: 69-70 In addition to television, which is undoubtedly a medium that has most contributed to the popularization and profitability of football, development of internet has enabled a completely new alternative communication and dramatically accelerated the communication process. It has allowed sport fans the virtually access to sport in real time, and the specific way of interaction with sport organization and athletes, as well as with other sports fans. Westerbeek and Smith, 2003 emphasized the importance of that interactivity:


Literature review “It is simply not enough for spectators to passively sit and watch a sporting contest on their television screens. People want to be drawn into the event, even if it is from the comfort of their own homes.� Westerbeek and Smith, 2003: 146 The expansion of social networks highlighted this interactivity and therefore provides an opportunity to sport organizations to effectively get in the direct communication with their customers, as well as users of their products and services. Successful sports organizations do not look at their fans just as customers but also as their associates with whom they achieve certain dialogues and from whom they receive highly needed information that includes complaints, compliments, and sometimes complete solutions.

2.5 Social Media: the New Communication Channels Before the appearance of social media Internet was characterized by mostly a one-way communication experience (Weinburg, 2009). A person or company would build a Web site, populate it with content, and then wait for people to visit the site and read the content. The Internet provided very limited ways for individuals to interact, have dialogue, or create unique content to share with others, including the Web site’s owner. Individuals browsed the Internet from a PC or laptop and could only interact with other users through e-mail, message boards, or forums; very few individuals had their own Web space (Weinburg, 2009). In sport contest that means, fans could visit a team, league, or athlete Web site and look over the content posted on the site. Any interaction fans had with their favorite athletes was through planned and controlled environments such as autograph signings, corporate-sponsored events, or the traditional media. These meetings were seldom deemed authentic, at least not in the eyes of the fans, and were often mediated by a third party such as a public relations individuals or marketing firm. With Social media the situation has changed. User-generated content has become the norm. Individuals can now interact, generated and share multimedia content easily. Technology changes, together with decreasing costs, have allowed the internet to become interactive, conversational, social, and decentralized, with individuals having their own Web sites, hosting blogs, and connecting through social sites through a variety of devices including net box, smart phones, and game consoles (Weinburg, 2009). Now that Web technology is more cost-effective and content is produced more easily, the Internet has become a means for all individuals to share 12

Literature review whatever they feel is relevant through social media. It means that everyone has a voice now. As Safko (2010: 3) explained that word “social” refers to the instinctual need to connect with other humans and word media refers to how these connections will be made. He also described social media as “a new set of tools, new technology that allows us to more efficiently connect and build relationships with our customers and prospects. It is doing what the telephone, direct mail, print advertising, radio, television, and billboards did for us up until now. But social media is exponentially more effective.” Safko (2010: 5) Social media has been the subject of a lot of research during the last several years. (Evans, 2008; Weinburg, 2009; Bradley, 2010; Meraz, 2009; Safko, 2010) gave some of the attempts to define this concept. Weinburg (2009: 1) defined social media as “relating to the sharing of information, experiences and perspectives through community-oriented websites” while Bradley (2010) spoke about a set of technologies and channels that enable potentially massive community to productively collaborate. Evans underlines some basics characteristics of social media: “Social media is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into content publishers. It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism to a many-to-many model, rooted in conversations between authors, people, and peers. Social media uses the “wisdom of crowds”[7] to connect information in a collaborative manner.” Evans, 2008: 33 One of the main ideas of social media is User Generated Content. This idea is not new. In other words: user generated content was prefigured in the creation of the web. This was an idea which was present in the structures of creation of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee: “I have always imagined the information space as something to which everyone has immediate and intuitive access, and not just to browse, but to create.” Berners-Lee, 1999:169 Jenkins (2006: 240) noted that Slashdot was one of the first sites to experiment with usermoderation. Alternatives to phrase User Generated Content include content self-publishing, personal publishing (Downes, 2004) and ‘self expression’. People are said to become the media and according to Constantinides & Fountain (2008), user generated content is the basis of the 7 “The wisdom of the crowd refers to the process of taking into account the collective opinion of a group of individuals rather than a single expert to answer a question. This process, while not new to the information age, has been pushed into the mainstream spotlight by social information sites such as Wikipedia and Yahoo! Answers, and other web resources that rely on human opinion.” – Wikipedia; http://


Literature review success of social media. User generated content is enabled thanks to the ease of content publishing and low barriers to entry. As explained by O’Reilly (2007), enabling customer’s activity and creating customer engagement is the key to be a successful Web 2.0 player. Interacting through social media may prove important for individuals who share common interests but not common location (Pogue, 2009). This use of media in social way has brought the world closer together, breaking down geographic barriers that have historically divided individuals, cultures, and nations and allowing new online communities to emerge and grow. One of the main features of social media concept is that this phenomenon is not mainly caused by technological but social innovation (Davis, 2005). Social media exist in many forms. Evans (2008) defines the following items as social media tools: blogs and microblogs, photo and video sharing, events, e-mails, wiki, podcasting, SMS and social network sites.

2.6 Social Network Sites: A Public Display of Connections The word “social” refers to a people-to-people interaction and may consist of a set of customers, employees or organizations which have a relationship that holds them together (Haythornthwaite, 1999). Boyd and Ellison (2008: 211) define social network sites as “web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system”. Anderson (2007) explained that social networking is one of the Web 2.0 services and these sites facilitate meeting people, finding like minds, sharing content and using ideas from harnessing the power of the crowd, network effect and User Generated Content (Anderson, 2007) In literature term “social networking” is often used as a synonym for “social network”, although there is a difference. Boyd and Ellison (2008: 211) said that “networking” emphasizes relationship initiation, often between strangers and while it is possible on these sites, it is not the primary practice on many of them, nor is it what differentiates them from other forms of computer-mediated communication. Social network sites enable users to articulate and make 14

Literature review visible their social networks and that makes social networks sites unique (Boyd and Ellison, 2008: 211). They also mentioned that these meetings between “strangers” are often “latent ties” (Haythornthwait, 2005) connections between people who share some offline connections. Participants use social network sites primarily to maintain and strengthen their current social network. Nature and name of the connection which are realized on online social networks may vary depending on the ability of online social network services (Friends, Fans, Favorites, Followers…). As it can be seen is studies, online social networks can create benefits for their users, especially in helping them make social connections, share information, and increase personal self-esteem (Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe, 2007; Raacke and Bonds-Raacke, 2008). Social networks have become extremely popular services, attracting millions and even hundreds of millions of users. Across the past decade, the Web has brought customers from the margins of the media industry into the spotlight (Jenkins, 2006: 246). This can be one of the reasons for social network sites popularity since the concept of social media puts users in the middle of the action by allowing them to create contents and offer them to other users. The rise of online social networks points to a shift in the organization of online communities and encourages a new dimension of social interaction. While the web sites devoted to communities of interest still exist, the online social network services are primarily organized around people, not interests. Early public online communities (forums, news-groups, chat rooms, etc.) were structured by topic, while the social network services are structured as private or “egocentric” network with the individual at the center of their community (Boyd and Ellison, 2008). Online social networks services confirm that “the world is composed of networks, not groups” (Wellman, 1988: 37). Although social network sites are composed of various technical features, their central sections are visible profiles where lists of “Friends” are articulated. These “Friends” are also users of the system. Profiles are unique pages on which each individual can present themselves to others in the system with descriptions such as age, gender, interests, part of “something about yourself” and a variety of multimedia content and applications that both enhance and personalize the profile. The rapid advancement of computer technology has allowed multiple online social networks to proliferate. Nowadays, the most famous and most popular social network site is Facebook. Since the the origins of the company, Facebook has been constantly improving its capabilities. From rudimentary photo albums, leaving messages and similar basic features, Facebook has grown into an impressive platform that provides its users numerous possibilities and from month to month breaks its own records of traffic.


Literature review Created in 2004, by 2007 Facebook was reported to have more than 21 million registered members generating 1.6 billion page views each day (Sheldon, 2008). Today, on May 2011, Facebook has around 670 million of active members around the globe. In Spain the number of active members has reached 13.8 million, which is for 32.2% higher than in the same period last year (InsideFacebook, 2011). Facebook is social network for finding and making contacts with friends and colleagues with whom the user is primarily known from the “analogue” life, and networking space for people of similar professional and personal interests. Previous research suggests that Facebook users engage in ‘‘searching’’ for people with whom they have an offline connection more than they ‘‘browse’’ for complete strangers to meet (Lampe, Ellison, & Steinfield, 2006). Facebook allows individual self-presentation, view and use the friends list, write comments on friends’ profiles, send private messages, share pictures, videos, create groups and fan pages, enables every user to actively participate in creating content. Facebook pages were created in late 2007 because Facebook wanted to give businesses a space for their brands but did not allow them to create profiles, which Facebook reserves for people. Through these pages brands can engage audiences and develop strong relationships with fans. However, some brands use this opportunity in the right way and some do not. Fan Pages in the same industry with the same number of fans can have vastly different communities based on how those pages engage with fans. In addition to Facebook, this research will also focus Twitter, “the mobile messaging utility that allows wandering social media fans to text one another – and columnists and news producers – by sending short questions, comments and updates of up to 140 characters” (Emmet, 2009). Twitter is the fastest growing social media site which from February 2008 to February 2009 increased the number of members from 475,000 to 7,038,000, or for 1382% (Nielsen, 2009). Today Twitter has approximately 200 million members (Shiels, 2011). It is probably the simplest social network site and that is one of the reasons for its popularity. Users sign up for an account, and then select individuals to “follow.” Following enables a Twitter user to see the followed user’s tweets and respond if they wish. Therefore, “Twitter at its core, provides access to conversations” (Ovadia, 2009). Twitter is based on personal relationships, and one of the key to Twitter success is growing one’s numbers of followers so that with one short message, a user can reach hundreds or 16

Literature review thousands of people. Users may tweet about anything from what they ate for breakfast and what they plan to watch on television (Pogue, 2009) to feedback on a live event, like a presidential press conference (Ovidia, 2009) or a football game. Businesses accept customer feedback and promote their goods and services (Miller, 2009). Journalists from established news sources cite tweets as information sources in their articles and other news coverage (Cohen, 2009). In marketing terms, Twitter is a broadcasting medium allowing users to share single 140-character message with all their friends, or, in Twitter languages, followers (Thomases, 2010). Twitter has a large social component, facilitating conversations between users, but this does not mean that it accurately reflects real-life relationships. Huberman, Romero and Wu (2009), in their study of twitter and its social relationships, found that a link between two Twitter users did not imply an interaction between them and that indeed most of the relationships found in Twitter were meaningless from an interaction point of view.

2.7 Sports Fan Identification and Social Media Sports fans associate with their favorite sports teams and athletes through identification (Wann, Royalty and Roberts, 2000). Since social media offer fans a constant connection and interaction with their favorite athlete or sports team it allows them to associate with sport heroes easily. Therefore, social media are a good opportunity for sport entities to create large community of fans as well as to increase their identifications. Cialdini et al. (1976); Sloan, (1989); Wann and Branscombe, (1993) have shown that team identification or attachment to the team is a key indicator of sport-fan behavior. Fan identification can be defined as “an orientation of the self in regard to other objects, including a person or group, that results in feelings or sentiments of close attachment� (Trail, Anderson and Fink, 2000: 165-166). Sutton et al (1997) divided fan identification in three groups: low identification (social fans), medium identification (focused fans), and high identification (vested fans). Fans identification leads to two notable managerial benefits: decreased price sensitivity and decrease performance-outcome sensitivity.


Literature review Low identification (social fans) Fans with this level of identification are followers of sport entertainment and not necessarily of the team (Suton et al., 1997: 17). For them the result of the sporting event is not a priority but the overall quality of the entertainment opportunity provided. Opportunity for social interaction as well as attraction for a sport entertainment value can lead these fans to a higher degree of identification with a team. Medium Identification (focused fans) The association of these fans with a sport team is based upon some of the following factors: fad, social factors, team performance, or player personality (Suton et al., 1997: 17). The behavior of some fans in this degree of identification is directly correlated to the team’s performance and therefore may be a short term. This type of involvement with the team may lead to a greater relationship and identification or may disappear after a poor team performance, an identified player trade, etc. High identification (vested fans) This refers to the strongest, most loyal, and longest term-relationship a fan can have with a team. According to Pooley (1978) fans with a strong relationship to a team devote a significant portion of the day to following their team. They can feel an “emotional ownership” in the team, refer to the team as “WE”, and recruit other fans (Suton et al., 1997: 17). High identification fans express their affiliations with sport teams behaviorally through purchasing of team merchandise and wearing team-related clothing (Wann, Royalty and Roberts, 2000), following the team’s games fanatically through the season, and doing public displays of their fandom on their personal home page, fan forums, blogs and social networks. In their research, Sutton et al. (1997) gave four main strategies for increasing fan identifications that are within the control of sports managers: increase team/player accessibility to the public, increase community involvement activities, reinforce the team’s history and tradition, and create opportunities for group affiliation and participation. Gladden, Irwin and Sutton (2001) suggested that sport teams should enhance their relationships with fans by utilizing strategies that develop an understanding of the consumer through increased interactions between the consumer and the brand. These strategies can be successfully implemented through social media which has facilitated the teams/players connection with fans in a way that never existed before. Robinson and Trail (2005) found that sport fans engagement to sport team could be based on the connection with a specific player. Accessibility to the teams, and to the players, is an 18

Literature review important antecedent to the development of team identification (Sutton, McDonald, Milne, & Cimperman, 1997). Facebook and Twitter have allowed fans not just direct interaction with their favorite team but also unprecedented access to professional athletes and their personal and social lives (Hambrick et al., 2010: 455). Sport fans can get a real, unmediated look into the lives of their sport heroes and, in the process, possibly develop a greater appreciation for the talent, dedication to their sport, and day-to-day lives of these athletes (Kassing and Sanderson, 2009; Sanderson, 2008). Wann et al. (2000) found that sport fan identification has an association with self-esteem. Self-esteem has a positive influence on people’s decision to present themselves as a fan of specific team (Wann et al., 2000). Also, “highly identified sport fans with a high self-esteem are more likely to present themselves as a fan of a team to fans of rival teams, as well as to disclose their fandom earlier” (Phua, 2009: 9). Once again, social media has facilitated connections and presentations between fans and could increase the number of highly identified fans. The accessibility that social media offers can be an important outcome for sports organizations as highly identified sports fans engage in loyal behaviors directed toward the team.

2.8 Fan engagement: Fans vs. Active Fans Social network sites give the opportunity to engage with an audience and build loyalty to some brand. As Shih (2009: 89) said “social media is a commitment, not a campaign”. The fact that there are more than 670 million users just on facebook means that many of the people that some brand wants to reach are likely on the social network sites. There is no barrier that may impede social network users to engage with brands. According to JupiterResearch enthusiastic sports fans account for 19 percent of overall online users and represent a lucrative online audience for social network sites (Sachoff, 2008). Sports fans tend to be early adopters of new communication technologies in order to follow their favorite sports (Pegoraro, 2010). This means that social network sites, with ability to connect a large numbers of like-minded people within and outside of their off-line communities, can be easily incorporated into their media consumption habits. Watching games and following sport teams is often a group activity, and therefore social network sites are ideal places for sports fans. Sports fans like to associate themselves with teams, and adding a sports application on their facebook profile can contribute to their selfpresentation, and also let other fans know about them. 19

Literature review All these facts are good reasons why sport teams should use social media to interact with their fans. The best way brands and sports teams can engage with fans is through a Facebook page. Many brands think that the number of fans is the most important and represent their success on social networks based only on that number. That is just partially correct. The number of fans on a Facebook page does not mean anything if they do not participate in interaction. “The real question is not how many fans you have, but how many active and engaged fans you have.” Eran Gefen, FanGager’s founder and CEO (Gustin, 2011) Sometimes a large number of fans can affect negatively on fan engagement (Shih, 2009: 90). When participating in interaction on fan pages none of the members is anonymous and they tend to feel engaged and accountable, and act responsibly when participate (Shih, 2009). On the other hand when the number of fans grows on the page, members feel more like anonymous and therefore less engaged (Shih, 2009:90). This means that the most important thing is the number of active fans. Facebook defined an active fan as anyone who has interacted with or viewed the Page or its posts, including fans and non-fans (Facebook, 2011). However, we would like to define “active fan” differently. For us, a more appropriate definition of an active fan would be: a person who interacts with a brand through social media in some way. That can be through “likes”, comments, posts, clicking on the links, etc. In this sense we can establish different levels of the engagement from the lowest degree of the involvement and effort required by the user (pressing “like” button) to the higher level of user contribution (leave comment). Only Facebook knows who visits a particular page. Therefore, in a view of this study we will consider only two mentioned engagement behavior. Leyl Master Black (2010), a tech PR and marketing professional, gave four important ways how some brand can engage their fans. Brands should: (1) ask fans’ opinion, (2) test their knowledge, (3) pair promotions with content and (4) thank their fans. She explained: “With a question, you engage people’s egos and provoke viral distribution of your content — everyone loves to share their opinion! (…) Giving people the opportunity to test their knowledge got them into a competitive mode and provided an additional incentive to share their results with friends. (…)The way to boost participation is by tying the offer to content. People taking a brand-related quiz are great targets for your message. They may already have an affinity for the brand, so this is the best time to make them an offer. (…) Giving your fans something 20

Literature review of value — whether it’s as simple as a coupon, or as flashy as tickets to theTonight Show— is a great way to show that you appreciate their continued support.” Black, 2010

2.9 Social Networks in a World of Sport Social networks are two-way communication channels through which fans can interact directly with their favorite brands, sports organizations and celebrities. Fans are beginning to expect their favorite teams and athletes to communicate via these channels. For example, Lance Armstrong once posted a message on twitter asking fans to join him for a bike ride at a specified time and location. Several hours later, more than 1,000 cyclists showed up to participate (Cromwell, 2009). Cristiano Ronaldo published the first photo of his child on Facebook. Allen Iverson informed his fans about a possible trade to another team (Sheridan, 2009). In short, social networks are being developed into an instrument for direct communication between sport stars, organizations and fans. Social media have had a profound effect on sport. Sports organizations use social media to connect with their fans worldwide. Phua (2010) noted that the Web, through its ability to be a major socializing and communication channel for sport fans, will play a vital role, eventually superseding traditional media such as broadcast and print. Social networks give sports fans ability to connect with other fans as they read and discuss statuses and tweets provided by their favorite teams and athletes. These sites also allow them to create personalized spaces where they can express support for their favorite teams and athletes. Facebook and Twitter have brought fan closer to their sport heroes because it allows athletes to communicate as openly and honestly as they wish without any third-party mediation. This type of communication shows athletes’ personality layers never seen at press conferences (Johnson, 2009). Teams and athletes are embracing social networks and using them to bring fans closer to the game. They are trying to identify ways to make such media trends into a meaningful communication tool (Fisher and Mickle, 2010). Some sport teams, as Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid, and athletes, as Cristiano Ronaldo, have already succeeded in it, but there is a still doubt about the effectiveness and credibility of social media as a new communication tool for fan engagement (Coyle, 2010). Many sport entities are concerned that fans might say negative things about them (Coyle, 2010). 21

Literature review Various sporting stars now use social networks to keep in touch with fans, but there are also negative examples. Social media platforms are set up openly, and athletes who are not careful with how they use these tools might put something out there that might not be viewed positively. For example, former Liverpool player Ryan Babel was handed a charge by the Football Association for posting a mocked-up picture on Twitter of referee Howard Webb wearing a Manchester United shirt after Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat to United in the FA Cup (Taylor, 2011). Charlie Villanueva, a player on the Milwaukee Bucks, tweeted from his cell phone during halftime and got fined by the National Basketball Association (Johnson, 2009). Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was fined $25,000 for criticizing the referees after the game on Twitter (Sefko, 2009). Through these positive and negative examples it can be noticed that the social networks tools have found a home in the sport world. Every day, fans all over the world can take an unprecedented look into the lives of their favorite sport stars, or at least a look at what these athletes are “tweeting” or “posting” about. Some of the main things for athletes if they want to engage their fans are to have an authentic voice and to post consistently and often (Moseng, 2011). It means that engagement increases when athletes tweet or post to Fan Page themselves, rather than updates speaking about athletes in third-person. Users want to see updates from the pages they follow. Moseng (2011) presented Michael Jordan Fan Page (most likely it is not managed by Michael or his team) as an example of a missed opportunity. This fan page has more than 10 million fans but its last post was in 2009. “Imagine the engagement his page would get if posts were coming from Michael himself” (Moseang, 2011). Facebook and Twitter have a growing interest in brands and athletes because they can be used as tools to measure the emotional impact of fans on athletes’ and teams’ posts. Via sharing tools, reviews, the “like” buttons, retweets and replays they can easily get an idea of how people react to their publications. Online social networks have created a significant shift in the sports communications paradigm. Researchers have mainly focused on use of these tools by athletes. Therefore Kassing and Sanderson 2010 in their research about interaction between fans and athletes through Twitter during the cycling’s Tour of Italy 2009, said that American and English-speaking cyclists who use Twitter can be divided into three groups: Those who tweet infrequently, those who tweet moderately and Lance Armstrong. He used Twitter so frequently that more than half of all analyzed tweets were created by him. This study also showed that cyclists’ use of Twitter served as an augmentation device for fans’ experience of the race, primarily through the function of opinion sharing, interactivity, and insider perspective cultivation. 22

Literature review Pegoraro (2010) in her case study investigated about athletes’ use of Twitter. Her main question was what are athletes saying through Twitter? The findings in this one week period research indicate that athletes are talking mostly about their personal lives and responding to fans’ queries. Her case study shows that social media, in particular Twitter, is a powerful tool for increasing fan-athletes interaction. Similarly, Hambrick et al. (2010) were engaged in content analysis of athletes’ tweets. They analyzed 1,962 tweets by professional athletes and placed these tweets into one of six categories: interactivity, diversion, information sharing, content, promotional, and fanship. The results indicate that a high percentage (34%) of the tweets was direct conversation between athletes and fans, and it means these tweets were placed in the interactivity category. Many of the tweets fell into diversion category (28%), because athletes also write about non-sport-related topics. Relatively few of the tweets (15%) involved player discussing their own teams or sports. This study indicates that professional athletes are interested in posting tweets about a variety of topics and that Twitter offers fans unparalleled accessibility to the personal lives of athletes, which may lead to increased identification with athletes and their teams. In the absence of adequate researches, these studies will be guidelines for content analyzing in this project. Since social network sites like Facebook and Twitter have a relatively short history they are constantly improving their possibilities. Therefore, little is known about what is communicated through these sites and how it is communicated. Existing studies mainly focused on athletes use (Hambrick et al., 2010; Pegoraro, 2010; Kassing and Sanderson, 2010; etc.) and there are little or no studies about using social networks by sports teams. The purpose of the current study is to examine the content of Twitter accounts and Facebook pages of football teams and to explore communication flows between football teams and fans.


Literature review

2.10 The context: General information of the Facebook pages and Twitter accounts Before explaining methodology and showing the results of the research we are going to offer a general view of the Facebook Pages and the Twitter accounts. The information is presented in brief form. First view on these pages was on April 12, 2011, during the quarterfinal matches, and the last day of collecting data was May 12, 2011. Data about increasing the fans community during these 30 days is given below.

FC Barcelona: Facebook Page and Twitter account

April 12, 2011 May 12, 2011 30 days increasing

Number of fans 12,415,197 14,508,724 2,093,527

FC Barcelona Followers Following Tweets

649,307 15 5,261

* Retrieved May 12, 2011

Facebook Page Activities In addition to the standard activities that all these Facebook pages offers as Wall, Info, Photos, Video, and Events, FC Barcelona offers following activities: -

Manu Barรงa - contain links to FC Barcelona Fan Club, Selling ticket Page, as well as 24

Literature review other official social media presentations (Twitter and YouTube) -

E-Catalogue FC Barcelona – an interactive e-Catalogue in English, Spanish and Cata-

lan languages -

BiggestFan – application that offers users to compete for prizes


YouTube – videos from YouTube channel


Fans Map – applications that presents fans around the world


Discussions – gives fans possibilities to start topics and discuss it with other fans


Links – displays all posts that contain link


Barça Club – welcome note


Next Match – shows next match and gives link to selling ticket page

Real Madrid C,F,

April 12, 2011 May 12, 2011 30 days increasing

Real Madrid C.F.

Followers Following Tweets

Number of fans 11,293,763 13,289,992 1,996,229

1,705,438 14 12,227

* Retrieved May 12, 2011

Additional activities: - Friend Activities – activities that fan’s “friends” had on Real Madrid Facebook Page - Team/Equipo 2010/11 – links to each player’s or coach’s profile on official Real Madrid Internet presentation as well as to their individual Web and social media presentations. 25

Literature review - Madridista – link to Web page where fan could get Madridista Card - Fantasy Manager – online game - RM Avatars – app where fans can create their avatar with Real Madrid sports gear - YouTube – videos from YouTube - RM Welcome – promotions and links to selling tickets service, official online store, download the official RM toolbar, etc. - Discussions - it gives fans possibilities to start topics and discuss them with other fans - Notes – various updates - Test – at the moment of observation was empty - Poll – Various polls

Manchester United

April 12, 2011 May 12, 2011 30 days increasing

Number of fans 11,813,652 13,481,926 1,668,274

Manchester United

Additional activities: - Friend Activities – fan’s “friends” activities on Manchester United Facebook Page - Welcome – welcome poster - Spread the word – fans can send invitations to all their Facebook friends to join - Join Man Utd – link to personalize Manchester United shirt - CODE RED- links to selling shirts service and Nike Football Facebook Page - Questions - polls


Research Design

3. Chapter 3: Research Design

3.1 Justification of the sample To examine how successfully sport teams use social networks this work investigates the presence and activity of UEFA Champions League semifinalists, as well as communications flows between these football teams and their fans on social network sites Facebook and Twitter. There is a large number of various groups, profiles and pages which in their titles contain the names of the teams Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Schalke 04, from few to hundreds of thousands of members, and which are not official presentations of the teams but are created by the fans. These unofficial presentations are not analyzed in this work. As we already mentioned, German football team Schalke 04 does not have any official presentation on social network sites, while the English team Manchester United has no presence on Twitter in an official form. Unlike them, Spanish football teams Barcelona and Real Madrid have three Twitter accounts. Barcelona has its accounts in Catalan, Spanish and English languages while Real Madrid has the same account for Spanish and English, an account in Arabic and one more in Japanese language. In the case of Facebook, the situation is different. Every team (except Schalke 04) has one official Facebook page. Real Madrid uses all mentioned languages in this page but its main language is English. Barcelona uses the three languages for every post, while Manchester United, as expected, uses only English. So in this research only posts in English, as a main and only common language for all three teams, are analyzed. Therefore, the work has focused on three Facebook pages and two Twitter accounts. Facebook pages: - FC Barcelona - Real Madrid C. F. - Manchester United


Research Design Twitter accounts: - FC Barcelona - Real Madrid. C. F. Social networks Facebook and Twitter are chosen as the most popular social networks today with more than 800 million users together (InsideFacebook, 2011; BBC, 2011) and, by now, they are the only social networks that these teams have used for self-presentation. Although Facebook is more popular than Twitter, we decided to analyze both networks because of their different style of communication that is explained in previous part of this work.

3.2 Method We have used quantitative, as well as qualitative content analysis. The Facebook and Twitter presentations are followed from the moment of the pass to semifinals, after the quarterfinal games (it means for Barcelona and Manchester United April 12 and for Real Madrid April 13), until a week after the last semifinal match (May 11 for all teams). The research is based on the posts related to UEFA Champions League so we collected all posts 48 hours after the quarterfinals games, 48 hours before and after the semifinals games (on Facebook and Twitter) as well as all other posts related to UEFA Champions League that are not posted in these periods of time (on Facebook). We also gave a brief overview of all posts set during these 4 weeks. The research is divided in two parts. The first part of the research refers to the analysis of the Facebook pages. Here, after the collection of posts, the first step was to categorize the format of each post (Pegoraro, 2010). We have classified posts in the following categories: - External link – the posts that contain links to the Web page that is not under Facebook. com (links to official Web presentations of the teams, links to the Twitter accounts, or some other Web sites) - Internal link – the posts that contain link to the other Facebook page - Text – the posts that only contain text - Photo – the posts that contain photos - Video – the posts that contain video or link to the - Poll – the posts in form of polls (Facebook option) - Event – the posts in form of events (Facebook option) - Facebook App – the posts that contains link to some Facebook applications or games 28

Research Design Some of the posts could be classified in two or more categories but we set them in one category depending on the dominant format. For example if a post has text and photo we set it in photo category, if it has photo and link we set it in link category, etc. Once the posts were collected and their format categorized, we have used content analysis to analyze and categorize the content of each post. Our guides were the researches of Hambrick et al. (2010) and Pegoraro, (2010) and we have developed following seven content categories for coding: - Match information – any comments that refer to the matches or training before matches (match preview, match report, club reactions, official announcements, etc.) - Interview – any posts that contain statements of any persons related to the teams (statements, special interviews and press conferences) - Player information – any comments about players - Fan zone – any posts that put fans in the first plan or ask fans participation (photos of fans, polls, text, Facebook applications, Facebook or online games, etc.) - History and statistic – any posts that contain historic or statistic data - Advertising – any posts that promote any products, tickets, sponsors promotion, etc. - Press – any comments that refer to reaction of the press Same as in previous categorization, some posts could be coded in more than one category but we coded them in the category of the dominant content type. For example, if the post contains match information and the information that some player will (not) play, that post was set in match information category (not in player information category). The next step was to analyze fan engagement through number of the active fans. Since we have no possibility to measure all fans that interact with Facebook Page in all possible ways, we analyzed fan engagement through numbers of “likes” and comments of the collected posts. Unfortunately, we are not able to know the exact number of unique (different) users who “like” or leave comment during the research time frame, therefore we could not present a precise engagement degree. However, we could compare numbers of “likes” and comments those fans leaved during this period of time. Due to the fact that “likes” and comments do not have the same level of engagement we have not presented fan engagement as a unique number of likes and comments but compared it separately. In addition to a general view of fan engagement, we tried to reveal any relationships between fan participation and posts’ format, as well as type of content, although many external factors affect to fan activity. The second part of the research was to analyze the Twitter accounts. Here, as in the previ29

Research Design ous part, the first step was the categorization of the tweets format. Similarly to Pegoraro, (2010) we have categorized the tweets indicating whether the tweet was a direct message or retweet and whether it contained photo or link to video, the official Web presentation of team or another Internet site. Once again content analysis was used to analyze and categorize the content of each tweet. The categories are the same as the categories in Facebook posts analysis with addition of live - tweeting category. The live - tweeting category is separated from the match information category since this is one of the main Twitter’s possibilities teams can take advantage of. In this part of the research we could not analyze the reaction of the fans because we did not have software which measures all the retweets and replays.



4. Chapter 4: Results

As can be seen at the Facebook Pages general information, teams offer a large number of possibilities for fans activities. However, the data were collected from “wall” updates of the each Facebook Page.

4.1 Post format During the 30 days data-collection period the teams have set 389 posts on Facebook Pages. As can be seen in Table 1, the most active was Real Madrid with 246 posts or 63.24%, while Manchester United set 84 (21.59%) and Barcelona 59 posts (15.17%). The data illustrate that the largest percentage of the posts were the categories external link (36.51%) and photo (30.33%). Video (12.85%) category also had an important role while other categories were not very popular. Table 1: The general view on all posts on the Facebook Pages during the study period (from April 12, 2011 to May 11, 2011)

External links Internal links Texts Photos Videos Polls Events Facebook App Total Posts

FC Barcelona n % 43 72.88 1 1.7 2 3. 39 2 3.39 11 18.64 / / /** / / / 59 15.17

Real Madrid C. F. n % 38 15.45 11 4.47 24 9.76 105 42.68 37 15.04 12 4.88 8 3.25 11 4.47 246 63.24

Manchester United n % 61 72.62 / / / / 11 13.1 2 2.38 3 3.57 7 8.33 / / 84 21.59

Total Posts n % 142 36.51 12 3.08 26 6.68 118 30.33 50 12.85 15 3.86 15 3.86 11 2.83 389 100

*Source: Our own data; ** FC Barcelona has created events as a preview for the matches but that were not displayed on “wall”

In the case of the collected posts the situation is not very different. The data in Table 2 shows that FC Barcelona and Manchester United have used more different posts format than Real Madrid C.F. On FC Barcelona and Manchester United Facebook Pages the dominant category is external link with almost the same percentage (76.47 and 75). There was significant drop to the second most popular format - video category on FC Barcelona page and photo category on Manchester United page. FC Barcelona, during this period, used posts from two more categories, text and photo, while Manchester United used video and event. Opposite of them, Real Madrid C.F. has used all formats. The dominant category was photo (26.87), but there 31

Results were also external link (17.91%), video (16.42%) and text (13.43%) categories with relevant percentage of the posts. The other posts were from four more categories; internal link, poll, event and Facebook App. Table 2: The posts format categorization of collected data regarding UEFA Champions League

External links Internal links Texts Photos Video Polls Events Facebook App Total Posts

FC Barcelona n % 26 76.47 / / 2 5.88 1 2.94 5 14.71 / / / / / / 34 24.82

Real Madrid C. F. n % 12 17.91 6 8.95 9 13.43 18 26.87 11 16.42 4 5.97 4 5.97 3 4.48 67 48.9

Manchester United n % 27 75 / / / / 5 13.9 / / 2 5,55 2 5.55 / / 36 26.28

Total Posts N % 65 47.44 6 4.38 11 8.03 24 17.52 16 11.68 6 4.38 6 4.38 3 2.19 137 100

*Source: Our own data

4.2 Post Content The analyzed posts were placed in one of seven categories and the results are presented in Table 3. The category with the most posts was match information (47 posts, 34.3%). However, in a separated view of each team the situation is not the same. Namely, FC Barcelona mainly focused on this type of content (50%) and had the same number of posts as in all other categories together. In case of Real Madrid C. F. (31.34%) and Manchester United (25%) match information category took second place behind Fan zone (47.76%) and Interview (36.11%). Fan zone had the second highest number of posts (42) thanks to Real Madrid because this was the category with the highest number of posts on its Facebook Page. FC Barcelona had 4 posts (11.77%) in this category and Manchester United 6 (16.67%). One more category, interview, Table 3: post content categorization of collected data regarding UEFA Champions League

Match information Interviews Player information Fan zone History and statistic Advertising Press Total Posts

FC Barcelona n %

Real Madrid C. F. n %

Manchester United n %















5 2 2 34

Total Posts n



























5.88 5.88 24.82

2 / 67

2.99 / 48.9

/ / 36

/ / 26.28

4 2 137

2.92 1.46 100

*Source: Our own data


Results had a relevant percentage of the posts (18.25%). The posts with this content type were used by all teams but they were the dominant posts on Manchester United Facebook Page (13, 36.11%). On the Real Madrid Facebook page Interview was the third most important category while it was the fourth one on the FC Barcelona Facebook page. The other categories did not have significant role in the teams’ Facebook presentations. History and statistic were presented in all pages; FC Barcelona (5, 14.71%), Real Madrid C. F. (3, 4.48%) and Manchester United (2, 5.55%). Player information category was not posted by Real Madrid while advertising were not used by Manchester United. Press category was set only on FC Barcelona page. It is interesting that only FC Barcelona had posts in all categories, although they set the smallest number of the posts.

4.3 Fan Engagement Presentation of collected data for fan engagement is more difficult than other categories. Some of the results could not be compared (what will be discussed later) but we tried to present it in the most acceptable way. Figure 1: The total numbers of the “likes� and comments by teams


Comments 1399632




Real Madrid


Manchester United


FC Barcelona

*Source: Our own data


Results In Figure 1 we have shown the total number of likes[8] and comments for collected posts. As can be noticed the numbers are incredibly close. FC Barcelona has the largest number of likes but the smallest number of comments. Manchester United engaged fans through comments more than others and because of that had the largest total number.

4.3.1 Fan engagement by format of the posts The results of fan engagement in relationship to the post format can be seen in Table 4 where we presented the total number of likes and comments in each format category. Due to the percentage of the posts (76.5 and 75), external link category collected great part of all likes and comments in the FC Barcelona and Manchester United cases. Surprisingly a great number of fan participation provided poll category with only two posts on Manchester United page (234,005). For Real Madrid the most successful format was text with 31% of all likes although it was fourth in the number of the posts. Table 4: Total numbers of the “likes” and comments according to post format

External link Internal link Text Photo Video Poll Event Facebook app

Posts n 26 / 2 1 5 / / /

FC Barcelona Total Likes Comments 938963 103580 / / 101725 11919 61196 4154 297748 25680 / / / / / /

Posts n 12 6 9 18 11 4 4 3

Real Madrid C. F. Total Likes Comments 148880 26433 24272 2059 424206 58450 347378 55260 152224 13517 152220 1214 109661 17954 11804 1008

Posts n 27 / / 5 / 2 2 /

Manchester United Total Likes Comments 885567 150451 / / / / 191641 32921 / / 234005 3199 71905 11157 / /

*Source: Our own data

For better insight into the results in Figures 2, 3, and 4 the average numbers of the likes and comments by post in each format category are shown. It is important to notice that the following comparisons should be taken with caution because some of the formats had significantly less posts than others (see Table 2 or Table 4). Figure 2 presents FC Barcelona average fan engagement for each post format. Barcelona fans average engagement was greater for video and photo posts than for text posts and finally for external link, although the text format had more comments (5,959.5) than photo (5,316) and video (4,154).

8 In case of posts in the polls category, we have equalized participation in poll and likes. This was done for two reasons: (1) in this case it like option is not available and (2) participation in the poll asked the same effort as “like” – one click of button.


Results Figure 2: The average number of the FC Barcelona “likes” and comments by each post format

FC Barcelona Comments




59549,6 4154


61196 5959,5


50862,5 3983,8

External link


*Source: Our own data

Results of Manchester United show that poll format engaged fans by far more than any other format with 117,002.5 participants by post (see Figure 3). Next most engaged format was photo, followed by event and external link. Figure 3: The average number of the Manchester United “likes” and comments by each post format

Manchester United Comments 5578,5




35952,5 1599,5


External links

117002,5 6584,2 38328,2 5572,3 32798,8

*Source: Our own data


Results As we already mentioned, during the data-collecting period Real Madrid used all format posts that we developed, which is easy to notice in Figure 4. The dominant fan engagement format was text with the average numbers of 47,134 likes and 6,494.4 comments. These numbers are similar to numbers of likes and comments of FC Barcelona text format but notably smaller than video and photo posts of FC Barcelona. Posts from photo category those were uploaded by Real Madrid (excluding photos uploaded by fans) had the most comments (6,876.7) followed by text and event format (4488.5). Video format had surprisingly minor number of likes and comments, as well as external link format. As we could expect, internal link and Facebook app did not have an important role in fan engagement during this period of time.

Figure 4: The average number of the Real Madrid C. F. “likes� and comments by each post format

Real Madrid Comments Facebook app

336 3934,7 4488,5




27415,3 239 38055 1228,8 13838,6 6876,7

Photos (by Real Madrid)**


32635,2 3070 19298,8 6494,4


Internal link

External link


47134 343,2 4045,3 2202,8 12406,7

*Source: Our own data; **Real Madrid offers fans the possibility to upload their own photos. This represents high level of fan engagement, but number of likes and comments on those photos is significantly minor then on photos uploaded by Real Madrid. To present fane engagement of photo category precisely as possible this additional category is included.


Results 4.3.2 Fan engagement by content After connection between post format and fan activities, the results of fan engagement and content type relationship are presented in the following table and figures. Similar to the previous results presentation in Table 5 are shown all the likes and comments coded to developed categories. FC Barcelona has engaged their fans mostly through match information posts (61.2% of the likes and 71.3% of the comments). Table 5: Total numbers of the “likes” and comments according to post content Posts n Match information Interview Player information Fan zone History and statistic Advertising Press

FC Barcelona Total Likes Comments

Posts n

Real Madrid C. F. Total Likes Comments

Posts n

Manchester United Total Likes Comments














































2 2

33120 58852

1911 4207

2 /

10612 /

695 /

/ /

/ /

/ /

*Source: Our own data

Apart from the match information posts, the main fan engagement category for Real Madrid is fan zone, while in the case of Manchester United important role was played by four categories: match information, interview, player information and fan zone. Figure 5: The average number of the FC Barcelona “likes” and comments by each post content

FC Barcelona Likes


54260 50350,1


34937 29426

28003 16560 5824,5

Match information

3886,7 Interview

*Source: Our own data


Player information

2638,5 Fan zone

2634,6 History and statistic

955,5 Advertising

2103,5 Press


Results Once again, the average numbers of likes and comments by content type can be seen in Figures 5, 6 and 7. Beside the match information category (the most important category for all teams), we could see the other essential categories, as well as categories what clubs should use more, like player information and interview in FC Barcelona case. Figure 6: The average number of the Real Madrid C. F. “likes” and comments by each post content

Real Madrid Likes


24732,8 20842,8 14514,8



4854,9 1759,3

1398,7 Match information


Fan zone



History and statistic Advertising

*Source: Our own data

Figure 7: The average number of the Manchester United “likes” and comments by each post content

Manchester United Likes

Comments 52191,2


41764,2 27408,2



Match information Interview



Player information

3568,7 Fan zone

2460 History and statistic

*Source: Our own data



4.4 TOP fan engagement posts Finally, we present some posts with the highest fan engagement degrees. FC Barcelona: After victory against their biggest opponent – Real Madrid in the first semifinal game, the first post about the game (link/match information categories) had the largest number of fan activities: 148,955 likes and 21,480 comments (see Figure 8). It means at least 148,955 unique users (or 1.03% of their Facebook fan community) were active fans just for this post. Figure 8: The FC Barcelona post with the highest fan engagement degree

The next two most engaged posts were YouTube video clips (from BarçaTV) where fans could “re-live” some interesting moment from the pitch during and after the semifinal games (87,868 and 81,343 likes; 7,563 and 74,865 comments). Manchester United: The post with the highest fan degree on Manchester United was poll with 162,533 participants in the survey (1.21% of Facebook fan community) and 10,631 persons who followed the results of the voting and 2017 comments on the question showed in Figure 9. Figure 9: The Manchester United post with the highest fan engagement degree


Results On the second place of TOP 3 Manchester United posts there is the match report post after the quarterfinal series against FC Chelsea with 88,881 likes and 17,852 comments. Third place was taken by match report post after the second semifinal game against Schalke 04 (85,055 likes and 15,845 comments). Both posts contain link to official Web site of Manchester United. Real Madrid: Similar to Manchester United, Real Madrid fans liked most of all poll post. Following question (see Figure 10) involved 71,010 participants, 4,178 followers and 519 comments. Figure 10: The Real Madrid post with the highest fan engagement degree

Surprisingly, the second and third place TOP posts are the posts that contain only text. One post was updated just before the beginning of the first semifinal game against FC Barcelona and other was updated one day later. The posts were almost the same and contain well known Real Madrid yell “Hala Madrid”[9] . First post had 60,916 likes and 8,141 comments, while the second one had 59,278 likes and 7,644 comments.

4.5 Tweeter results Once the results collected through Facebook were examined, the next step was to analyze data obtained from Twitter. To simplify data collection, as we already mentioned, only tweets in English language, 48 hours after quarterfinal games, 48 hours before and 48 hours after semifinal games, were selected. This resulted in 154 tweets of Real Madrid and 139 tweets of FC Barcelona. 4.5.1 Tweet format The data illustrate that all tweets from Real Madrid account were direct messages. 54.55% 9 “Hala Madrid” – is the famous yell of the Real Madrid supporters. Since it is well known to all fans all around the globe we included it in the study, although it is not in English language.


Results (84 tweets) of all Real Madrid tweets had link. Almost all (80, 95.2%) were links to their official Web site and rest (4, 4.8%) were links to Facebook page (2 photos, 1 video and 1 poll). Other tweets (70, 45.45%) were only text while 98.6% (69 tweets) were live tweets during the games and one tweet (1.4%) had only question (missing Facebook link – probably mistake). Almost all tweets (99.28%, 138) of FC Barcelona were direct messages while one post was retweet (0.7%) of player (Pique) account. 42.4% (59) of the tweets had link to their official Web site and 2.2% (3) contained video (YouTube). The rest of the tweets (77, 55.4%) were only text. Most of them (69, 89.6%) were live tweets and the rest (8, 10.4%) were regular tweets.

4.5.2 Tweet content The results of the analysis of the collected tweets content are presented in Table 6. With the exception of live-tweeting (138, 47.1%), the top category was match information (58, 19.8%), followed by interview (49, 16.7%), history and statistic (19, 6.5%) and player information (14, 4.8). The other categories, advertising (10, 3.4%), Press (3, 1%) and fan zone (2, 0.7%), together had 5.1% of the tweets. Both teams had the same number of live tweets; FC Barcelona (69, 49.6%) and Real Madrid (69, 44.8%). Real Madrid mainly used two more categories, match information (36, 23.4%) and interview (34, 22.1%), while other categories used just few times. On the other hand, FC Barcelona significantly used four more categories; match information (22, 15.8%), interview (15, 10.8%), player information (13, 9.4%) and history and statistic (13, 9.4%). Advertising and press were less popular while fan zone had no tweets. Table 6: The tweet content categorization according UEFA Champions League

Match information Interviews Player information Fan zone History and statistic Advertising Press Live-tweeting Total tweets

FC Barcelona N % 22 15.8 15 10.8 13 9.4 / / 13 9.4 5 3.6 2 1.4 69 49.6 139 47.4

Real Madrid C. F. n % 36 23.4 34 22.1 1 0.6 2 1.3 6 3.9 5 3.3 1 0.6 69 44.8 154 52.6

Total Tweets N 58 49 14 2 19 10 3 138 293

% 19.8 16.7 4.8 0.7 6.5 3.4 1 47.1

*Source: Our own data



5. Chapter 5: Discussion

This chapter presents an interpretation of the findings made in the previous section. The study is an attempt to examine how the biggest sport clubs take advantage of the social networks and what is the reaction of the fans on that. It is expected that the presence of social media in sports world would increase in near future when these services should show full potential that sport entities can exploit. However, the fact that some famous big clubs, for instance a semifinalist of the UEFA Champions League – Schalke 04, does not have official presentation on social networks is definitely a surprise. This is really incomprehensible since it is widely known how the social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, are popular and how they are progressing rapidly.

5.1 Fans, followers and clubs The fact that there are more than 650 million users only on Facebook (insidefacebook, 2011) makes it “the third country in the world� (Bulmer, 2010), with two times more people than in the USA. The striking characteristic of the social networks is that they abolish geographic barriers so clubs are not limited to their own countries, but have a global market at a Glance. A good illustration of this is data where, in the moment of writing, FC Barcelona has more and Real Madrid almost the same number of members on the official Facebook presentation than Spain has users of this social network (Facebook, 2011; insidefacebook, 2011). This shows how these football clubs use the possibilities of the social networks to bring their fans closer to themselves and create one enormous online community no matter whether members live in Spain or any other part of the planet. The fact that an unofficial Facebook presence of Schalke 04, which is not directly managed by the club, has more than 260,000 fans shows that the club missed the opportunity to engage a huge number of fans. The number of 260,000 members seems negligible compared to 13 or more million, as the other semifinalists of the UEFA Champions League have, however some facts should be taken into account. First of all, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United are the world social network leaders not just in football but among all sports clubs and organizations. Second the page is not managed by the club but the fans which significantly reduces the possibility of binding of those fans that are not highly identified with the team. Apart from that, the page is only available in German language, which limits the spread42

Discussion ing of the community outside the German speaking countries. Finally, the main protagonist of this German team is Spanish star RaĂşl GonzĂĄles Blanco, and according to Robinson and Trail (2005) fan identification to the team could be based on connection with a specific player, thus taking into account the popularity of this sports figure. There is no doubt that the number of the club supporters could significantly increase by fans from the Spanish speaking areas. Therefore, this number of 260,000 members just shows the unused possibilities of social media by sports entities.

5.2 Different cultures in the management of social media As we already mentioned, the clubs included in this study are global sports leaders in the use of social media. However, their views on the social media are not the same and consequentially the use of social networks is different. The first thing that can be noticed in Table 1 is that Real Madrid uses those services, especially Facebook, much more intensively than the other two analyzed clubs. The results show the difference in this intensity; during the collected period of time, Real Madrid updated three times more posts than Manchester United and four times more than FC Barcelona. The next interesting observation in Table 1 and Table 2 is the large numbers of posts in external link category on FC Barcelona and Manchester United Facebook pages. This shows that the most common format post used by FC Barcelona and Manchester United are the posts that contain link to their official web sites. 75% of the collected Manchester United posts and more than 76% of FC Barcelona posts contained link to the club web presentation, which include online store and other web page related to the club, therefore we could say that the essential concept of using Facebook by FC Barcelona and Manchester United is based on connection between the Facebook page and the official web presentation. Comparing to these numbers the percentage of Real Madrid posts with link to their site or their Twitter account is quite modest (18%). One interesting thing is that FC Barcelona did not set any post containing link to their Twitter account. These results could indicate that the main objective of using Facebook is not the same for all teams. The main goal for FC Barcelona and Manchester United, according to these results, is to drive traffic from their social networks presentations to their Web sites, where these clubs offer a huge number of different contents and services, starting from the news, photos and videos, through online selling of products and tickets, all the way to television. This is, probably, one of the objectives of Real Madrid as well, but it is definitely not the priority or the preferential goal. This study does not allow us to get more precise explanation about clubs 43

Discussion objectives of social media use. In order to accomplish that we should have the software for measuring transfer of traffic from social networks to official clubs web sites, as well as to do in-depth interviews with people responsible for internet marketing and online media for each club. Apart from posts with link to official web and Twitter presentations, Real Madrid, unlike to the other two semifinalists, used internal link category. It means that they used posts that contain line to other Facebook page. Namely, Real Madrid created one more Facebook Page designated as “Raise up the 10th� (alluding to 9 titles of UEFA Champion League) where they have promoted Facebook app - game under the same name and have asked for the engagement of the fans on Real Madrid journey to the 10th UEFA Champions League title. Through that page they also offer fans the possibility of winning prizes like VIP BOX tickets for the semifinal match against Barcelona. During data-collecting period, Real Madrid updated 6 posts (9%) with link to this page, which shows that their fan engagement objective is not only related to fans’ activities on Real Madrid Facebook page but also to other activities connected to the club, like Facebook applications. In addition to this Facebook-app Real Madrid offers two more applications, set in 3 posts (4.5%). These additional applications are Real Madrid Fantasy Manager and Real Madrid Avatar Store. Facebook applications have become extremely popular over the last several years (TheFacebookInsider, 2011), so this is an attempt to make fans to spend more online time in close relationship to their favorite club and therefore increase their identifications with the team. Those apps, also, gave page owners a possibility to increase the data base of fans (in order to install application user need to allow page administrator by requesting to access fans personal information including email and list of friends upon their application installation). Interestingly FC Barcelona also offers one application called BiggestFan, but not popularizes it in the same way as Real Madrid does. One of the posts with a link to their web site is linked to a page on the official FC Barcelona site where they promote this application with the link back to Facebook page. Through this application they offer prices for the winners, but if a fan wants to participate in a game, he or she needs to register on the official web page. Manchester United, so far, does not offer this kind of promotions. An important part of Real Madrid posts are text posts (13.43%). FC Barcelona used these text messages only two times during the data collecting period, while Manchester United did not use them at all. Text messages can be very a successful tool of fan engagement due to the fact that they need to be written by a specific person[10], a thing that fans feel and then they have a sense of interacting with a human being and not just a machine. Although Manchester United 10 There are software applications which can update the statuses of the social networks automatically. This refers primarily to automatic update of links to some web location.


Discussion and FC Barcelona do not use posts that contain only text or rarely use them, that does not mean that they automatically update their posts without the human factor, but only that they avoid to send “laconic” messages to their fans. All the analyzed clubs have used text messages very well, but the mentioned two clubs have used them mostly in combination with other content format. The data showed really surprising results - FC Barcelona seldom used photos while Manchester United did not post any video file. Photo and video uploading is one of the activities that has marked Facebook from its establishment until today. This is one of the main characteristics of this popular social network which largely attracts users. Therefore, this can only be understood as an attempt of the clubs to force the fans to practice these activities on the clubs’ official web pages. FC Barcelona (14.7%) and Real Madrid (16.4%) have used video files quite well considering the fact that they cannot upload video reports of the actual matches. The clubs have uploaded video interviews of their players and coaches, as well as moments from some historic games and interesting match compilations which do not violate broadcast rights. Findings that Manchester United did not post any video file in this period of time most likely because of the desire to increase the number of fans subscribed on their official television MUTV. However, extremely poor use of photo posts by FC Barcelona remains unclear. 1 out of 34 (less than 3%) is really unexpected. Manchester United (13.9%) and Real Madrid (26.9) have used it very successfully. All teams have used basic Facebook application – event several days before each game while FC Barcelona has not used this application as wall post. Other Facebook application – poll was set sometimes by Real Madrid and Manchester United and was really well accepted by fans. This will be discussed later. All these data in Table 2 are quite similar to data in Table 1 (all posts during the research period) which means that the clubs generally use the elaborated post’s formats in this intensity. The results about posts content cannot be generalized as previously elaborated data. A kind of content that will be on posts depends on many external factors (part of the season, success of the team, schedule of the matches, etc.). The results can be observed only in the context of the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League 2010/11. At a glance on Table 3 we can notice that the situation of post content is more complicated than the situation of post format. The main category of each club’s use was different. Match information was the main category of FC Barcelona with 17 posts what makes 50% of their posts. They mostly posted match previews, reports and news from their site, but they also posted four 45

Discussion videos, two text messages and one photo album. This shows that FC Barcelona focused the use of its Facebook page in this period on their sports success. Real Madrid in the same category updated four posts more (21), but due to its intensive use, match information was not the predominant content type on its Facebook page. For this type of posts they used five different post formats; external link, text, photo, video and event. 5 posts out of 21 were not connected with UEFA Champions League. Namely, these posts were previews for the matches in Spanish League - First Division (two posts were events), updated less than 48 hours after the UEFA Champions League’s matches and therefore, we included them in the study. Manchester United posted only 9 posts in match information (25%), where 2 posts were event and the rest were linked to the official web site. A different concept of use was approved by data of interview categories, the most common category of Manchester United (more than 36%) where 7 out of 13 posts were the interviews or statements of the team coach, Sir Alex Ferguson. This means that his statements make more than 50% of interview category or almost 20% of all collected Manchester United posts. The club marketing team probably thinks that according to his authority his words are very important not just for the team but for the fans as well. All of interview posts were with link to the official web page, one more proof that they want Facebook fans on their web page. Two more categories were relatively important for Manchester United: player information and fan zone. Six posts talked about players where dominant format were photo (66.7%). This was the first content type where Manchester United’s aim, largely, was fan engagement, and not the users transfer to the web site. According to data we can think that FC Barcelona and Real Madrid do not post anything (or almost anything) about their players, which is not exactly true. The fact is that Manchester United talked more about their players outside the match posts. There were posts about Real Madrid and FC Barcelona players but those posts are selected for match information content because they talk about them in the context of the game previews and game reports as well. The fan zone was the most valuable category for Real Madrid. 47.8% of their posts had direct fan engagement goal. In this case they used many formats from the text and photo to the poll and internal link. This category showed the main difference in use of the Facebook page between them and the other two teams. Here we can say that the main goal of the Real Madrid use of Facebook page is fan engagement. They raised the fan engagement to a higher level due to the data that 7 out of 18 photo posts were uploaded by fans. This was something that 46

Discussion Manchester and FC Barcelona did not use. Manchester United also asked for fan engagement mostly on their web site (3 posts or 50% with link), but also through poll (2, 40%) and finally through photos. One of the photo posts was a unique fan engagement post of the all collected posts. Namely, they uploaded a photo of Enrique Iglesias, a famous Spanish singer, in the jersey of Manchester United, with a text message of his statement: ‎”It’s great to see United play... especially Chicharito...and I can’t wait to come to a match”. That was not just post of a celebrity who is Manchester United fan, but of the celebrity who was born in Madrid and is a fan of Manchester United. FC Barcelona posted four posts (11.8%) in this content category and, once again, all the posts contained links. According to Sutton et al. (1997) the reinforcement of the team’s history is one of the methods for building and increment the fan’s identification with the team. All teams understand quite well this fact and have tried to use every good chance to talk about “glory history”, but the leader in this field during data collected period was FC Barcelona with 4 posts of which two were video clips. Beside the fact that Facebook page itself is an advertisement of the brand, in the future we can expect an increment of the advertisement activities on popular Facebook pages. Posts with link to official store of the clubs with a promotion of some products of the club were not presented in a significant number. FC Barcelona promoted the “Nike La Copa 2011 Final T-shirt”, while Real Madrid had a video about a summer school of football, as well as Real Madrid toolbar for different browsers. Both teams had more posts from advertisement category which did not meet collecting criteria and were not analyzed in the study. An example of the Real Madrid advertising promotion is “Campeones Copa del Rey 2010/2011 Real Madrid T-shirt”, although it is not included in the study, it shows us the way that clubs can connect the club success with the promotion and selling of the products through social media. This kind of promotions will probably grow in the future. Apart from that, we can expect the growth of the club sponsors’ and partners’ promotions on these pages, as well. FC Barcelona, unlike other two semifinalists, had two (6.9%) self-promotion posts with the links to the news on their site about writing of International press after the games with Real Madrid. This was probably inspired by the complaint of Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho about the referee judgments during their Champions League semi-final first leg (ESPNsoccernet, 2011). Through these posts FC Barcelona may have wanted to show their fans that international press agreed that their victory against the big rival was completely deserved.



5.3 Fan engagement The main part of study objectives is related to the fan engagement. As we already mentioned the comparison of the fan engagement without a software platform that measures not just all the fan activities but also the number of unique fan activities (or the number of different active fans) it cannot tell us the exact difference between fan engagement degrees of the clubs during some period of time. However, we could compare the numbers of likes and comments for unique posts and the total number of likes and comments on the collected posts (see Figure 1). It is really interesting how numbers of likes and comments are close. FC Barcelona had the biggest numbers of likes but Real Madrid, who had the smallest number of likes, had only 2.1% likes less, while the number of Real Madrid fans on Facebook is for 8.4% less than FC Barcelona. The number of the Manchester United likes was in the middle. They had 0.9% more likes but also 1.4% more fans than Real Madrid. Therefore, FC Barcelona had the largest number of the all the collected likes but Real Madrid had the biggest percentage of the likes in the relation to the number of fans. The results regarding comments are different. Manchester United had the largest number of comments, and the percentage as well. Namely, they had 11.1% comments more than Real Madrid and even 26.5% comments more than FC Barcelona. According to this we can conclude that the biggest fan engagement degree during this period was that of Manchester United, bigger than Real Madrid’s and finally Barcelona’s. One more time it should be underlined that this does not represent the numbers of active fans that these clubs have. We could not compare the average numbers of likes by post because of their different ways of using of Facebook. Manchester United and FC Barcelona have used this service in different ways than Real Madrid who updated almost the same number of posts[11] as FC Barcelona and Manchester United together. This intensive use leaves less time for fans to engage on each post. They also looked for different ways of fan engagement and used a larger number of post formats. Therefore, the comparison of the average numbers of likes and comments per post would not represent the realistic relationship of fan engagement degrees. Connection of the post format and fan engagement through likes and comments can be seen in Table 3. As we already suggested, the use of Facebook page by FC Barcelona and Manchester United is based on posts that contain link to their web sites. These posts are known to play important role in Real Madrid’s use of this service as well. Although the point of this post format is to increase traffic on their web sites and not to engage fans on Facebook, 67% of the 11

48.9% of collecting posts belong to Real Madrid. They set 64.2% of all posts during the period of the study.


Discussion likes and 71.3% of the comments on FC Barcelona Facebook page came from this category. In the case of Manchester United similar percentages were obtained with (64% of the likes and 76% of the comments) while on Real Madrid Facebook page this format did not show such success with only 10.9% of the likes and 15% of the comments. The average number of the likes and comments for this format shows big numbers of the likes of the FC Barcelona posts (36,113.9 likes per post) as well as on Manchester United posts (32,798.8 likes per post). The average number of comments was also respectable especially on Manchester United posts (5,572.3 comments per post). This can be viewed from different perspectives. First, FC Barcelona and Manchester United did not use other posts too much, leaving fans with no opportunity to choose a kind of post format they would like to engage. In the case of Real Madrid fans have had option to elect what format they will “like” of where will leave a comment, and there are definitely more interesting formats to get engaged. Second, the posts from this category are mostly from the match information content type, and according to success that FC Barcelona and Manchester United had in these period fans “gave” them many likes and posts, which was not the case with Real Madrid. Finally, the huge number of comments that Manchester United had can be seen by taking a quick look at their posts (selected examples are listed below): ”We played really well in Germany but still have a job to do tonight” says Rio. What will the score be against Schalke? or ”This team is full of desire and determination. We can win the European Cup” says Sir Alex. How do you think the Reds should approach the Wembley final vs. Barcelona? Namely, they use interesting text messages in the same posts with links. These texts have questions at the end of the message. Manchester United has asked for fans’ opinion and that is a great way to increase fan engagement. As Black explained: “With a question, you engage people’s egos and provoke viral distribution of your content — everyone loves to share their opinion!” (Black, 2011) It means that Manchester United second objective, apart from sending fans to the official web site, is to get fan reaction – engagement. 49

Discussion The table 3 also shows that the important format for Real Madrid was text (31% of the likes and 33.2% of the comments). Real Madrid found an excellent post for fan engagement stimulation: “Hala Madrid!” As we explained in the previous chapter, we included this post in research, although it is not in English, Real Madrid fans all over the world are familiar with its meaning. They have used it often and sometimes in combination with other text or other content format. The key is to use it before the game to ask fans for support and after the game no matter whether the team loses or wins. This format also had the largest average numbers of likes (47,134 per post) and comments (6,494.4 per post). Manchester United did not use this format, while FC Barcelona used it only twice with huge success - the biggest average number of the comments (5,959.5 per post) and with a great average number of the likes (50,862.5 per post). It would be interesting to see the reaction of FC Barcelona fans on their famous yell “¡Visca Barça!”, but FC Barcelona had no posts with such content. From Figures 3, 4 and 5, the average numbers of engagement by each format can be seen, although some of the format had a minor number of the posts. The first surprising data came from the number of participants in the Manchester United polls (117,002.5 by post). Real Madrid also successfully used this category whereas the average number of the participation was 38,055. This shows once again that the club should ask for fan activity through analyzing their expressed opinion or testing their knowledge. As we explained previously, text messages demonstrate the success in engagement of the fans although Manchester United did not use this format of posts at all. Beside this two, using photo format is a very good way of animating fans. Manchester United used photo posts 5 times and had 38,328.2 likes and 6,584.2 comments per post which represent the highest average number of comments. However, there was an important detail that should be considered in the proper understanding of this outcome. Manchester United mainly posted photos after the matches to present interesting details of the match to their fans but the most successful use was the picture of the player Anderson, one day after the game against Chelsea in quarterfinal, on his birthday. Manchester United uploaded the photo and asked fans to send him best wishes. That post had 20,538 comments and presents the post with the largest number of comments on Manchester United “wall” during data-collecting period. This does not show the power of the photo format (we believe that the activity would be the same in video format, for example), but it is an excellent example how combination of text and photo 50

Discussion (or video) message with a great off-court content (for example the interesting things of sports heroes’ private lives) can provide an enormous fans activity. FC Barcelona uploaded an album of photos after the second match against Real Madrid that evoked 61,196 likes and 4,154 comments. This number of likes is bigger than other average numbers of likes that Barcelona had during the collection period but we cannot consider this as relevant because this was only collected post of photos from FC Barcelona wall. This may be explained by the lack of fans’ opportunities to see the photos of their favorite players quite frequently and therefore this huge number of likes can be a consequently the result of the fans desire to see more photos. Real Madrid, through photos, has raised fan activity to a next level. They have encouraged the fans to upload its own photos[12] which represent a higher level of engagement than leaving comments, because it requires a higher degree of fans’ effort. However, these photo posts uploaded by fans have not collected as high a number of likes and comments as photos updated by Real Madrid so the average number of fans engaged on photo format category was lower than it really is. Therefore we created an additional category where we can see the fan engagement on photos updated by Real Madrid and that category had a significant average number of likes (32,635.2) and the biggest average number of comments (6,876.7) on Real Madrid’s wall. The average number of engaged fans on event application looked pretty big (Manchester United - 35,952.5 likes and 5,578.5 comments per post; Real Madrid – 27,415.3 likes and 4,488.5 comments per post), at the first glance, but after reading several comments everything was clear – people like to predict the result of the match, therefore they have used this match preview applications to give their own opinion and discuss it with other fans. The other formats, internal link and Facebook app, did not gather many likes and comments, but according to number of likes (124,446) on Facebook page “Rise up the 10th” (see page 44), suggesting that these applications have an important task in fans engagement to the team through Facebook. The results in the section of fan engagement and content type of the posts show the most important content of the posts on these three Facebook pages – match information, interviews, player information and fan zone. Match information category is the main category of each team Facebook posts, because the competition is the point of being a fan. However, fan reaction depends on many external factors. It depends, first of all, on the match result, the performance of the teams, the impor12

Real Madrid provides a mini contest on their Facebook page where “a photo of the day” has been chosen.


Discussion tance of the game, the rivalry between the opponents, but also on other mass media especially television and newspapers. The atmosphere that media create around the match (before, during and after as well) affects not only the total number of active fans but also the aspect of the comments (positive and negative comments) that fans leave. Examples of those we can see on the FC Barcelona post after the semi-final first leg against Real Madrid (Figure 7) when the post after the match had 148,955 likes and 21,480 comments, which had more active fans than any other post[13]. At the same time, Real Madrid post, with the result of the same match and photo, had 20,657 comments[14], and that is the largest number of post comments of the all collected Real Madrid posts. These numbers were caused by the atmosphere before the match[15], as well as controversy about the referee decisions during the match and the statements about it. The categories fan zone and player information are categories that could have high degree of fan engagement, which was already explained on the examples of Real Madrid posts ‘’¡Hala Madrid!” and photos uploaded by fans and Manchester United post on Anderson’s birthday. A good example can also be seen in Figure 8, which shows how right question at the right time can provide enormous fan participation. Data from the section about TOP 3 engaged posts on each club Facebook page show that none of the post format provided higher fan activity. As it can be seen in these nine posts, there were 3 posts that contain link, two video posts, two text posts and two poll posts. What was more important was its content. As it can be observed, all posts belong to either match information (5 posts) or fan zone category (4 posts). Interestingly, all three FC Barcelona top posts belong to match information category, in contrast to all three Real Madrid posts that are from fan zone category, while the most engaged Manchester United post is from fan zone and the other two are match information posts. Therefore the “race” of these two categories is equal. As we discussed before, the measurement and comparison of the fan engagement degree with limited access to data (only numbers of likes and comments) is very difficult. Some of the data are not comparable due to the different characteristics of Facebook used by clubs as well as different external circumstances that affect fans reaction on uploaded content. However, one of the possible ways to obtain fan engagement degree comparison is to compare the number of active fans of the most engaged posts. In that case we have FC Barcelona post (Figure 7) with 148,955 likes and 21,480 comments, Manchester United post (Figure 8) with 162,533 participants in the survey and 2,017 comments and Real Madrid post with 71,010 participants and 519 comments. 13 The first post after second match when FC Barcelona finally provided participation in UEFA Champions league final had 74,765 likes and 8,017 comments. 14 The number of likes, as expected, was significantly smaller (35,150). 15 Real Madrid won “Copa del Rey” against Barcelona six days before the semi-final first leg of Champions league.


Discussion According to this data the highest fan engagement degree would be Manchester United’s (between 1.21% and 1.22%), followed by FC Barcelona’s (between 1.03% and 1.17%) and finally Real Madrid’s (0.53%). Notably, we do not know the exact number of the active fans but it is more likely that in the case of Manchester United and Real Madrid that number is identical to the number of participants in the survey. In the FC Barcelona case, theoretically speaking, that number can have a range between 148,955 and 170,475 but it is probably the same or a bit higher than the number of likes.

5.4 Twitter In the second part of the study we analyzed 293 tweets where 154 were of Real Madrid and 139 of FC Barcelona. Although the numbers of tweets are close, collecting data from Real Madrid Twitter account was much harder because they also had a large number of tweets in Spanish language on the same account. These tweets are not well organized in terms of relation of these two languages and there were also tweets from basketball team of Real Madrid that were discarded from this study. As it was mentioned before, we did not analyze the followers’ reactions to the tweets although most of the posts were “retweeted” lots of times. However without additional software we could not measure a number of the tweets since if post has more than hundred retweets we could see that is retweeted by 100+ users. On the other hand Real Madrid did not post any retweet while FC Barcelona posted just one. The retweet was written by well –known player Gerard Pique after the semi-final first leg: “0-2 in Bernabeu! a very important result! Next match in Camp Nou! Oooohhh!! Moc Moc!!” In the first moment we thought that none of the clubs wanted to connect to the players and to spread the players’ messages to the fans. That was true for Real Madrid according to the fact that seven Real Madrid players[16] use Twitter successfully. Although in collected data there is 16

Kaka (4,238,648 followers), Cristiano Ronaldo (3,086,401), Sergio Ramos (743,185), Xabi Alonso (681,907), Alvaro Arbeloa


Discussion only one retweet posted by FC Barcelona, the club is pretty well connected with their players through another Twitter profiles (Spanish and Catalan), since the players mostly write in their native language. According to the data both clubs use Twitter for the two things; first, to transfer the traffic to their site and second for live-tweeting. If we exclude live-tweets, all Real Madrid tweets, except one, contained link. Interestingly, they posted 4 links to their Facebook page while only tweet without link contained a question from the Facebook page poll, but did not contain link what was, most likely, an error. Also when they wanted to attach some video or pictures they have not posted link to YouTube or similar site but to Facebook. That shows they linked their all three web presentations - Web site, Facebook page and Twitter profile, so fans can “surf” between these three presentations and find what they are looking for. This is an excellent way of keeping fans attached to the team and maintaining traffic on all team’s internet presentations. In contrast, FC Barcelona has not connected their social media presentations what is unexpected since they are one the sports leaders in the world of social media. 2.2% (3 tweets) of the FC Barcelona tweets contained video linked from YouTube, 8 (5.76%) were only text and again there were no tweets with photos but one of the tweets with link contained link to the page with photo album “Barça’s journey to Madrid” on their official web site. Data from table 5 show that the main difference from team’ use of Facebook and Twitter is live-tweeting. Both clubs have realized the advantage of the Twitter as an excellent tool to keep audience (fans) informed if they cannot watch the event live or through television. However these are not the only differences. If we compare the numbers of the posts we can notice that both teams use Twitter more frequently than Facebook, where they leave time to fans to engage with the team. The numbers of posts that contain link to the web sites are significantly bigger than on Facebook pages. This is more emphasized in Real Madrid case where from 10 posts with a link to their official web site they increased the number of these posts to 80. As it can be seen in Table 5, the numbers in all categories increased except the number in fan zone category. The largest increase was in interviews category which refers to their use of Twitter to “spread their voice”. All these findings suggest that both clubs, apart from the increasing traffic on the official web sites, use Facebook to engage fans and Twitter to transfer the messages to them. (383,971), Gonzalo Higuaín (208,492) and Esteban Granero (129,320)


Discussion It is interesting that Real Madrid posted several times the same tweet but not in a row. One of the posts which was used twice is the tweet after the semi-final first leg when they posted the following tweet to dispute a referee decision: “Television images show that Pepe did not touch Alves’ leg #realmadrid”. This means that if they believe that a post is important to their fans they will post it more times to reach a larger number of the fans.

5.5 Limitations There are several limitations, worth of mentioning, that affected the study. First of all, analysis was focused only on the UEFA Champions League, although other competitions took place simultaneously during the collected period, which particularly affected the Spanish teams since they played four games in just 18 days which has been discussed earlier in the study. In addition, the data were collected during the most interesting period of the year for the fans – the final phase of all competitions when fan’s engagement is probably higher than in other periods of the year. According to this and to the fact that social media content changes rapidly this study should be viewed as a research of a point in time. Next, we were not able to determine the exact number of fans that engaged analyzed Facebook pages during the data - collecting period with an additional software platform, since one can like specific post just once and he/she can do so on unlimited number of posts. This does not apply for leaving comments, meaning the same person can post as many comments as he/ she wants on the same post. The posts were classified in one of the various formats and content categories, although some of the posts may have fit into more than one. We placed them into a single category according to the predominant format and content elements. Post comments are not exclusively positive and can be left by fans of the rival but in view of the numbers it is counted equally as any other fan’s comment. Finally, there are different levels of fan engagement that can be manifested through “likes”, leaving comments, uploading photos, using Facebook apps, etc. This study did not measure the levels of engagement but the number of the fans activities. 55


5.6 Future research The next step of the investigation could be to reveal how the use of social networks increases fan identification to the team. A future study could investigate the connections between the team and the team players’ use of social networks and how the athletes’ use of social networks affects the number of fans of the team and the fan’s identifications to the team. Researchers could also focus on the content of the fans comments to the specific type of posts or to measure the impact of the non-fan comment on the degree of fans engagement to the specific post.



6. Chapter 6: Conclusion

According to the previous studies on athletes’ use of Twitter (Hambrick et al., 2010; Pegoraro, 2010) and the analysis of collected posts we classify teams’ publications in the following categories: Match information, Interview, Player information, Fan zone, History and statistic, Advertising, and Press. An additional category that has been used for Twitter was Livetweeting. The results of the study show that the majority of the content from the clubs Facebook pages belongs to match information and fan zone categories. Apart from those, categories Interview, and History and statistic were attendant in significant number while Player information, Advertising and Press categories did not have such a notable role. The use of Twitter had different characteristics. Live-tweeting category was the dominant one since it was not used on Facebook. Match information and Interview increased their presence in regard to Facebook, as well as history and statistic, player information and advertising, while press category did not have any growth. The only category where Twitter had no possibility to compete with Facebook was fan zone. This suggests that Facebook give clubs opportunity, firstly, to inform and engage fans, and then, to promote products and make economic benefits. In contrast, Twitter does not offer that kind of engagement but offers excellent opportunity to spread messages to the wide range of fans. The clubs have used it mostly to keep followers informed about everything related to the team and if fans are not able to watch an event live they can follow live-tweets, confirming the statement that Twitter is the broadcasting medium (Thomases, 2010). One of the objectives of the study was to identify the connection between greater fan engagement and particular content format such as video, photo or text. We initially hypothesized that video has engaged more fans than another post formats, but after considering that due to broadcasting rights clubs could not upload video files that fans would love to see, we decided not to use this hypothesis. The decision obviously appeared to be correct because the results showed that none of the format has had guarantee of success. Video format had success in FC Barcelona Facebook page, but not in Real Madrid’s case. Text format showed decent success but not at a higher level than the others. Therefore, it is tempting to suggest that the key point is to use particular formats in the right moment with quality content. For example, text format before an important game to ask fans for support, or photos after the game where fans can see interesting moments of the match through the eye of the camera or video compilation with the moments around the match that could not be seen on television. 57

Conclusion Through these examples and others from TOP3, the most engaged posts on each club Facebook page is shown which types of the content engaged the fans mostly. The findings reveal that information about matches and posts that belong to fan zone category were the basis for fan’s activities. The category player information should not be forgotten because fans are always willing to hear some piquant information about their sports heroes. However, no matter which content is used, asking for engagement in a sophisticated way can be a very useful tool for drastically increasing fan activity. Manchester United used this strategy to obtain fan activity through questioning shows the success of this form used. During the discussion chapter it has been shown that engagement of the fans depends not only on the format and content but also on the various external factors. The part of the season, the results of the team, its performance in the field, the importance of the matches, the atmosphere created in the media and other external factors have a significant impact on fan engagement. This explains the difference in fan engagement on the similar posts after the matches between the same rivals, as exemplified by Real Madrid and FC Barcelona which matches are “more than a game”. The most difficult aim of this study was to compare degrees of fan engagement between the teams analyzed in the research. Since we had no manner to know the number of different fans that participated in the interaction with the clubs through their Facebook page during the data-collecting period we tried to compare a total number of interactions through “likes” and comments for collected posts. According to these numbers and numbers of Facebook fans that the clubs had, the highest degree of interaction was that of the Manchester United Facebook page, followed by Real Madrid’s one and finally FC Barcelona’s one. Other comparison of the fan engagement degree was presented through fan activities on single post. The most engaged posts were compared. Once again Manchester United had the highest degree, but this time the second place was for FC Barcelona and the third place Real Madrid. According to FanGager, fans management & engagement platform, the highest number of active fans[17] for the period from April 04, 2011 until May 5, 2011 had Real Madrid (3.6% of all fans), then Manchester United (1.7%) and finally FC Barcelona (1.5%). Although, at first glance, the results seem quite opposite, they are not really contradictory. The differences in the results are based, first of all, on collected posts since FanGager included data around the “Copa del Rey” when Real Madrid, after winning the cup, had extremely high level of fan engagement[18]. Those results just confirm our statement of external influence since fans had been wait17 They define active users for those who do meaningful community activities including likes, comments, posts, etc. 18 During 24 hours after the winning the Copa del Rey, on Real Madrid “wall” have been updated 64 posts. The first post after the game (with photo and the result) was “liked” 120,074 and had 31,252 comments, while second the most popular had 119,982 likes and


Conclusion ing for 3 years to win FC Barcelona and 18 years to get that trophy (Real Madrid, 2011). We should be aware that these clubs do not use social networks to increase the number of offline fans. They achieve it throughout their rich history, trophies, good performances on the field, etc., while supported by traditional media (particularly television). These teams use social networks to create an online community from an already existing offline fan base[19] where they will not only have an online interaction with them in order to increase their identifications with the team but also to promote products and control traffic from these sites. Through social network pages clubs decide where they want to send their fans (on some specific pages on their websites that fans otherwise may not see) and in that way maybe increase selling of the products, sell advertisements and make benefits from that. Overall, we can say that there are differences in the use of social networks among these clubs. Real Madrid has used social networks more intensively and more “fan friendly” than other clubs; although due to the huge number of posts it looks a bit confusing. This suggests that they are aware of the social networks’ power to increase traffic on their web site and promotion or selling some products, and they know that “the job” would be done with better profit if they engaged fans first. FC Barcelona plays on card of its success. During the last several years the popularity of this club extremely increased. As by End et al. (2002) sports fans are more likely to identify with winners, the fact that FC Barcelona has the largest number of Facebook fans is not suppressing, since the club has had extraordinary results and according to various football experts this generation of FC Barcelona players is one of the best teams in football history. This popularity was used firstly by FC Barcelona to drive traffic to their web site and then to engage fans and promote products. These differences are mainly related to the use of Facebook, while both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid clubs use Twitter in a similar way. As we already concluded the objectives of Twitter use for both clubs are to keep fans informed and to drive traffic to their web sites. Manchester United´s use is based on two objectives: to engage their fans and drive traffic to its web site. As we already mentioned a huge part of their posts contained links to their web site and additional text with questions at the end that asks for fan participation. This combination of format suggests that they have tried to fulfill both goals simultaneously. In addition, Manchester United has not used Twitter service. Probably they do not want to divide fan traffic on three presentations. However, in the future we can expect launching of the Twitter profile if Twitter continues to grow. 13,662 comments. 50 of the posts were photos uploaded by fans. 19 According to (2007), in 2007, Manchester United had around 333 million fans around the world.



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The Semifinal Teams of the UEFAChampions League 2010/11: Use of the Social Networks  

This study investigated the use of the social network sites Facebook and Twitter, by the semifinalists of the UEFA Champions League. The stu...

The Semifinal Teams of the UEFAChampions League 2010/11: Use of the Social Networks  

This study investigated the use of the social network sites Facebook and Twitter, by the semifinalists of the UEFA Champions League. The stu...