Does more engagement = more fans?


Researching sports use of social media there are three key relationships we keep coming back to….We take a look at how closely related they are and if results differ between the Meta platforms.

    Correlation does not necessarily equate to Causality

    First up a few words of caution.

    A lot has been written about the merit of analysing the correlation or relationship between two data points. Our own ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) has notes on this very topic that are worth checking out.

    With this said, we’ve looked at a large sample size (760 for Facebook and 520 for Instagram) over an extended period (16 months). Although not at all scientific, the results in this analysis “feel” right and confirm some longstanding hunches.  

    It makes sense that if post publishing is ramped-up the reward is a boost in audience engagement. If the audience is more engaged, they are more likely to share or comment on that content. This exposes it to new audiences who in turn may sign-up as fans because they like what they see.   

    Interpretation Bands

    In this analysis we’ve also applied interpretation bands to the correlation results. These aren’t hard and fast rules – rather they are intended only as guides.

    With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the results.

    Q1: Will posting more often deliver an audience increase?

    Relationship between audience growth and posts published. Graph shows the percentage of sports administrators in each correlation band.

    A: Neither agree nor disagree

    There is a low positive correlation for Facebook (Industry average; 0.32) and a moderate positive correlation for Instagram (Industry average: 0.51).

    Of the three relationships assessed this has the weakest correlation. Just because there’s been an uptick in post publishing don’t mean there will automatically be a boost in audience growth. For nearly half of all sports administrators on Facebook and a quarter on Instagram the correlation between the two was negligible.  

    Q2: Will a boost in audience engagement translate to more fans?

    Relationship between fan growth and audience engagement. Graph shows the percentage of sports administrators in each correlation band.

    A: Agree

    There is a low positive correlation for Facebook (Industry average; 0.40) and a moderate positive correlation for Instagram (Industry average; 0.61).

    There’s more likely to be a boost in fans if engagement is cranked-up based on these results which intuitively feels right. An uplift particularly in comments and shares, will likely introduce your sports to friends of existing fans who don’t currently follow your page. A percentage of this virality inevitably will rub-off, resulting in a boost in audience numbers.

    Q3: Will a boost in post publishing equate to a rise in fan engagement?

    Relationship between posts published and audience engagement. Graph shows the percentage of sports administrators in each correlation band.

    A: Strongly Agree.

    There is a high positive correlation for both Facebook (Industry average; 0.73) and more so Instagram (Industry average; 0.86) when it comes to the relationship between posts published and audience engagement. Remember that the opposite is definitely true….. if you don’t post at all you won’t get any engagement.  

    Facebook Vs Instagram

    It’s clear from the graphs and industry averages that the relationship between the key metrics is stronger on Instagram than it is on Facebook.


    • Facebook is a more mature platform with a much bigger audience baked-in than Instagram so the easy (viral) gains re fan growth are harder to achieve.
    • Facebook has now evolved into an essential communication “utility” for the delivery of sport. As such the content is more about informing audiences rather than engaging them, limiting its ability to influence some metrics.
    • In contrast, Instagram when used properly is more likely to make an emotional connection with audiences that boosts engagement and ultimately audiences.
    • Different algorithms. Across a range of metrics Shunt is seeing distinct differences in results between the meta platforms as is the case here. Organic reach in most cases still outperforms on Instagram compared to Facebook.


    Do these results definitively prove that the relationships as outlined exist? No.

    Do they act as a useful guide and provide direction as to a course of action? Yes.

    If you’d like to know more about how these key relationships apply specifically to your sport, feel free to get in touch at

    We’re huge believers in a data-driven approach to social media and are always happy to share what we’re seeing and working on in this space.


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