The golden years of endless Facebook fan growth are well and truly behind us (in case we didn’t already know it) with national rankings for 80% of the 750 sports administrators Shunt tracks now stuck in reverse gear.
These results are to be expected as the social space continues to mature and the easy wins evaporate with the sector moving into a diminishing returns phase. On the upside, Instagram results remain relatively strong with a little over 50% of monitored sports accounts improving their ranking since January 2022.
Game of two-halves
In Shunt’s sample of 750 sports administrators 32 (4%) saw no change in their audience ranking against peers from September 2021 to last month while just 117 (16%) improved their position and close to 80% (586) slid down the ladder.
There’s a lot more administrators in the ranking “red” zone as shown in the graph above for Facebook (left) compared to Instagram (right).
Above: Administrators that do move-up haven’t gotten far (2 to 5 places is most common), while those going backwards are slipping much further (11 to 20 places most common).
Upwardly mobile Insta’ crowd
The prognosis for Instagram looks much healthier (above) with administrators going-up outweighing those moving down the rankings. Encouragingly, boosts of 11 to 20 places are the most common.
All over bar the shouting
If a sports administrator hasn’t already staked their social rank claim it’s all but too late on Facebook at least at the top end with Shunt’s research showing that the 50 largest profiles by are large are now locked in place.
We can see in the graph above that there were 18 (36%) administrators in the Top-50 whose rank hasn’t moved in the last two-years with a further 16 (32%) budging just one spot up or down with 14 moving two or more (28%) and just two moving six or more (4%).
As is the case across the board there’s a lot more movement up and down on Instagram with only seven (14%) not budging at all, 12 moving one place (24%), 18 moving two to five places (36%) and 13 swinging six or more places (26%).
The takeaway here is that for those with the necessary motivation there is still a genuine possibility of cracking the Top-50 if they’re not already there!
As indicated, there isn’t a whole lot happening in the upper echelon’s of the sports ecosystem when it comes to bragging rights for big moves on Facebook but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening.
One to watch in the last two-years has been the battle for 4th place on Facebook behind the cricketing trio of Cricket.com.au, the Australian Men’s Cricket Team and the BBL that’s playing out between the AO and the NRL.
The big difference between the two has been the January AO event itself which has been used by organisers to “step-up” the gap to the NRL as can be seen in the graph below.
It’s fascinating to see two organisations that are so closely matched when it comes to fan following having such a diametrically opposed game, history, season and set-up.
Matilda’s and Football Australia make their move
The outstanding success of the recent Women’s World Cup translated to big gains in the Instagram following and associated rankings for both the Matilda’s and to a lesser degree Football Australia as seen below.
What was particularly impressive is Football Australia’s growth well before the WWC as it steadily moved from a rank of 182 against 550 Instagram peers in January 2022 to 84th by August 2023 equivalent to 98 places!
The Matilda’s meanwhile, were already ranked 45th at the same start point but surged into the Top-10 (9th) last month. Long may their run of form continue!
Baseball Dark Horse
One other international team that may have been overlooked who has achieved big things on Instagram this year is Team Australia (Baseball) who moved-up the rankings from 264th in January 2022 to 202nd last month (+62).
What’s behind this growth was a stunning run at the recent World Baseball Classic held in March where they made it all the way through to the quarter finals before going down to Cuba.
What’s it all mean?
The first question Shunt asks any sport is…. how do you measure social (media) success? Is it;
- Increased audiences?
- Higher post publishing productivity?
- More engaged fans
- More efficient and effective content
- Combo of the above or something else entirely?
If a sport IS pursuing a Facebook audience growth strategy, then this research suggests that while there’s still room to increase fans the opportunity to move up Shunt’s national rankings is a much tougher proposition. Meanwhile, on Instagram there is still room for the plucky sports administrator to achieve both.
Research insights in this report will hopefully make administrators pause and reflect on the following;
- What is and isn’t important about social media?
- Is it time to reset the goal posts for social success?
- Is now the time give up chasing new audiences and switch to better engaging existing fans
- What are the broader ramifications of shrinking social fan growth on a digital communications strategy?