Does Twitter reach matter for domestic led sporting bodies?

Does Twitter reach matter for domestic led sporting bodies?
28, February 2024 Trevor Keane

Amplification, or reach, is often considered as a good indication of good social media, especially from a brand awareness or sponsors perspective. Amplification and reach happens when your content, and/or brand is shared by employees, customers, influencers and partners. But does amplification lead to growth?

I decided to explore this. I took 20 Irish sporting National Governing bodies and compared their growth on social media over 90 days and compared it to the eyeballs they reached.

The governing bodies selected were as follows:
• Cricket Ireland
• Hockey
• Go Racing
• Ladies Gaelic
• Camogie
• Basketball Ireland
• Athletics Ireland
• Swim Ireland
• SO Ireland
• GUI (Golf Ireland)
• Horse Sport Ireland
• Cycling Ireland
• Rowing Ireland
• Triathlon Ireland
• Gymnastic Ireland
• Tennis Ireland
• Badminton Ireland
• Sailing Ireland

Firstly I looked at the actual reach:

Cricket Ireland had the top reach of any of the 20 NGB’s analysed as they had over 81.5 million eyeballs. This was 2,500 times than what Sailing Ireland achieved. It was also x 4 times than that of Hockey, Go Racing and Ladies Gaelic, all of whom broke the 20 million eyeballs/reach mark.
Ladies Gaelic had the most mentions with 384 top mentioners, leading to a total of 1,470 mentions (an average mention of almost 4 per person).

This was 11 more than Cricket Ireland, while Irish Sailing had just 22 mentions during the 90 day period.

Multiple mentions vs single mentions
Of the 200 posts analysed over a 90 day period, 36 posted tagged or mentioned multiple accounts in their posts. Looking at the individual mention tweets, the average follower total was 189,000, some three times bigger than the accounts that tweeted about multiple Irish sports; while the total engagements was x6 times more.

Tagging multiple accounts in posts does not benefit the sporting bodies. Sporting bodies are vying with other each for audience so while they can cross-over and ambush an historic occasion, e.g. Irish Rugby can tag Cricket Ireland to congratulate them on qualifying for a world cup, a major broadcaster tagging both in a post will not benefit the individual accounts and will not lead to meaningful interaction.

Mentioner types:
Of the 164 accounts that mentioned Irish NGB, 83 were overseas accounts with 81 Irish accounts. A further breakdown of the accounts reveals that 3 of the 81 Irish accounts had no bios, while all the overseas mentioners had full bios on their twitter accounts.

Two of the three Irish mentioners with no bios were Sonia O’Sullivan and Padraig Harrington, both of whom accounts were verified, while the third, Derry McVeigh, was not verified and was linked to a sports athlete manager. The biggest account from an Irish perspective was with 440,535 followers while from a non-Irish perspective, the ICC with 8.5 million ensured plenty of coverage for Irish cricket.

39 used hashtags in their bio. Hashtags are used to one, be in the moment and two, make people aware of those that discuss a particular subject or thread. So by having hashtags in your bio, you are driving people on a journey about a subject. 56 had contacts details and/or website details on their bio, in addition to having the actual website links on their accounts.

In terms of the overseas accounts and the large volume accounts, the data is somewhere biased as Cricket Ireland has a predominately large overseas mention group which leads to huge reach and engagement. Four of the accounts that mentioned Irish Cricket had in excess of 1M followers, led by Sky Sports and ICC.

However despite the size of the respective accounts, the pair only drove 3,265 total engagements from 7 mentions, meanwhile the total engagements for Afghanistan Cricket Board who mentioned Cricket Ireland 31 times, was 15.7k.

From a brand perspective, the reach of Irish Cricket on an International stage is incredible and indicative of the power of Cricket as a major sport; however from a participation and domestic awareness perspective, having Afghan and ICC accounts mentioning you will have potentially little impact.

So how did having 80 million eyeballs on the Twitter handle impact on the social media growth of Cricket Ireland? Over the 90 day period, Cricket Ireland grew 4.11%, the third highest of all the NGB’s tracked. Given their starting position, they also added the highest total number of followers. Sailing Ireland, despite having just 36k eyeballs grew 1.17%, giving them the highest reach to growth ratio.

Conclusion: Reach in isolation will not lead to growth. While an element of social growth will be attained from having influencers sharing your twitter handle, there are other factors, such as content and personal interest that contribute.

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