Report: Soccer Rules Australian Football Leagues On Facebook*

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Sport is a huge part of Australian culture.

I was privileged enough to experience this as a marketer of Australia’s favourite sport, Cricket, for a number of years (at Cricket Australia).
It has filled me with great pride to see the way in which Cricket (in Australia) has embraced (and pioneered) social and digital media under the direction of some old colleagues of mine.
Naturally, I’ve also kept an eye on Australia’s three most popular Football ‘codes’ – AFL (Aussie Rules), NRL (Rugby League) and The A-League (Football / Soccer).
And, while there are several HUGE caveats in what you’re about to see, an analysis of the Facebook profiles of each of the Australian Football Leagues throws up some interesting insights.

Facebook and (Australian) Football – A Comparative Analysis

If you follow my Twitter feed, you’ll know I’m a fan of SocialBakers.com and its Analytics Pro product.
It goes beyond Facebook’s basic insights and gives you an idea about page performance versus your competitor set with indicators like ‘average engagement rate’ and ‘page score’.
Let’s pull out some of the insights from the tracker I set up for the AFL, NRL and A-League.
First up, let’s take a look at the basic ‘likes’ comparison (which will really only hit home as we dig deeper through the data).

As you can see, the NRL and AFL are almost even on ‘likes’ while the A-League is a long way back.

But, as you know, more likes doesn’t necessarily mean the page is being managed well.

If we look at two of the ‘performance’ metrics, there’s an argument to say that the A-League page rules the roost.

Fan Engagement Rate explained: The number of likes, comments and shares per post on any given day divided by the number of fans of that page.
Page Score explained: Fan growth, content quality (formats and execution) and overall fan engagement (content interaction).

This is where is gets a little tricky.

These two metrics indicate that the A-League is performing better than the AFL and NRL.

But, this can be put down to a very simple thing – the 30,000 A-League fans are INCREDIBLY passionate about the A-League aka die hard fans.

It is often the case on pages with fewer likes, some of your metrics will look great because of the type of fans you have.

The NRL on the other hand, appears to have the most ‘passive’ fans of the three – in other words, a good majority of their ‘fan’ base have probably never engaged with the page after the initial ‘like’ gesture.

But, the NRL isn’t drowning its fans with constant updates like the A-League is (an average of 11 posts per day for the A-League versus two for the NRL) and on Facebook, less is nearly always more.

What does it all mean?

We’re almost ready to answer that question, but first, let’s look at one more comparison.

Now, it looks like the AFL has got too fond on sharing video content even though it is the worst performing content format (from an engagement perspective).

Even more interestingly, the AFL had only one ‘text-only’ status update in the last four weeks – this suggest the page is lacking in a ‘voice’ and / or character.

The A-League, thanks to its smaller, but passionate community, is engaging much more strongly but the outward bound link updates are not only taking people away from the page, but not getting the same results that photos are getting.

We’ve talked a lot about the ‘image-powered web’ here, and these combined results are testament to that.

Interpreting the data and making conclusions

Ironically, these three bitter rivals would be Facebook magic if they combined the best bits of each.

Conversely, their worst bits combined would make you weep.

Both the NRL and AFL need to broaden their content strategy parameters to cater for the ‘not-so-hardcore’ Football fans out there.

The A-League needs to post MUCH less often to be less intrusive and, consequently, easier to like for the masses.

As per my caveats at the top of the post, using tools like this to rank page performance isn’t fool proof and requires a lot of manual assessment too.

But when used wisely, they can give you a level of insight above and beyond Facebook’s reporting tools, and can help you measure against other brands / businesses in your sector.

As a final point, no matter the purpose or strategy of your page, you can’t ignore the fact that Facebook is a place for fun.

Sporting bodies need to recognise this fact and have content plans in place that reflect this characteristic.

*Headline note: As has (hopefully) been made clear, comparing the AFL and NRL with the A-League is quite similar to comparing apples with oranges and any clear-cut claims of victory for any one side would be subject to appeal…after appeal…after appeal…

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