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In the last few years, social media have become a big part of many people's lives. And they offer an interesting opportunity for cycling fans to follow their favourite teams. CyclingQuotes has taken a look at the following of cycling te...

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12.02.2014 @ 00:00 Posted by Lukas Knöfler

In the last few years, social media have become a big part of many people's lives. And they offer an interesting opportunity for cycling fans to follow their favourite teams. CyclingQuotes has taken a look at the following of cycling teams (men's Pro Teams and Professional Continental Teams, as well as selected women's teams) on Facebook and Twitter. All quoted figures were checked within six hours of the publication of this article.

 

The most popular social networking site worldwide is Facebook, with over a billion active users (using the platform at least once per month) ten years after its launch in February 2004.

 

Twitter is somewhat younger, having been set-up in March 2006, but has since attracted a strong following from cycling fans: Many teams tweet live from races, making the platform a way to follow races that one can't watch live. Twitter has about 200 million active users.

 

With Facebook having five times as many active users as Twitter, it comes as no surprise that the great majority of teams have more 'likes' for their official Facebook pages than followers of their Twitter accounts. There are a few exceptions that will be mentioned later on.

 

All men's professional teams but one keep an official Facebook page and an official Twitter account. CCC Polsat Polkowice is the only exception: The Polish team apparently skews social media, having no official presence on either platform.

 

 

Facebook: An unexpected winner

Looking at the number of team's fans teams on Facebook, there are some interesting observations: Within the ten most popular teams, seven are from anglophone countries. Nine have a Pro Team license and are part of the WorldTour, cycling's top division – being a big team obviously helps, while the fact that Facebook (like Twitter) is US-controlled undoubtedly influences numbers as well.

 

The only Professional Continental team in the top-ten is also the one with most likes; and it isn't one of the biggest teams fighting for wildcards to WorldTour events, but Team Novo Nordisk with more than half a million likes. The team's message is that an active life is possible despite having diabetes appears to be popular – it may be assumed that many of the team's fans are diabetes patients.

 

Team Sky and Trek Factory Racing are the second- and third-most popular teams on Facebook, with more than 350,000 likes each. The next teams don't reach half of that. Besides Team Novo Nordisk, at first sight the most popular Professional Continental teams are Drapac Professional Cycling and MTN-Qhubeka. Both have over 10,000 likes; however, that is still less than any Pro Team can show.

 

Cofidis has just above 8000 likes on its French Facebook page; but the team also maintains a separate page in Spanish, with more than 37,000 fans. Combining the two numbers puts the French team far ahead of Drapac and MTN-Qhubeka, even if some, if not many, Facebook users have liked both pages.

 

The most popular women's team is Wiggle-Honda with more than 20,000 fans, followed by Team TIBCO-To The Top with over 8000 likes and Astana BePink with 3900. Orica-AIS/Orica-GreenEdge, Team Giant-Shimano, RusVelo and Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies don't have separate accounts for their men's and women's teams, but keep fans updated on combined accounts. This is a commendable initiative towards gender equality, but it also makes it hard to quantify the following that these women's teams have.

 

 

Twitter: A similar picture

The team with most Twitter followers comes as no surprise: Team Sky, with the two most recent winners of the Tour de France in its squad, has over 250,000 Twitter followers. Trek Factory Racing and BMC Racing Team, with 109,000 and 97,000 followers, respectively, are a long way from that.

 

Despite being a bit different than the Facebook top ten, seven of the ten most popular teams on Twitter hail from anglophone countries; and nine of them ride in the WorldTour. The exception is, again, Team Novo Nordisk has a more modest 45,000 followers here, but that is still enough for an eigth place overall.

 

MTN-Qhubeka isn't as far behind the diabetic team here, having 33,000 followers, and the third Professional Continental team is Colombia with just above 10,000 followers. As on Facebook, Cofidis has two Twitter accounts, with over 8300 people following the French account and nearly 2000 watching the Spanish account; therefore Cofidis might edge out Colombia if numbers for the two accounts are combined.

 

Wiggle-Honda is also the biggest women's team on Twitter, their 11,100 followers being more than twice as many as the ~5400 of Specialized-Lululemon. Rabo Liv Women Cycling Team is third with 2500. Again, Orica-AIS/Orica-GreenEdge, Team Giant-Shimano, RusVelo and Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies have combined accounts for their men's and women's teams.

 

 

Which is bigger in cycling?

While a great majority of teams have a bigger following on Facebook than on Twitter, the microblogging platform is smaller in overall size, reinforcing the point that Twitter is very much the social media platform of choice for engaged cycling fans.

 

Only five of the 35 Pro Teams and Professional Continental teams have more Twitter followers than Facebook fans: MTN-Qhubeka, Team Giant-Shimano, Wanty-Groupe Gobert, Colombia and UnitedHealthcare. Five more teams reach 75% of their number of Facebook fans in Twitter followers.

 

 

Twitter: Interacting with fans

One difference between Facebook and Twitter is that it is far more usual for a team's official Twitter account to also follow a number of Twitter users – be it their own riders, races the team participates in, or fans of the team. Some teams only follows a few dozen other accounts, but others (at least in theory) follow thousands of tweeters.

 

As a way to measure the amount of interaction between teams and fans, we have looked at the number of Twitter accounts a team itself follows. This gives a very different picture than just looking at the number of followers.

 

MTN-Qhubeka is the team that follows most other Twitter accounts: More than 19,000, compared to some 33,000 own followers. Team Novo Nordisk follows over 4300 tweeters, BMC Racing Team and Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela follow 3200 and 2600 Twitter users, respectively.

 

Another measure for a team's Twitter interactivity is to look at the number of Twitter users a team follows as a percentage of own followers. In this category, the highest-ranked Pro Team FDJ.fr (with just below 5%) is only placed 12th among all men's pro teams, places one to eleven being filled by Professional Continental teams.

In a sense, the teams from the WorldTour are victims of their own popularity; with tens or even hundreds of thousands of followers, it's virtually impossible to engage each of them, and many teams will probably have made a conscious decision not to interact with fans on Twitter at all. This part is instead left to individual riders and staff.

 

RusVelo is the team with fewest Twitter followers (~900), but on the other hand the team also follows more than 800 tweeters, giving a following/follower percentage close to 90%. Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela and MTN-Qhubeka also have a percentage above 50%.

 

 

Conclusions

Facebook is very widespread among people in the Western world, especially anglophone countries like the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. This goes some way to explain the overweight of anglophone teams among those with most Facebook fans.

 

Another factor to consider is the status of English as de facto world language. People that speak English as a second language are more likely to follow an anglophone team than one that posts updates in French, Spanish or Italian.

 

With some qualifications, the same is true for Twitter. But Twitter also offers interaction between teams and fans, something most of the biggest teams make little use of for various reasons.

 

Following more Twitter users than all other pro cycling teams combined, and also following 57% of their own followers, MTN-Qhubeka may be called the most interactive cycling team. This makes sense, as the team is actively fundraising for the Qhubeka charity project; fans that feel included by their object of affection are more likely to contribute.

 

Nevertheless, the biggest teams, like Team Sky, Trek Factory Racing, Garmin-Sharp, BMC Racing Team or Omega Pharma-Quick Step, have the biggest following on social media.

 

 

 

Top ten pro cycling teams, ranked by number of Facebook fans

Team Novo Nordisk 505684

Team Sky 387761

Trek Factory Racing 350674

Garmin-Sharp 174869

BMC Racing Team 147866

Omega Pharma-Quick Step 127617

Tinkoff-Saxo 117527

Cannondale 111700

Orica-GreenEdge 81376

Team Europcar 79954

 

Top ten pro cycling teams, ranked by number of Twitter followers

Team Sky 252655

Trek Factory Racing 109640

BMC Racing Team 97405

Omega Pharma-Quick Step 86823

Garmin-Sharp 85955

Orica-GreenEdge 67625

Movistar Team 66604

Team Novo Nordisk 45356

Cannondale 42341

Belkin Pro Cycling Team 41965

 

Top ten pro cycling teams, ranked by number of Twitter accounts they follow themselves

MTN-Qhubeka 19224

Team Novo Nordisk 4392

BMC Racing Team 3282

Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela 2602

FDJ.fr 913

RusVelo 833

UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team 766

Drapac Professional Cycling 537

Wanty-Groupe Gobert 521

Lotto-Belisol 375

 

Top ten pro cycling teams, ranked by ratio of followed Twitter accounts to Twitter followers (in %)

RusVelo 89.0

Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela 65.8

MTN-Qhubeka 57.7

Wanty-Groupe Gobert 32.0

Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 28.4

Drapac Professional Cycling 12.0

UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team 9.7

Team Novo Nordisk 9.7

Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise 8.2

Bretagne-Séché Environnement 7.3

 

Selected women's cycling teams, ranked by number of Facebook fans*

Wiggle-Honda 20246

Team TIBCO-To The Top 8261

Astana BePink 3901

Hitec Products-UCK 3846

Specialized-Lululemon 3786

 

Selected women's cycling teams, ranked by number of Twitter followers*

Wiggle-Honda 11134

Specialized-Lululemon 5390

Rabo Liv Women Cycling Team 2540

Team TIBCO-To The Top 2511

Lotto-Belisol Ladies 1799

 

*Teams with combined accounts for men's and women's teams not included (see article).

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