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The Social League: how do CFL teams’ Facebook likes and Twitter followers stack up?

Events like this 2012 CFL tweetup have helped the league grow its social media profile.

Social media services have made a huge impact on the CFL over the last few years, with the league, its teams and many players all coming up with their own Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. Plenty of interesting CFL discussion happens in those forums now, and teams are clearly investing substantial resources in promoting themselves through Facebook and Twitter. How well are those efforts paying off, though, and which teams are doing particularly well? Deadspin ran an interesting piece from the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective last month, comparing NFL teams' Facebook followers and then breaking the data down geographically using information provided by Facebook. The second part isn't easy to do (the Deadspin piece states their data was obtained by "pretending to be an advertiser"), but how many people follow each CFL team on Twitter or like them on Facebook is public record, and it leads to some interesting comparisons. Here's the data for each team (obtained between 8:30 and 10 p.m. Eastern Tuesday night):

And here are the links for the Facebook and Twitter feeds for each team:

CFL: Facebook (84,089 likes) and Twitter (41,458 followers).
B.C. Lions: Facebook (65,788 likes) and Twitter (29,670 followers).
Calgary Stampeders: Facebook (15,705 likes) and Twitter (19,795 followers).
Edmonton Eskimos: Facebook (3,139 likes: however, there's also this seemingly-unofficial interest page with 18,910 likes) and Twitter (19,131 followers).
Saskatchewan Roughriders: Facebook (128,567 likes) and Twitter (44,345 followers).
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Facebook (50,273 likes) and Twitter (30,988 followers).
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Facebook (31,789 likes) and Twitter (15,767 followers).
Toronto Argonauts: Facebook (18,173 likes) and Twitter (23,334 followers).
Montreal Alouettes: Facebook (105,800 likes) and Twitter (25,061 followers).

What conclusions can we draw from that? Well, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are dominant here, as expected. Riders' games have long drawn the league's top TV ratings, and their merchandise tends to be the best-selling. That team has a tremendously strong connection to their province, and that's shown in the interest in them on Facebook and Twitter. It's interesting how other teams have done, though. Montreal and B.C. have each done exceptionally well on Facebook, while Winnipeg has posted particularly good numbers on Twitter. In Ontario, the Argonauts' Twitter account's done much better than their Facebook page, but it's the reverse for Hamilton. Overall, though, both of those teams have pretty impressive online followings, and that might be a hopeful sign for the CFL in Southern Ontario.

Of course, this all should be taken with a significant portion of salt. These numbers depend on several factors not necessarily directly correlated to how much fan interest there is in each team. For example, when each team started their pages on these services, how much effort they put into maintaining them, the approach they take and other elements all are contributing elements to their current numbers. Also, raw numbers aren't the best way to judge the total value of a team's social media presence; it can be better to have smaller numbers of followers that are highly engaged rather than huge numbers of people that never look at the service. It's interesting to see how the various teams are doing in terms of those numbers, though. They certainly don't tell the whole story of fan interest in teams and teams' marketing numbers (and it's notable that a "Like" or a follow doesn't necessarily make you a fan of the team; people follow pages on Facebook and Twitter for a whole plethora of reasons), but these numbers are worth looking at, and they provide some insight into just how much online interest there is in each CFL team.

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