How did Premier League teams use Twitter in the second half of the 2020/21 season?

We've tracked how all English clubs used Twitter in the second half of the season.

2 months ago   •   7 min read

By Scott Goodacre

With the Premier League season officially finished and the tables reset ready for the next campaign, it seems like the perfect time to look back over the past six months.

The Online Rule's Twitter Tables have been running since the end of January, documenting how teams across the top four divisions in England use their Twitter accounts.

The tables track follower numbers, changes across dates, and the number of different types of tweets posted by each account. They specifically focus on retweets, quote tweets, replies, and tweets that don't fit into any of those types. The tables also include the number of tweets that contain some form of media, such as cards, images, and videos.

I've published several summaries on Twitter spanning days, weeks, and months, but now the tables have been officially reset for the new campaign it felt like the right time to look at nearly six months of Twitter data.

How many people follow English football teams?

Football teams in this country have big followings. In total, 125m people from all over the world follow the 92 teams. That's an average of 1.4m followers per team, yet only 11 teams have more than this average. In fact, only 16 teams have more than 1m followers.

Follower counts accurate as of 9 June 2021
Team Followers
Manchester United 25,674,214
Arsenal 17,541,624
Liverpool 17,376,289
Chelsea 17,119,129
Manchester City 9,975,596
Tottenham Hotspur 5,978,144
Everton 2,491,259
Leicester City 2,038,475
West Ham United 1,922,269
Newcastle United 1,705,240

Of the teams with more than 1m followers, only Stoke City (1.075m) and Swansea City (1.043m) are from outside the Premier League. They'll be joined by West Bromwich Albion (1.104m) next season.

The five least followed teams are below.

Follower counts accurate as of 9 June 2021
Team Followers
Grimsby Town 50,928
Morecambe FC 48,156
Forest Green Rovers 48,136
Harrogate Town 30,881
Barrow AFC 30,201

These five teams account for 0.17% of the total followers across the 92 clubs. The top five teams account for 70% of the total followers.

How have follower counts changed?

Since January, the 92 clubs have added 6,589,833 followers to their totals. That's an average of 71,629 followers per account. 12 teams gained more followers than the average.

The top five teams in terms of follower growth are below. It's probably no surprise to see the same five teams as before.

Team Change
Manchester United +1,251,346
Chelsea +1,102,050
Liverpool +972,225
Manchester City +927,526
Arsenal +554,048

At the opposite end of the table, three teams actually lost followers between January and June.

Team Change
MK Dons +130
Doncaster Rovers +55
Scunthorpe United -19
Wigan Athletic -318
Reading -338

How many tweets were sent?

From 28 January to 9 June 2021, there were 199,645 tweets sent by the 92 teams that have been tracked. That's an average of 2,170 tweets per team, or 16 tweets per day. The most prolific tweeters are below.

Team Tweets
Leicester City 4,383
Manchester City 4,178
MK Dons 4,022
Brentford 3,717
Scunthorpe United 3,487

Only one team sent fewer than 1,000 tweets between the time tracked: League Two side Morecambe, who have just won promotion to League One via the play-offs. They posted 906 tweets in the second half of the season.

Team Tweets
Oldham Athletic 1,433
Fulham 1,425
Swindon Town 1,167
Shrewsbury Town 1,069
Morecambe 906

Of the 199,645 tweets that were sent, there were 21,626 retweets, 11,535 quote tweets, and 5,496 replies.

On average, 78% of tweets contained some form of media. Bradford City included media the most often (96% of tweets), while Carlisle United only included media in 40% of their 2,780 tweets.

Who's the best at replying?

I've been interested in the amount of replies that clubs send for a few years now. While it's impossible to completely track them using the tables, because a lot of teams use quote tweets for engagement so that they get a wider audience, it's still useful to look over.

As I mentioned above, there were nearly 200,000 tweets posted in the first six months of 2021. Of these, 5,496 were replies - 2.75% of the total. That seems lower than it should be for engagement. Even if we assume that quote tweets are also replies, that still only adds up to 8.53% of all activity being 'fan engagement' (and some of these quotes will be of players' posts, sponsor post, or competition posts).

Below is a table showing the five clubs who posted the most replies, along with what percentage of their total activity it represents.

Team Replies % of activity
Coventry City 762 25.73%
Southampton 521 21.76%
Manchester City 248 5.94%
Burnley 200 8.02%
Middlesbrough 190 10.64%

It's encouraging to see three Premier League teams in the top five, given the issues I highlighted three years ago. But they're very much the exception. You've got to go down to 19th in the table to find another Premier League club - Tottenham Hotspur - and even then they only sent 87 replies (and 272 quote tweets).

If we readjust the table slightly to combine replies and QTs, here's how the top five changes.

Team Replies + QTs % of activity
Coventry City 835 28.20%
Southampton 580 24.23%
Manchester City 438 10.48%
Exeter City 416 14.70%
Brentford 406 10.92%

No change across the top three, but we instead see Exeter City and newly-promoted Brentford break into the top spots.

Ignoring the actual number of tweets and only focusing on replies and quote tweets as a percentage of activity, leads to this table.

Team % of activity
Coventry City 28.20%
Southampton 24.23%
Middlesbrough 16.74%
Ipswich Town 15.66%
Burnley 15.51%

This table moves Manchester City down to eighth place, but leaves Coventry City and Southampton still in first and second place. So no matter how it's looked at, Coventry and Southampton continue to come out on top when it comes to engagement on Twitter.

Sending one reply per day over the 132 days analysed would place you eighth in the table for the number of responses.

Looking at the opposite end, only one team didn't send any replies. We'll look at that table first, before bringing in quote tweets again.

Team Replies % of activity
Colchester United 2 0.13%
Stoke City 2 0.11%
Fleetwood Town 2 0.09%
Bradford City 1 0.03%
Rotherham United 0 0.00%

If we bring in quote tweets only one team of this five remains.

Team Replies + QTs % of activity
Fleetwood Town 40 1.83%
Morecambe 38 4.19%
Fulham 37 2.60%
Leeds 19 1.29%
Sheffield United 15 0.91%

And if we reorganise by percentage of total activity.

Team % of activity
Fulham 2.60%
Rotherham 1.89%
Fleetwood Town 1.83%
Leeds 1.29%
Sheffield United 0.91%

The teams in the bottom five don't change hugely across all three tables. Fleetwood Town are present throughout, with Fulham, Leeds, Sheffield United, and Rotherham also featuring in at least two.

Most replies by league

Because resources vary wildly from the top to the bottom of the footballing pyramid, it's also useful to compare teams to others in their respective leagues.

For this, I'm using replies plus quote tweets, and the percentage of activity. They're ordered by percentage of activity. Here's how each league's table looks.

Premier League

Team Replies + QTs Replies/QT %
Southampton 580 24.23%
Burnley 387 15.51%
Tottenham Hotspur 359 14.34%
Newcastle United 195 10.62%
Manchester City 438 10.48%
Brighton & Hove Albion 170 10.13%
Everton 146 8.40%
Chelsea 233 8.21%
Leicester City 310 7.07%
West Bromwich Albion 99 6.81%
Wolves 105 6.33%
Arsenal 107 6.16%
West Ham United 92 5.95%
Crystal Palace 137 5.48%
Liverpool 136 5.36%
Aston Villa 90 4.00%
Manchester United 108 3.64%
Fulham 37 2.60%
Leeds 19 1.29%
Sheffield United 15 0.91%

Championship

Team Replies + QTs Replies/QT %
Coventry City 835 28.20%
Middlesbrough 299 16.74%
Millwall FC 370 15.56%
Luton Town 256 12.30%
AFC Bournemouth 213 12.14%
QPR 344 11.88%
Brentford 406 10.92%
Bristol City FC 247 10.86%
Derby County 278 10.73%
Blackburn Rovers 216 9.63%
Wycombe Wanderers 203 9.45%
Stoke City 165 9.34%
Barnsley 196 8.93%
Cardiff City 143 8.53%
Watford 154 8.31%
Swansea City 200 7.88%
Preston North End 166 7.30%
Nottingham Forest 138 7.13%
Norwich City 191 7.01%
Reading 113 5.89%
Sheffield Wednesday 82 5.50%
Huddersfield Town 122 5.30%
Birmingham City 75 4.04%
Rotherham 43 1.89%

League One

Team Replies + QTs Replies/QT %
Ipswich Town 297 15.66%
Rochdale 290 14.62%
Plymouth Argyle 274 12.25%
Peterborough United 190 10.98%
Portsmouth 230 10.74%
Burton Albion 174 10.16%
Hull City 228 9.89%
Lincoln City 229 9.78%
Northampton Town 248 8.42%
Crewe Alexandra 149 8.25%
Swindon Town 94 8.05%
Accrington Stanley FC 125 7.78%
Blackpool 186 7.69%
Wigan Athletic 135 7.41%
Gillingham 210 6.97%
MK Dons 266 6.61%
Charlton Athletic) 135 5.69%
Doncaster Rovers 91 4.99%
Oxford United 154 4.91%
Shrewsbury Town 49 4.58%
Sunderland 106 4.15%
Bristol Rovers 78 3.99%
AFC Wimbledon 57 3.16%
Fleetwood Town 40 1.83%

League Two

Team Replies + QTs Replies/QT %
Exeter City 416 14.70%
Crawley Town 220 12.31%
Scunthorpe United 373 10.70%
Leyton Orient 175 10.37%
Forest Green Rovers 176 10.11%
Harrogate Town 159 9.77%
Cambridge United 206 9.75%
Stevenage 213 8.79%
Salford City 186 8.51%
Grimsby Town 133 8.36%
Port Vale 145 8.26%
Tranmere Rovers 186 8.19%
Barrow 152 7.73%
Cheltenham Town 176 7.70%
Bradford City 175 5.89%
Walsall 81 5.53%
Newport County 100 5.41%
Bolton Wanderers 125 5.28%
Colchester United 70 4.53%
Morecambe 38 4.19%
Southend United 65 4.05%
Oldham Athletic 57 3.98%
Carlisle United 90 3.24%
Mansfield Town 61 2.98%

Access the data

All of the data used for the tables above was taken from 28 January to 9 June 2021 (around 2355 GMT each day). I've no reason to believe it isn't accurate.

If you want to look through the spreadsheet with all of these figures on you can access it on Google Sheets. If you want to play around with it, you'll need a Google account and you can make a copy of the data.

If you do draw any conclusions that you think are interesting, share them with me on Twitter or drop me an email if you're not on there.

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