Sporting Intelligence
FootballNewsHow Galatasaray became the world’s No1 sports team on Facebook

How Galatasaray became the world’s No1 sports team on Facebook

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By Nick Harris

14 September 2010

Read a version of this article in Turkish

The most popular sports team in the world at the moment, according to the number of fans on official Facebook sites, is Galatasaray, with almost 4.5m fans. This is thanks in part to the long-term efforts of the club’s business development manager, Ertuğ Silay, and one of the Facebook page’s key administrators, Umut Öfkeli.

Today sportingintelligence speaks to Ebubekir Kaplan, another key figure at the club responsible for marketing and social network initiatives, to find out how the Turkish giants became so popular in cyberspace, and to ask how important social networking has become as a bridge between clubs and fans.

Regularly updated figures on the world’s most popular sports teams on Facebook (and other social networks) can be found here at famecount.com, the social media statistics specialists (tallies updated daily). Facebook should be considered a significant indicator of trends: one in nine all of adults in the world has a Facebook account, rising to one in two in some major western nations.

Q: When did Galatasaray begin to use social networks, especially Facebook?

A: Galatasaray was the first Turkish club to have an online media presence when we started the official website, www.galatasaray.org, in 1996, showing that we had an early appreciation as a club of the value of online platforms. Turkish supporters also using online tools in every area, especially social networks, and after Facebook became popular in Turkey (from early 2007) our fans began to create their own fans sites on Facebook to support the club. We started to take an interest because it was obviously important to the fans. As Facebook use matured among Galatasaray fans, we created the official club Facebook page on 19 May 2009 (19.05.2009, to echo the year the club was established, 1905.)

We have also official accounts on Twitter, Friendfeed and other social media sites. In Turkey, we have some governmental problems with Youtube, so we can’t reach the site, and that’s the only reason we’re not active there. Instead we use our video site, www.Galatasaray.com, to broadcast our official videos and online TV.

Incidentally, our Twitter account is the first verified sports-related Twitter account in Turkey.

Q: How quickly have you grown on Facebook?

A: 19 May 2009 – launch

19 November 2009 – 1.8m fans

19 May 2010 – 3.2m fans

14 September 2010 – 4.48m fans

Q: Why are these networks, especially Facebook, valuable to your club?

A: We have a lot of fans but only a tiny number of them, relatively, can be in our stadium at the same time. However, all the fans want to meet, both with each other and to stay in touch with the club. Social networking allows this to happen. In Turkey, about 30 per cent of the country’s total population is using Facebook, and about 19m adults. The rate of users aged 18 to 44 is 74 per cent. Turkey is globally the fourth most active country on Facebook, and we can reach out to our fans via Facebook. Players come and go, managers come and go, club officials come and go, but fans are constant; they’re the most important people.

Q: Why do you think Galatasaray to date have more Facebook fans than any other sports team in the world?

A: Because Turkish people want to be socialable via Facebook and because we’re using the right tools to reach them. And the club is actively engaging with our fans on social networks because we know they use them. They trust in us to give them information directly, we respect their need and desire to know things directly from the club.

And there is one more important thing; our editors on Facebook are not just editors. They’re also hardcore fans, they know the feelings of the game and the club.

Q: Is it possible for the club to transform this popularity into money?

A: Our policy to gain income for the club is “taking care of the fans’ needs and delivering what the fans want via our official products.”  We know the Facebook page’s popularity and potential to deliver to our fans, but we also know the fans’ spirit. So getting money from page is not the main target; we have to realise reasonable opportunities but only when it is appropriate because it’s what the fans want.

Q: What is the most important value of Facebook for Galatasaray?

A: Supporters want to reach the club. They want to shout after bad results. They want to reach us. And we have to listen to them under all circumstances. So the main value is an outlet for the fans, and for communication with the fans.

Q: Do you know how many of your fans are inside Turkey? And how many outside?

A: Galatasaray’s general statistics in Turkey – Galatasaray is No1 with 35 per cent of the country supporting the club.

Online statistics: Fans outside Turkey – 38 per cent; Fans inside Turkey – 62 per cent.

Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir are the first three cities statistically within Turkey. Jakarta, Frankfurt, Vienna, Hamburg all have major fan bases in the top 20 cities.

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Sportingintelligence first looked at sports teams’ popularity on Facebook at the start of August. That research is linked here, but please note that this market is dynamic and huge changes can and do occur over short periods, more of which later today.

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More stories mentioning Galatasaray

More on Facebook trends in sport

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