By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
24 April 2011
Wayne Rooney has apparently made his social networking debut on Twitter, with @wazzaroon08 amassing more than 135,000 followers in under 24 hours since Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) recommended that his own followers follow ‘Wazza’.
Ferdinand is a famous joker but club insiders at United say they believe Wazzaroon08 is the real United and England striker. In his first 24 hours of Tweeting he expressed his admiration for team-mate Javier Hernandez, and also for his Chelsea rival, Fernando Torres, and – on the day of the Old Firm derby in Glasgow – tweeted that he hoped Celtic would win.
The entry of so many high-profile sportsmen into the social networking arena, particularly on Twitter, is already starting to change the media vs stars dynamic, if only because Twitter gives the stars an immediate direct-to-the-public right to reply. Ferdinand’s team-mate Michael Owen, another newcomer to Twitter, has already used the medium to prompt debate about newspaper headlines.
As sportingintelligence has reported previously, Manchester United’s Facebook page leads the way in social networking in English football. Last year it became the fastest growing sports team page in Facebook history. In February the United Facebook page overtook Barcelona’s to become the most popular football team site in the world.
Although Barca have hit back since – consolidating some unofficial pages into one place – United remain by far the biggest English club on facebook, with more than 12m followers, or around seven million more Facebook fans than their closest English rivals, Arsenal. The tangible benefits of Facebook followers are open to debate and the days of ‘monetising’ such support are in their infancy.
But at the very least, United’s Facebook followers have made an active decision to “opt in” to several official United branded messages each day in the form of links to the club website. Even if only a fraction of those 12m+ “fans” are exposing themselves daily to the ads and messages and products on the site, that will have an economic value.
Ferdinand continues to stay ahead in his own United-Arsenal tussle with the Gunners-supporting Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan). The pair have been engaging in Twitter banter over the past few weeks, but just as in the Premier League, United are dominating in this area too, for now.
As our table below shows, in the last four days Ferdinand has added 20,854 Twitter followers to Morgan’s 12,207 new followers in the same period.
At 2pm today, Ferdinand had 830,112 followers with Morgan on 575,018.
Ferdinand is not only increasing his numbers at a greater actual rate than Morgan, but at a greater rate.
A team of sportingintelligence statisticians have worked through the night to calculate that Ferdinand has increased his Twitter followers by 2.58 per cent in the past four days, while Morgan’s rate of increase is only 2.17 per cent.