By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
12 May 2011
Rio Ferdinand is closing in on a new Twitter landmark of one million followers, a milestone that will cement the Manchester United centre-half’s place as the most popular English footballer on the micro-blogging network.
The 32-year-old England international is also the most followed footballer of any nationality based in Britain, and one of the world’s most popular athletes from any sport on Twitter.
At 3pm today Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) had 993,002 followers, and is adding them at a rate of around 200 per hour. At that speed, he should go past the million mark at some point on Friday, or over the weekend at the latest. United play at Blackburn on Saturday, needing one point to win the Premier League title.
Only one other British sportsman has more Twitter followers than Ferdindand – golfer Ian Poulter, with 1.18m to date.
Only three other footballers in the world have more Twitter followers that Ferdinand: Kaka (3.8m), Cristiano Ronaldo (2.8m) and Andres Iniesta (1.1m).
The next most followed footballer based in England, behind Ferdinand, is Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas, with 846,000 followers at 3pm today.
Social networking is still in its infancy, at least in business terms, but Twitter is already a major social and political phenomenon, in many senses, both as a platform for breaking news (eg: Japan quake, OBL’s death) and as a communication tool in times of change (eg: the Arab Spring, Libya etc).
Twitter is also increasingly a source of news stories, and entertainment. Ferdinand’s Twitter banter with the former newspaper editor and talent show co-judge, Piers Morgan, caught the imagination of followers of both men. Hard data shows Ferdinand continues to get the best of their battle in terms of popularity.
On 20 April, Ferdinand’s lead over Morgan was 246,447 followers. At 3pm today Ferdinand’s lead had stretched to 316,617 followers. Not only is Ferdinand extending his lead over Arsenal fan Morgan, but extending it at a quicker rate. Ferdinand’s following has increased by 22.7 per cent since 20 April while Morgan’s number of followers has grown by only 20.2 per cent in the same time.
The graph below depicts the number of followers of a select group at 3pm, set against the followers they had on 20 April. Newcomers to Twitter-land in recent weeks include Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and the Neville brothers, Gary and Phil.
United became the most popular sports team on the world in terms of Facebook followers earlier this season, and while they have seen been overtaken again by Barcelona, they remain the biggest English club by far, and vie with Barca and Real Madrid for Facebook supremacy. More here.