The Most Popular NBA Teams on Twitter and Facebook

basketballNBA players, like many professional athletes, have taken social media by storm but what about their teams? Fans love hearing directly from players but they also identify strongly with the teams themselves. Twitter and Facebook offer a great opportunity for NBA teams to connect with their fans in a more personal, interactive way. So which NBA teams have the largest following on Twitter and Facebook and who is making the most of their presence?

I got good response when I looked at the most popular NFL teams on Facebook and Twitter back in November so today I thought I’d do the same for the NBA.

In the table below the 30 NBA teams are ranked by total followers/fans on their official Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. I realize these figures change quickly but the snapshot is useful for comparison.

Twitter followersFacebook fansTotal
1Los Angeles Lakers1,415,871657,0072,072,878
2Orlando Magic983,23285,2651,068,497
3Boston Celtics25,605481,879507,484
4Cleveland Cavaliers33,445166,021199,466
5Chicago Bulls26,161155,827181,988
6San Antonio Spurs19,90190,550110,451
7Denver Nuggets15,18887,300102,488
8Houston Rockets20,19581,535101,730
9Dallas Mavericks15,81772,01587,832
10Phoenix Suns21,89664,97686,872
11Portland Trail Blazers14,68465,80180,485
12New York Knicks14,39543,97258,367
13Utah Jazz11,78544,32856,113
14Toronto Raptors5,60541,61147,216
15Milwaukee Bucks7,08937,19744,286
16Sacramento Kings10,79819,85530,653
17Golden State Warriors2,65527,82630,481
18Philadelphia 76ers12,04817,87729,925
19Indiana Pacers7,20414,76021,964
20Los Angeles Clippers13,5317,29120,822
21Washington Wizards6,78713,57920,366
22Atlanta Hawks8,17011,89320,063
23Oklahoma City Thunder8,91110,98119,892
24Detroit Pistons9,5377,85417,391
25Minnesota Timberwolves6,55410,74217,296
26New Jersey Nets4,94510,36115,306
27Miami Heat13,87059914,469
28Memphis Grizzlies7,0626,79313,855
29Charlotte Bobcats5,5027,28112,783
30New Orleans Hornets8,4591,64710,106

The Lakers and Magic are well ahead in terms of total following, which isn’t surprising considering the popularity of the two teams and their stars and the fact that both teams were in the Finals last year.

While a number of smaller markets and weaker teams are at the bottom of the list I didn’t expect to see the Miami Heat down there. They are competitive on Twitter in terms of reach but their lack of a real presence on Facebook sent them down to #28. It doesn’t look like they even have an official page on Facebook; the one with 599 followers was the best that I could find.

But while building up followers is great it’s what you do with that following that really matters.

So what should NBA teams be doing on Twitter and Facebook? The most important thing is to communicate with the fans, plain and simple. Let them know what’s going on with the team and more importantly LISTEN to what they have to say.

Beyond that there’s no right or wrong answer but teams will certainly get a lot more traction by being compelling and interactive. Facebook pages offer a better opportunity for expanded content and extended conversations but there’s a lot you can do with Twitter too.

A simple thing that many teams do is providing in-game updates via Twitter. As a Bulls fan living outside of Chicago I don’t get to watch many games but I feel connected to the team when I see a scoring update:

Chicago Bulls on Twitter

Here are a few other things NBA teams should think about:

  • Dish: offer insights and information that fans can’t get anywhere else
  • Go behind the scenes: give them sense of what the organization is really like
  • Humanize: not just the players, let them get to know the entire organization
  • Speaking of players: the more they are involved with the team’s official social media activities, the less likely they’ll be to “go rogue” and say something regrettable on their own profiles
  • Multimedia: photos and video bring sports content to life, and social media users love to share them
  • Contests and promotions: tickets, gear, autographs, chances to meet players – you can quickly build buzz by giving away the good stuff
  • Tie it to the community: let fans see that the team cares about the city and what’s going on there

Now if we could only get the NBA to change the first round playoff series back to five games…

Comments

  1. I like how you summed up the misperception of social media being a popularity contest: “While building up followers is great, it’s what you do with that following that really matters.”

    The Lakers and Magic get to enjoy the fruits of being anointed to Twitter’s ‘Suggested User List,’ and thus the skewed standings. The 2nd place Orlando Magic have 983,232 followers compared to the 3rd place Boston Celtics with 25,605 followers. Winning helps, but this stroke of luck is clearly the difference maker.

    At the end of the day, engaging fans, enhancing the fan experience and boosting ROI should be at the core of any social media strategy implemented by NBA team properties. That happens when you follow the action items you listed above.

    Great work, Adam.

  2. Thanks for your comment and insights Peter. And good point on the Lakers and Magic being on Twitter’s Suggested User List, that explains the major discrepency there.

  3. Great post, Adam. I’m passing it on to my “Cultures of Basketball” students.

  4. As an aside, the Nets have almost 29,000 followers on twitter and 59,000 fans on Facebook.

    http://twitter.com/netsbasketball
    http://www.facebook.com/NetsBasketball

  5. Thanks Yago.

    Devin – this post is from January 2010 so the figures are a year old now. It’s good to see how much the Nets have grown their reach in the past year. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up post to look at growth percentages for all the teams.

    I did do a follow-up just on playoff teams and Facebook last May: NBA Playoff Teams Ranked by Facebook Page Engagement

  6. Oh, I see. My mistake. I was directed to the post today and read it as 2011 without thinking. I’d be interested in a post like that. Thanks for letting me know!

  7. Twitter reports @MiamiHEAT has 94,369 followers. Why the big discrepancy w/ your numbers?

  8. Never mind – I see your post is from 2010, not 2011

  9. The students are fascinated by this. In fact, one will be pulling the current figures for extra credit. Thanks for the idea.

  10. Yago sent me updated Twitter follower and Facebook page like counts for each team that his student pulled yesterday. I’ve used that data in a new post today: Which NBA Teams Have Seen the Most Growth on Twitter and Facebook?

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