Last August the NFL announced its social media policy. In it they announced that players were allowed to use social media sites, but not from 90 minutes before a game through post game media interviews.
By doing this, the NFL became the first major U.S. sport to issue social media guidelines. The NBA followed up a month later with a similar social media policy, which banned the use of social media sites from 45 minutes before games through post game media interviews.
So how do the NFL teams fare in social media? On Twitter, some teams still don't have accounts, and while every NFL team has a Facebook account, some teams have more than four times the number of friends than the average team.
NFL on Twitter
So which teams don't have Twitter accounts? The Indianapolis Colts don't. The Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants don't, but rather than ignoring Twitter, as the Colts do, they both list alternative Twitter accounts.
The Cardinals push the CardsChatter account, and the Giants highlight Pat Hanlon's account. While the Dallas Cowboys have an official Twitter account, they don't list it on their home page; instead they push an aggregate feed over on their truebluefanclub.com site.
What do the numbers show? As of Oct 27, the average NFL Twitter account had 23,493 followers, followed 1,523 people, and had made an average of 2,738 tweets. Out of the teams with official accounts, the Philadelphia Eagles had the fewest followers with 4,295, with the New England Patriots having the most, coming in at 52,756 followers.
When looking at the number of followers, the Baltimore Ravens follow exactly 0 people -- that's right, zero -- while the San Diego Chargers follow 31,037, and do a good job of conversing with those fans. Out of the all of the accounts, the Chargers have the most engagement with their fans.
As for the number of tweets, the Pittsburgh Steelers were sitting at a lowly 199 tweets, while the New York Jets have tweeted 7,841 times.
NFL on Facebook
Every team has an official Facebook page, and they all seem to be doing fairly well.
The average NFL Facebook page has 368,932 fans, with the St. Louis Rams being the team with the least support at 53,745 fans, and the Dallas Cowboys coming in at the top of the pile with 1,556,766 fans.
So What Does This All Mean?
Every team has embraced Facebook, but some are still lagging when it comes to Twitter, and even teams that have embraced social media, with a few exceptions, haven't necessarily made it easy to find their Twitter and Facebook accounts. For example, the Denver Broncos don't have a link to their Facebook page on the home page of their website (although they do link to their Twitter account).
Are the New England Patriots the "best" on Twitter because they have more followers, or does that honor fall upon the New York Jets because they tweet more often and follow over 6,200 people? It all really depends upon the level of engagement that occurs.
How often do those accounts converse with their followers? How often do they encourage engagement? How are the accounts being used? Are they just there to push news, or are they there to show some organizational personality?
Each strategy can work, in their own way, although if the official account is more of a news pusher, then unofficial accounts tend to spring up to fill in the personality gaps, and those personalities aren't necessarily the ones that a brand would want to be seen as representative of that brand.
Teams need to ensure that they're out there. After all, their fans are out there.
They also need to ensure that they engage with their fans, because when something goes wrong within the organization, which happens more often than not in sports, a friendly voice that's a part of the community can much more easily assuage sour feelings than one that's not.