In the digital age, the intersection of sports and social media has ignited a revolution in the way football clubs connect with their fan base and navigate the intricate landscape of the sports business. Amidst this paradigm shift, social media has emerged as an indispensable yardstick for gauging a club's influence and impact. In the upcoming sections, we embark on a comprehensive analysis of football clubs' social media performance over the past year on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (X), TikTok, YouTube and Weibo, placing a spotlight on two pivotal metrics: followers and engagement. These metrics quantify a club's online presence and illuminate its resonance in the global football community.

Top 20 clubs with the most social media followers

The numbers paint a vivid picture of the immense global reach and influence held by football clubs in the digital sphere. Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona lead the pack with 415.0 million and 391.7 million combined social media followers respectively. Beyond the Spanish powerhouses, English clubs like Manchester United FC and Manchester City FC have also harnessed the digital landscape to great effect, amassing 224.5 million and 156.3 million followers respectively. This serves as a testament to the Premier League's immense popularity worldwide and the ability of English clubs to engage with a global fan base.

Paris Saint-Germain FC, despite being a relatively new face near the top of European football, have swiftly climbed the ranks, boasting an impressive 189.6 million followers. This surge in popularity can be attributed to strategic branding efforts, high-profile player acquisitions (e.g. Lionel Messi, Neymar, Sergio Ramos, etc.), and an engaging social media presence. The influence of Italian football is also prominently displayed, with clubs like Juventus FC, AC Milan, and FC Internazionale Milano collectively amassing over 258 million followers. However, this combined number is still just slightly above Manchester United’s 224.5 million.

Instagram remains the cornerstone platform for clubs, followed closely by Twitter (X) and TikTok. Facebook's allure seems to be on the wane, yet numerous clubs maintain a substantial follower base on the META platform. It's intriguing to note the diverse strategies employed by the top 20 clubs with the highest follower counts, with TikTok serving as a compelling case in point.

Clubs such as AS Roma, Paris Saint-Germain FC, Tottenham Hotspur FC, Atlético de Madrid, and Al-Nassr FC are garnering over 20% of their followership from TikTok, showcasing the platform's significant impact on their digital presence.

Top 20 clubs that gained the most followers over the last year

In the sphere of growing social media followings within the past year, two clubs have undeniably stood out: Al-Nassr FC and Inter Miami CF. The acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi proved to be a seismic shift, catapulting both clubs into a new stratosphere of followers. This momentous event not only propelled these teams but also significantly elevated the profiles of the Saudi Pro League and MLS.

Securing the 4th and 5th positions on our list, these two clubs amassed an impressive 24.3 million and 24.2 million new followers. Meanwhile, the top three positions hold no surprises: Real Madrid CF, Manchester City FC, and FC Barcelona garnered 50.6 million, 35.2 million, and 33.3 million new followers, respectively.

When it comes to growth percentage, Inter Miami CF and Al-Nassr are at the forefront, exhibiting remarkable increases of +1,197% and +487% during the measured period. Following closely is the Europa League champions, Sevilla FC, securing the third position with a commendable +101% growth. Persib Bandung and Al-Hilal SFC claim the fourth and fifth spots, boasting growth rates of 53% and 45%, respectively.

Top 20 clubs with the most engagement on Instagram over the last year

The figures eloquently illustrate the significant impact and interaction that Instagram commands in the realm of football. Over the period from September 23, 2022, to September 23, 2023, the top 20 clubs with the highest Instagram engagement had staggering figures. Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona lead with 1.64 billion and 1.30 billion engagements, respectively.

Among other notable contenders, Paris Saint-Germain FC and Manchester City FC also showcased a remarkable Instagram presence, accumulating 615 million and 614 million engagements, respectively. This demonstrates the pivotal role that visual storytelling and interactive content play in fostering a deeper connection between football clubs and their fan communities. From historic European powerhouses like Liverpool FC to rising forces like Al-Nassr FC and Inter Miami CF, these numbers underline Instagram's pivotal role in shaping the narrative and fan engagement within the football landscape.

The Instagram post engagement numbers reveal a fascinating insight into the level of interaction these clubs generate per post. Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona lead the pack with 486,000 and 442,000 engagements per post, respectively. Notably, Turkish clubs Fenerbahce SK and Galatasaray SK exhibit exceptionally high levels of engagement, standing at 275,000 and 226,000 per post.

At the top of our list, we find clubs boasting the highest average post engagement rates, exemplified by Besiktas JK (3.4%), Fenerbahce SK (3.2%), Al-Nassr FC (3.2%), and Inter Miami CF (3.2%). These teams have succeeded in fostering a deeply engaging connection with their audience. In stark contrast, Juventus FC (0.2%) and Manchester United FC (0.3%) occupy the lower end, signaling a comparatively smaller level of interaction. Following closely are Liverpool FC, FC Bayern München, and Manchester City FC, each registering an average engagement rate of 0.4%, highlighting the room for further audience engagement in these esteemed clubs.

Top 20 clubs with the most engagement on TikTok over the last year

The surge in engagement numbers on TikTok among these top football clubs between September 23, 2022, and September 23, 2023, shows the platform's growing significance in reaching younger audiences. Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona, leading with 200 million and 191 million engagements, respectively, have tapped into the group of a younger, tech-savvy fan base. Manchester City FC, Juventus FC, and Manchester United FC follow closely, demonstrating a keen understanding of TikTok's potential in fostering connections with a demographic that is increasingly drawn to short-form, visually engaging content. In this context, it's important to clarify that in our assessment, engagement on TikTok includes likes, shares, and comments within the specified time frame.

Cristiano Ronaldo's profound impact is palpable across all platforms on which Al-Nassr FC are active. Evident in our top 20 list, the Saudi side boasts the highest engagement per post on TikTok, exceeding 390,000 interactions, thus surpassing even the likes of Real Madrid CF (327,407) and Paris Saint-Germain FC (255,061).

This influence extends to video views per post as well, with Al-Nassr FC leading the pack with 3.4 million views. Real Madrid CF closely follows with 2.3 million views, while Paris Saint-Germain FC secures the third spot with 2.1 million views.

When it comes to average post engagement rate, Al-Hilal SFC emerges as the frontrunner with 4%, eclipsing Al-Nassr FC's 3.1%. Following closely are SSC Napoli at 2.5% and CD Guadalajara at 2.2%.