Study: Which NRL Team Is Winning The Social Media Game?

Study: Which NRL Team Is Winning The Social Media Game?

The fierce on-field competition of the State of Origin is well-known, but a new report from social media analytics platform Social Status reveals that, fuelled by healthy competition, NRL teams are boosting their presence online just as much as they are on-field.

Gabriella Hooper
Posted by Gabriella Hooper

Social Status has once again dug deep into a new industry report to develop comparative social media industry benchmarks, this time honing in on NRL – identifying a direct correlation between on the field versus off-field performance for the St George Dragons, Melbourne Storm, Cronulla Sharks and Penrith Panthers.

In the lead-up to the deciding State of Origin game, footy-frenzied fans are interacting with their favourite teams’ social channels, causing their engagement rates to skyrocket. On the local front, teams such as the Dragons have used successful social content to maintain a consistently high level of engagement.

According to the research, the highest engaged post across all teams in the NRL during the first four rounds of the season was from the St George-Illawarra Dragons (@NRLDragons), beating more than 1,400 other posts with a huge engagement rate of 8.44 per cent, 14,000 interactions and more than 381,000 video views.

Tim Hill, co-founder of Social Status, advised that the team’s social success has been achieved by the frequent use of Facebook Live and video posts.

Tim Hill

Tim Hill

“Video in general works really well in terms of generating increased reach and engagement. Not only is video high performing organically but, in most cases, it’s a lower cost from a paid perspective,” he said.

“Facebook Live is a fantastic way to engage audiences because it’s a relatively new media type, and Facebook will send notifications to fans if they’ve opted in.

“One post in particular, featuring the boys ‘singing it loud and proud’ after smashing the Penrith Panthers, went ballistic. Fans like to feel like they’re with the team every step of the way, which is why the Dragons achieved an 8.44 per cent engagement rate on this post, which is many times higher than the industry average.”

In an in-depth analysis, Social Status compared some of the top ten NRL teams – St George Dragons, Melbourne Storm, Cronulla Sharks and the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, among others – and identified ‘consistent themes’. The most successful posts championed captains and the best-liked team members.

“The Dragons features Gareth Widdop a lot, drawing upon his charisma and personality,” Hill said.

“The Storm, similarly, features Cameron Smith. However, the Sea Eagles – who came last of all the teams we analysed – lacked video content, had frequent group shots and didn’t hero specific personalities.”

Hill believes it’s imperative that sport teams jump on the social bandwagon.

“When the NRL talks about its goals for the future, they say they want more people playing the game, more people watching the game and more people going to the game,” he said.

“Social media, especially Facebook, is the best way to reach mainstream Australian audiences. More than 17 million Aussies use Facebook every month. There is really no other media channel with this kind of reach that allows you to target audiences with so much precision.”

In the lead-up to the final State of Origin game for this year, Hill believes that the Queensland Maroons have the edge based on current comparative social performance, and has offered the NSW Blues five tips to boost their engagement.

  1. It’s all about the players. The more time you can get with players in front of the camera, the more successful your content will be. This is true across all sports codes.
  2. Celebrate the wins. Fans and followers love to share their team’s victories so posting content right after a game related to the win will encourage sharing and, in turn, viral reach.
  3. Track content pillar performance. Content that works for one team on social may not work for another, so its important to continually test content pillars and optimise for what your audience cares about.
  4. Reach your audiences on social. Most teams have member lists or subscribed email addresses. These emails can be uploaded as custom audiences to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube or as tailored audiences on Twitter. In terms of ad targeting, this functionality is one of the most powerful.
  5. Don’t forget about growing your community. Engagement is great, but if you can acquire fans or followers at low cost, this will generally mean your fan base will cost less to reach and engage into the future.