Towards understanding a football club's social media network: an exploratory case study of Manchester United



Guzmán EM, Zhang Z & Ahmed W (2021) Towards understanding a football club's social media network: an exploratory case study of Manchester United. Information Discovery and Delivery, 49 (1), pp. 71-83.

Purpose The purpose of this work is to study how different stakeholders of a football club engage with interactions online through Twitter. It analyses the football club’s Twitter network to discover influential actors and the topic of interest in their online communication. Design/methodology/approach The authors analysed the social networks derived from over two million tweets collected during football matches played by Manchester United. The authors applied social network analysis to discover influencers and sub-communities and performed content analysis on the most popular tweets of the prominent influencers. Findings Sub-communities can be formed around current affairs that are irrelevant to football, perhaps due to opportunistic attempts of using the large networks and massive attention during football matches to disseminate information. Furthermore, the popularity of tweets featuring different topics depends on the types of influencers involved. Practical implications The methods can help football clubs develop a deeper understanding of their online social communities. The findings can also inform football clubs on how to optimise their communication strategies by using various influencers. Originality/value Compared to previous research, the authors discovered a wide range of influencers and denser networks characterised by a smaller number of large clusters. Interestingly, this study also found that bots appeared to become influential within the network.

social media; network analysis; Manchester United; football; content analysis

Information Discovery and Delivery: Volume 49, Issue 1

FundersNewcastle University
Publication date18/02/2021
Publication date online23/01/2021
Date accepted by journal19/11/2020

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Dr Wasim Ahmed
Dr Wasim Ahmed

Senior Lecturer in Digital Business, Management, Work and Organisation