Why Aren’t More Athletes Making Better Use of Facebook Public Profiles?

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shaqsleepingShaquille O’Neal has been making waves with his prolific use of Twitter in recent months. In fact, Shaq has Tweeted 42 times in just the last 24 hours, including posting this photo of himself in bed at 5am this morning. Today, Shaq has over 500,000 followers on Twitter, making him the 8th most followed account on Twitter, according to Twitterholic.

Why isn’t Shaq doing the same thing on Facebook? With over 56 million Americans active on Facebook each month, an active community of sports application developers, and recently redesigned Facebook public profiles, one might guess that top US athletes would be making better use of Facebook to build their brand and grow their fan base.

However, according to PageData, few American athletes (with the exception of Michael Phelps) are taking advantage of the opportunity. The most popular athlete pages on Facebook are predominantly international figures:

Facebook Page Leaderboard – Athletes
Name Fans↓
1. Cristiano Ronaldo 2,806,593
2. Michael Phelps 2,046,294
3. Usain Bolt 1,043,925
4. Roger Federer 908,238
5. Zidane 843,374
6. Lionel Messi 739,743
7. Rafael Nadal 730,783
8. Ricardo Kaka 643,342
9. Arda Turan 578,134
10. Fernando Torres – El Niño 533,439
11. Diego Armando Maradona Best Soccer Player Ever 464,122
12. David Beckham 23 462,213
13. Oronzo Canà 354,163
14. Fernando Gonzalez 317,799
15. The Rock 302,656
16. Zlatan Ibrahimovic 302,425
17. Usain Bolt !!!!!!! 100m World Record Holder !!!!!! 289,040
18. Francesco Totti 267,383
19. Steven Gerrard: world class 258,932
20. Oronzo Canà 249,086

Many of these pages are not even managed by the athletes themselves – but simply by passionate fans.

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How has Phelps become so popular on Facebook? Quite simply, he started early and capitalized on his incredible performance in Beijing by frequently updating fans with announcements on his life and appearances.

However, recently, Phelps has not been updating his Facebook profile as frequently. Phelps has only posted one status update in the last month, and he’s now only gaining about 1,000 fans per week.

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By contrast, American cyclist Lance Armstrong has recently started updating his Facebook public profile many times per day, updating fans about his recent injury and day to day life. And it’s showing in terms of growth of his fan base:

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In fact, according to PageData, Armstrong now has the 5th fastest growing Facebook athlete page this week, growing by over 30% in the last 7 days alone:

Top Gainers This Week – Athletes
Name Fans Gain↓ Gain, %
1. Roberto Baggio 109,766 +98,159 +845.69
2. 姚明 Yao Ming 213,518 +77,353 +56.81
3. Cristiano Ronaldo 2,806,593 +29,357 +1.06
4. Kenny Powers of Eastbound & Down 172,555 +16,357 +10.47
5. Lance Armstrong 65,007 +15,223 +30.58
6. Edin Dzeko 20,190 +13,465 +200.22
7. Ryan Allen Sheckler 176,414 +9,951 +5.98
8. Lionel Messi 739,743 +8,156 +1.11
9. Zidane 843,374 +7,927 +0.95
10. David Beckham 23 462,213 +7,828 +1.72
11. Ricardo Kaka 643,342 +7,255 +1.14
12. Fernando Torres – El Niño 533,439 +5,697 +1.08
13. Roger Federer 908,238 +5,473 +0.61
14. Arda Turan 578,134 +5,358 +0.94
15. The Rock 302,656 +4,833 +1.62
16. LeBron James ! 33,308 +4,662 +16.27
17. Steven Gerrard: world class 258,932 +4,176 +1.64
18. Zlatan Ibrahimovic 302,425 +3,731 +1.25
19. Shawn Johnson 152,627 +3,674 +2.47
20. Rafael Nadal 730,783 +3,571 +0.49

Armstrong is showing that investing in your Facebook public profile and sharing information with fans – even just 1 or 2 status updates a day – can make a big impact in growing your fan base on Facebook. It’s an example more athletes should follow. Imagine the possibilities if more athletes followed Lance’s and Shaq’s lead.

While college athletes may want to consult their athletic department about best practices and NCAA rules, there’s no reason top pro athletes around the world shouldn’t be building their brand inside Facebook.

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