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

Shaquille 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 Ronaldo2,806,593
2.Michael Phelps2,046,294
3.Usain Bolt1,043,925
4.Roger Federer908,238
6.Lionel Messi739,743
7.Rafael Nadal730,783
8.Ricardo Kaka643,342
9.Arda Turan578,134
10.Fernando Torres – El Niño533,439
11.Diego Armando Maradona Best Soccer Player Ever464,122
12.David Beckham 23462,213
13.Oronzo Canà354,163
14.Fernando Gonzalez317,799
15.The Rock302,656
16.Zlatan Ibrahimovic302,425
17.Usain Bolt !!!!!!! 100m World Record Holder !!!!!!289,040
18.Francesco Totti267,383
19.Steven Gerrard: world class258,932
20.Oronzo Canà249,086

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

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.

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:

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 Baggio109,766+98,159+845.69
2.姚明 Yao Ming213,518+77,353+56.81
3.Cristiano Ronaldo2,806,593+29,357+1.06
4.Kenny Powers of Eastbound & Down172,555+16,357+10.47
5.Lance Armstrong65,007+15,223+30.58
6.Edin Dzeko20,190+13,465+200.22
7.Ryan Allen Sheckler176,414+9,951+5.98
8.Lionel Messi739,743+8,156+1.11
10.David Beckham 23462,213+7,828+1.72
11.Ricardo Kaka643,342+7,255+1.14
12.Fernando Torres – El Niño533,439+5,697+1.08
13.Roger Federer908,238+5,473+0.61
14.Arda Turan578,134+5,358+0.94
15.The Rock302,656+4,833+1.62
16.LeBron James !33,308+4,662+16.27
17.Steven Gerrard: world class258,932+4,176+1.64
18.Zlatan Ibrahimovic302,425+3,731+1.25
19.Shawn Johnson152,627+3,674+2.47
20.Rafael Nadal730,783+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.