What is the ‘twitter purge’?

Last week, Twitter announced its effort to “build trust and encourage healthy conversation” by locking accounts that detected sudden changes in account behaviour.

According to Twitter, most regular accounts may have seen their followers fall by “three or four”. We wanted to know how this change has affected some of the biggest accounts in sport.

We’ve analysed the biggest leagues, global rights holders and international federations to see how much of an impact the twitter purge has had on their followers.

Of the sports leagues analysed, NBA teams experienced the largest average percentage decrease in followers (-2.1%) whilst NHL teams saw a follower fall of -1.7%.

Premier League clubs were the hardest hit, with each club losing on average 52k followers. Arsenal and Chelsea lost a massive 222k and 195k followers respectively. However, it was West Ham United that lost the highest proportion of their Twitter followers, with a whopping -8.4% decrease.

The biggest global sports rights holders lost on average 1.2% of their followers. Unsurprisingly, it was the accounts with the most followers that suffered the most. The NBA, NHL and NFL Twitter accounts all had the largest changes, experiencing a decrease somewhere between 2.4% and 2.8%. The NBA and NFL also had the largest absolute changes in followers due to the Twitter purge, losing a significant 775k and 588k respectively.

What does it mean for sports rights holders?

The Twitter purge won’t crush rights holders’, international federations’ or teams’ presence on the platform, and most will have experienced steady a rise in followers since the purge last week.

The occasion draws attention to an important point often ignored when casually analysing social media – engagement rate. As a metric, engagement rate (followers divided by number of engagements) is a far more important metric than number of followers. This is because follower count can consist of, as we’ve seen, a large proportion of fake accounts. Stakeholders should be focused on how many fans are engaging with their sports content, not how many fans are simply listed.

The purge should, therefore, generate a tangible benefit for rights holders. Fewer dormant followers will result in a higher average engagement rate. And this is something they all should be working towards whether twitter steps in to help or not.