Hi, I’m hoping to post more this season, and also preserve some of the things I share on Twitter and on Reddit here so they don’t disappear in a matter of hours. FYI — All the info I share below can be looked at on Google Drive here. I talk about the Chicago Fire first here, but have some broader MLS discussions later on.
Major League Soccer Hashtag Use
In light of Major League Soccer rolling out official hashtags for 2020 (and the Chicago Fire along with some other teams changing theirs for this season), I wanted to see people’s use of those tags, and how they look stacked up against each other.
The new MLS hashtags:
The old tags (courtesy of Nutmeg News):
There are some other “other” tags included not in this graphic, including #ATLutd for Atlanta United.
I’m using a very basic search tool via Sprinklr to get the 365-day (Feb 24 2019 to Feb 24 2020) volume and “sentiment” analysis on all these tags. First, I want to get one thing out of the way: The conventional opinion that people online are inherently negative. In the case of MLS soccer hashtag use, that is not the case.
“People are more likely to say negative things on social media than positive things.”
This was the opinion put forth by new Chicago Fire Owner in response to fan reaction online to the new badge. From The Athletic:
On social media it has been pretty loud among some people. The negative people tend to be the loudest. If you’re neutral or positive, you’re probably not as vocal so you want to be a little careful to get a complete view and not have a selection bias as researchers would say.
This assumption that people are more negative online (at least in terms of MLS hashtags) is actually wrong. In the last 365 days, I pulled the performance of all the MLS tags (old and new), and found this:
For all instances online of all new and old Major League Soccer hashtags — ~100,000 instances — three-fourths of online opinion were positive. The thought that if “you’re neutral or positive you don’t say anything online,” is demonstrably wrong in this case.
Fire Owner Joe Mansueto is correct about one thing though, people that use the Chicago Fire’s traditional hashtag (#CF97) have not been super positive about the team in the past year.
Of the 131k instances online where an opinion could identified, people using the #CF97 hashtag in the past year were 60% positive and 40% negative. That opinion is considerably more negative when we’re talking about the logo specifically (as I shared on Twitter previously).
If you look at #CFFC, the new tag being rolled out, the new hashtag is 74% positive which is just above the league average across all tags. Bear in mind, use of #CFFC makes up for 6 of every 100 Fire-based hashtag posts in the last year, and has yet to be fully embraced by people that have historically talked about the Chicago Fire online.
Moving on to an interesting question…
Which teams have the most negativity in Major League Soccer?
Especially in the last five years or so, I was pretty sure my home team, the Chicago Fire, were by far the most negative. I was wrong, surprisingly, and you might be surprise too.
Most negative MLS hashtag mentions in the last year, by volume:
In terms of sheer volume, Atlanta United, Montreal Impact and Portland Timber fan bases have had the most negative things to say online using their official MLS hashtags. That said, just looking at “total volume” isn’t a fair conclusion because there are so many people that are fans of those teams.
To get a better read, I went back and looked at the number of followers each MLS team has on Twitter, and then divided their total Twitter followers by the number of negative social mentions to get a ratio of “negative sentiments per Twitter follower (“Neg Sent Relative”).
When we look at what people say negative things using the Major League Soccer hashtags divided by their total Twitter followings, here is your top ten:
So… in relation to how many people follow each MLS account, the Major League Soccer hashtag that is most negative is, by far, the New England Revolution.
Another way to read this weird number is this: In the past year, four negative things have been said about the Rev’s for every ten followers of the Revs Twitter account. (This ratio even beats out Cincinnati, who just fired their coach for using racially insensitive language.)
Which teams have the most positivity in Major League Soccer?
Let’s look on the positive side. By total volume, here are the MLS franchises that had the most positive social mentions in the past year:
LAFC narrowly beats out Atlanta for TOTAL positive mentions since Feb of 2019. In terms of positive social mentions in relation to total Twitter followers:
LAFC wins out. Despite a large social presence, Los Angeles Football Club had more positive social mentions online than any other MLS club.
Another way to read this weird number is this: In the past year, nine positive things were said about LAFC for every ten followers of the LAFC Twitter account. (You’ll see, despite the recent negative news, FC Cincy hashtag conversation is resilient despite the recent developments.
Which Major League Soccer teams get talked about the most?
Removing negative and positive sentiment, which MLS team’s hashtags are simply used the most?
No surprise here (to me at least), Atlanta owns the online chatter trophy, followed by LAFC, and Montreal. That said, Atlanta, Los Angeles, DC, Toronto, New York, and Philadelphia are very large media markets. If we do the same Volume/Twitter audience ratio, here is what I would say have the strongest Major League Soccer social media presence:
It’s New England ftw. Relative to the number of people that follow the Revs on Twitter, The Revs tags get used more often than any other MLS team. Arguably, this would make The Revolutions fan base the “most passionate” or perhaps “most active” online fan base.
Here’s the least-active MLS tags:
In relation to how many people follow these teams on Twitter…
This was maybe the most shocking of the numbers — some of MLS’s biggest teams actually have the least online participation relative to how many people follow them on Twitter. How can this be? The answer is giant (and dare I say artificial) Twitter followings.
Not that the followers are “bots,” but this number accounts for people that may be following an MLS team on Twitter, but they are not actively posting things using team hashtags anywhere online. Atlanta has 1 Million followers, which seems dubious. Based on established MLS teams like Seattle and LA Galaxy that have been around for a decade longer having followings in the 500k range, a million seems… unlikely.
For these “least engaged” teams, the people that follow them online are passive followers, they simply don’t talk about their teams online, even if their following numbers are legitimate.