Social media platforms have become indispensable communication channels for the Olympic movement and international sports federations. The recently-released document “The 2016 Social Media and Olympic Sport Ranking,” assembled by Burson-Marsteller / TSE Consulting, analysed the social media footprint of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its 35 international sports federations. This includes 62 institutional Twitter accounts, 50 Facebook pages, 40 Instagram accounts and 43 YouTube channels, as well as 14 personal Twitter accounts of the heads of international sports federations.

The analysis, conducted in November 2016, shows which sports have the largest social media fan base (football and basketball), as well as those sports which have a small fan base, but enjoy a strong social media presence (judo, archery, triathlon, and table tennis). The analysis also looked at the effectiveness of the social media engagement, in particular which organisations garner the most shares per post. It is hoped that this study can help sports organisations make the most of their social media presence in the future.

How did equestrian fare? The sports’s governing body, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), which has Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and You Tube accounts, as well as its own live-streaming service, was ranked 3rd Most Active International Olympic Organization on Twitter and 10th Most Followed International Olympic Organization on Instagram. For peer followers in all sports, Team Canada was ranked third in the Teams Most Followed by Olympic Organizations on Twitter.

The study also offered a Top Ten list of Social Media Tips for Sports Federations which included “Secure Your Discipline” by registering their sports as their Twitter user name (eg. @Gymnastics and @Wrestling); optimising their bios by adding relevant hashtags to ensure a higher ranking in online searches; using videos, images, and internationally-recognised emojis; accessing live-streaming platforms such as Facebook Live and Periscope for broadcasting live sporting action and running live Q&A sessions with athletes; having Twitter accounts for senior executives; and “social media takeovers” where athletes run the social media accounts for a day or during an event.

This interesting fact was also shared: the Olympic Games were first mentioned on Twitter on December 7, 2006, when social media consultant Kris Krüg (@kk on Twitter) was “talking to the Vancouver Olympic Committee about the internets.” The #Olympic hashtag first appeared a year later in a Twitter discussion about the #Beijing #Olympics.

The entire ranking document can be accessed here.