Social Media

Crowning the most social sports teams in the US

Major League Baseball mascots get together for a photo at Fenway Park in Boston.
Source: Boston Red Sox

It's hard to remember a time when Twitter wasn't as ubiquitous as it is today. Yet a little over eight years ago, the revolutionary service didn't exist. There were no viral photos, no hashtags in TV commercials and you didn't live-tweet during the Super Bowl.

As people flock to the second screen, media organizations and sports teams of all sizes are forced to take the platform seriously. In fact, all 122 major professional sports teams in the U.S. have a presence on Twitter.

That wasn't always the case.

Back in January 2007, as Twitter was approached its first birthday, the Sacramento Kings became the first U.S. sports team to hop on the microblog. It took almost five more years for the last team from the four major professional sports, the Arizona Cardinals, to join.

Together with insights firm Mashwork and data whiz Bairet Bazemore, CNBC dove into the world of sports on Twitter to learn which leagues and teams are the champions of social media. The infographic below, courtesy of Mashwork, details the platform's earliest adopters, most influential and socially active accounts, and the teams in the loser's circle.

In our analysis of the 122 teams, we looked at when a team joined Twitter, how many times it has tweeted, how many accounts it follows, how many followers it has, how high or low its Klout score is, how much in-season discussion a team drives and more.

Interestingly, we learned that only six teams have more than one million followers, just two (sorry, NHL fans) have a Klout score—a ranking from 1 to 100 that determines how influential an account is—under 80, and a baseball team on the West Coast sports the highest Klout score at 99.

Here's a front row seat to our takeaways in the form of an infographic; you can dive even deeper in the list below.

10 Big Takeaways:

1. The Sacramento Kings (January 2007) were the first professional sports team in the U.S. to join Twitter, beating the Arizona Cardinals (October 2011) by nearly five years.

2. The Columbus Blue Jackets tweet 31.1 times a day, the most of any U.S. sports team, while fans of the Cincinnati Bengals hear from the team the least at just 5.2 times a day.

3. The average amount of tweets sent per day by the NHL (15.74) is considerably higher than the league averages for the NBA (11.86), MLB (10.62) and the NFL (10.54).

4. NHL and NBA teams are tied with the lowest average Klout score (90) of the four leagues, trailing MLB (93) and the NFL (94).

5. The NBA and NHL have a combined 17 teams with Klout scores under 90. The NFL has none and the MLB only has one (the Marlins).

6. Teams in the NBA have a combined 19.2 million followers, leading the NFL (12.5 million), MLB (9.7 million) and the NHL (8.3 million).

7. Teams in MLB, although playing 162 games a season, have tweeted less times (567,000) than the NFL (611,000), NBA (709,000) or NHL (887,355).

8. Just six teams in the four major professional U.S. sports have more than a million followers on Twitter: the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic and New York Yankees.

9. The Lakers have the most followers (3.5 million) of any U.S. sports team, while the Arizona Cardinals have just 95,000 Twitter followers, the least of any sports team.

10. The Miami Heat follow the most accounts (161,000). No other team follows more than 30,000 accounts.

Major League Baseball:

11. The Oakland Athletics were early Twitter adopters, joining the social network on January 27, 2009, before any other MLB team. The Rockies signed up on June 24, 2010, the last MLB team to do so.

12. The Seattle Mariners tweet 25.8 times a day, the most of any team in Major League Baseball.

13. The Los Angeles Angels tweet the least of any MLB team, sending a mere 5.9 tweets per day. Interestingly, the Dodgers have the highest Klout score (99) of all 122 teams.

14. MLB teams, on average, joined Twitter later than teams in the other three leagues.

15. MLB teams tweet the least of any league, but have the second highest average Klout score among the four sports.

16. 28 of 30 MLB teams were able to grab Twitter handles consisting of the team name without city or state attached to it (e.g. @Yankees over @NewYorkYankees). The two teams sporting more than a team name in their handle are the Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) and San Francisco Giants (@sfgiants).

17. The Baltimore Orioles follow 34 accounts, the least of any MLB team, while the Arizona Diamondsback follow a league-leading 5,016 accounts.

18. The Chicago Cubs were the 28th winningest team in MLB over the last five years, but are the 11th most followed team.

National Basketball Association:

19. The Sacramento Kings not only joined Twitter before every NBA team, but it beat out the 121 major professional sports teams, too. The Kings signed up on January 19, 2007, less than a year after Twitter launched and more than two and a half years before the Toronto Raptors became the last NBA team to join on September 11, 2009.

20. The Brooklyn Nets tweet 26.7 times a day, the most of any team in the NBA, while the Cleveland Cavaliers tweet the least of any NBA team, posting just 5.7 tweets per day.

21. Why do teams in the NBA have more followers than other leagues'? It could be due to NBA teams following a combined 262,000 accounts, while the other three leagues all follow less than 100,000 accounts. #TeamFollowBack members may have given NBA teams a follow bump.

22. The Boston Celtics follow an NBA-low 111 accounts.

23. On average, NBA teams (67 active months) jumped on Twitter before teams in other leagues: MLB (59), the NFL (60) and NHL (63).

National Football League:

24. The San Diego Chargers were the second professional sports team to join Twitter, signing up on January 27, 2007. The Chargers were beaten by the Sacramento Kings eight days earlier.

25. The Arizona Cardinals are currently using a Twitter account that was activated on October 11, 2011, the latest join-date of any sports team. That means the Kings had a five year head start on the Cardinals.

26. The Cardinals have just 95,000 Twitter followers, the least of any sports team.

27. Baltimore Ravens tweet 18.6 times a day, the most of any team in the NFL.

28. The Cincinnati Bengals tweet the least of any NFL team, sharing only 5.2 tweets per day.

29. Though the NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing, and MLB is well into its season, the NFL still has the highest Klout score of all the leagues, possibly speaking to football's enormous popularity.

30. NFL teams are consistently the most engaged; all teams have a Klout score of 90 or above.

31. The San Diego Chargers follow nearly 30,000 accounts, the second most of any sports team, while Green Bay Packers follow a league-low 40 accounts.

National Hockey League:

32. The first NHL team to join Twitter was the Chicago Blackhawks on April 23, 2008. The last? The Winnipeg Jets on May 31, 2011, which was the same day NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that the Atlanta Thrashers would relocate to Winnipeg.

33. The Columbus Blue Jackets tweet 31.1 times a day, the most of any of the 122 major professional sports teams. No other major professional sports team in the U.S. tweets more than 30 times per day.

34. The St. Louis Blues share just seven tweets a day, the least of any NHL team.

35. On average in all leagues, NHL teams send the most tweets per day and sport the lowest Klout score.

36. The Blue Jackets and Caroline Hurricanes have arguably the two worst Twitter accounts of all major pro teams, both with Klout scores in the 70s. While the Blue Jackets tweet 31.1 times a day, the Hurricanes post just 7.6 times.

37. NHL teams sure love to tweet: six of the top 10 U.S. teams that tweet the most are in the NHL.

38. The Maple Leafs follow 25,181 accounts, the most of any NHL team, while the Boston Bruins, at 32, follow the least amount of profiles of any major sports team.