This is how Alex Ferguson's retirement made the internet explode

People all over the globe were talking about Fergie’s exit. This is how far the story reached.

Image: SimplyZesty

Reproduced with permission from Simply Zesty

YESTERDAY MORNING, ALEX Ferguson announced his retirement from Manchester United, and social media imploded. Every now and then, a story like this will dominate the digital airwaves and this was no exception. With social media, and Twitter in particular, lending itself so closely to sport, fans were busy reacting to and discussing the story all day.

With 1.5 million likes coming from all of the club’s Facebook updates that day and the #thankyousiralex hashtag being used over 400,000 times yesterday, it was a highly significant moment for many sports fans. We’ve gathered stats to analyse what happened in a day across Facebook & Twitter, tracking social activity from the time the story broke to midnight on Wednesday.

The First Hour

With a story like this, the first hour is absolutely crucial and we soon saw some astonishing stats flying in on Twitter. According to Twitter Sports, there were over 1.4 million mentions of the story within the first hour, and over 25,000 retweets from the official tweet from @ManUtd_PO (Man Utd Press Office).

The story also dominated Twitter trends in Britain, taking eight out of 10 of the top trends in the hour following the story breaking. (We’ve given the hourly breakdown for this below).

The Day’s Activity

We tracked the story from the time it broke up until midnight on 8 May to see how it grew and gather reactions from the rest of the world. Here’s what happened.

Facebook Interaction

To track the story throughout the day, we logged the number of shares, likes and comments the original post from the Manchester United Facebook Page got from fans. As you can see from the graphs below, the post saw a huge amount of interaction with likes surpassing the 200,000 mark and the post being shared almost 46,000 times.

Further posts capitalised upon this news, but what was particularly interesting – and rather savvy of the Manchester United marketing team – was the inclusion of an app allowing fans to personally thank Sir Ferguson for his work. Not only is it a smart way to connect with fans abroad, but it also gives the team a significant amount of data to work with when planning future campaigns.

Since the link went up yesterday morning, it has been clicked on a total of 161,155 times that day according to data from Of these clicks, 92,632 came from Facebook while 65,039 came from direct referrals (email, IM, apps, etc.). Twitter only accounted for 2,479 of these clicks showing that Facebook is the best platform to use when promoting a cause.

Geographically, it was pretty evenly spread out with the UK accounting for 15% of all clicks. After that it was a gradual drop to 6% for the United States and 5% for Indonesia and Thailand.

Twitter Followers & Facebook Fans

We wanted to see if all the buzz around the story would have an impact on Man Utd’s Twitter account. Though the club itself doesn’t have a Twitter account, the@ManUtd_PO‘s follower count grew steadily throughout the day. Having 147,020 at noon, this number grew to 166,028 by the end of the day, an increase of 19,008 in one day

Similarly, we wanted to track the impact the story had on Man Utd’s official Facebook page likes. Already boasting over 32 million fans before the story even broke, their work wasn’t exactly cut out for them, but it did increase from 33,303,685 to 33,324,500, an increase of 20,815.

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Retweets & Global Trends

Retweets on the offical post continued to climb upwards as the day progressed. After an initial 25,000 retweets, we tracked new retweets on the original tweet from 2pm.

Considering that Manchester United is very much a global name, it was no surprise that the news trended in different regions around the world. While there were numerous hashtags honouring the man, the main one was Man Utd’s own #thankyousiralex. While a significant proportion of that traffic came from the UK and Ireland, the hashtag trended in some far-reaching places across the globe, highlighting the reputations of both the man and the club.

According to data from Trendsmap, while Europe’s reaction was rather lukewarm in comparison, parts of the U.S, and Canada had a more positive response. The top cities trending with the hashtag were located on the east side with New York and Toronto as well as Miami, the latter because the club’s owner Malcom Glazer already has an American Football team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, based in Tampa, Florida.

Moving further down towards South America, the news was trending massively in Mexico City – this was more than likely because one of their players Javier Hernández (or Chicharito as he’s known) is part of the club, famed for his late goals as a substitute. Further down, the topic was trending heavily in Botogá in Colombia.

In other territories, the topic trended significantly in the Middle East as well as the southern part of Africa – mainly Nairobi in Keyna and South Africa in general. In Asia, India saw the most interaction as well as Indonesia and the surrounding countries.

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Quinton O'Reilly

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