With more than 1 million supporters (now up to 1,401,473), Obama has had more “Fans” than any person on Facebook for months. Last Friday, though, after an array of stunning, record-breaking gold-medal performances, Phelps surged past Obama and every other celebrity on Facebook. By the time this article is printed, he will probably break the 1.5 million mark. Of the athletes most highly regarded on Facebook, Phelps fits in, as the most popular athletes on Facebook tend to dominate non-traditional or international sports.
As of 8/26/2008, here are the top five by number of Facebook “fans”:
1. Michael Phelps (swimming)– 1,461,805
2. Shawn Johnson (gymnastics) – 343,356
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (soccer) – 192,363
4. Rafael Nadal (tennis)– 183, 865
5. Roger Federer (tennis)– 144,179
And Phelps’ “Fan” base is continuing to grow at 20,000 or more fans every day, double the pace of Obama’s, even in the middle of the Democratic National Convention. With more than 7,000 friend requests it looks like Facebook has removed the option of asking to be Phelps’ friend. In an interview with NBC’s Bob Costas, Phelps said with regret, “I just can’t accept any more.” And it’s not limited to the Internet; The Associated Press reported that Phelps has received 4,000-5,000 text messages to his Blackberry.
Facebook helped out Michael Phelps newfound “Fan” dominance by placing this message at the top of its newsfeed – “Congratulations to Michael Phelps and all of the U.S. Athletes.” Phelps name, near the top of every member’s homepage for several days, was a link to his fan page.
Phelps’ fans have also left more than 82,000 messages of awe and admiration on his Wall. The comments invariably include the word “amazing” or “awesome” and many of the comments seem focused on Phelps’ English Bulldog, Herman.
“hey. good job you know like… swimming and stuff…. i like your dog.”
“Hey omg I absolutely love you ♥ Your amazing.”
“Mike, you’re a LEAN-MEAN-SWIMMING-MACHINE!!”
“the french couldn’t even “smash” you in their dreams!”
Based on Phelps’ showing on Facebook, it’s no surprise that Phelps merited the most mentions of any athlete over all major social media sources in August, with 19,626 mentions or 35% of all top athletes tracked, according to a Dow Jones Insight Survey. Coming in second place was Jamaican sprinter Usain “Lightning” Bolt who received 13,349 mentions or 24% across all major social media sources.
It’s also interesting to note the negative effect that Phelps had on traffic to Facebook applications. According to Ian Swanson, co-founder and CEO of Sometrics, a company that tracks 9,000 applications created by 1,400 developers, on nights when Phelps competed there was a drop of 30-35% in both unique users and impressions across Facebook applications. The only other events to produce a similar drop were the men’s and women’s team gymnastics competition. Most other events, like Track and Field, caused only minor decreases in traffic. According to Swanson, the only other event which has ever caused such a large drop was the 2008 Super Bowl.
Noticing a slightly different trend, Socialmedia.com, who delivers advertising within over 5,000 social applications, reaching more than 35 million unique users per month, noticed that during the last week of the Olympics the percentage of impressions delivered shifted toward earlier in the day as compared with July. According to Eddie Smith , VP of Marketing, there may be other variables at play, but it was almost as if people knew they would be busy later that night watching the Olympics, so a higher percentage were online in the morning and afternoon, reducing night time traffic.
Even now that the Olympics have ended, it seems that Phelps mania continues unabated. And until Herman, the English Bulldog, gets a his own Facebook Page, I’m not sure who can remove Phelps from his Facebook throne.