High School Football Recruiting and Twitter Followers: An Unstable Mix for Self-Branding Efforts?

Submitted by Edward (Ted) M. Kian1, Ph.D*, Jimmy Sanderson2, Ph.D*

1* School of Media & Strategic Communication, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma 74078-4053

2* Department of Communication Studies, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina 29634

Edward Kian is an Associate Professor at Oklahoma State University and an Endowed Welch-Bridgewater Chair in Sports Media. Jimmy Sanderson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Clemson University and is Director of the Sports Communication BA Program.

ABSTRACT

This study examined individual branding efforts of marquee high school football prospects in the United States who had verified Twitter accounts. Specifically, this study investigated if top recruits who delayed public announcements of their college choice impacted their number of Twitter followers before and after they selected a specific school on National Signing Day, compared to recruits who committed early to one university long before National Signing Day. Results showed that recruits who may have attempted to increase their notoriety and Twitter followers by waiting to announce college choice are no more successful in doing so than those who commit to one school early. Further, uncommitted recruits generally did not have more followers than those who had been consistently committed to one school before signing day. Most prospects – regardless if they committed to a college long before or on National Signing Day – gained and did not lose Twitter followers over the entire examined period. This could be because sports fans on Twitter generally do not stop following athletes. It could also be that these fans found specific athletes interesting to follow and thus plan to continue doing so.

INTRODUCTION

Social media offers athletes and sport figures numerous advantages, such as being able to connect with fans on a mass level without having to spend much time doing so, as that process often unfolds organically due to the high social profile of sports figures. For athletes, social media enables them to publicly counter content they dislike, or attempt to initially frame negative news in a positive light before mass media coverage on an event (18, 20). Accordingly, athletes from all levels of sport have adopted social media at rapid rates (4). The most popular online medium for prominent athletes to connect with fans is Twitter, which enables individuals to create messages of up to 140 characters that are posted on the public domain and seen regularly by other Twitter users who elected to follow these athletes on Twitter (1, 15). Twitter launched in 2006. By early 2013 there were 500 million registered Twitter accounts, a figure topped only by Facebook among all social media platforms (19).

The advent of social media, and particularly Twitter, has enabled some sport stars to directly connect with more fans than ever before (13). As of August 2014, former basketball superstar and current television broadcaster Shaquille O’Neal had 8.68 million Twitter followers, a figure easily toppled by international soccer sensation Christian Ronaldo’s more than 29 million followers. Some professional athletes have begun using Twitter to help brand their identities, touting products they endorse and praising sponsors, while also directly reaching fans (8, 16). Preliminary research indicates Twitter’s potential as a “marketing resource and communication channel for celebrity athlete product endorsements” (10, p. 161). Twitter helps athletes’ “enhance their personal brands” and “leverage sponsorship opportunities” (13, p. 85).

However, any positives accrued from building brand awareness (i.e., increasing number of followers on Twitter) can easily be undone by inappropriate actions or publishing offensive comments on Twitter, which could cause significant harm to an athlete’s long-term brand identity, potentially costing millions in contracts and endorsement deals. Among the most noticeable sports examples of tweets gone awry were a series of 2011 messages from the official Twitter feed of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, where he criticized Americans celebrating the killing of Osama bin Laden, while also insinuating the U.S. government was involved in carrying out the 9-11 attacks. One sponsor immediately dropped a $1 million endorsement deal with Mendenhall following his tweets and his image as a likeable, soft-spoken athlete playing for one of America’s most iconic professional sport franchises was permanently damaged (5). As Twitter has taken hold amongst athletes, it has trickled down to the amateur ranks. For highly ranked football players, Twitter has become a medium for them to update followers on their recruitment process while also causing angst amongst college football programs, whose compliance staffs frequently tweet out reminders that per National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules, only coaches are authorized to “recruit” student-athletes.

In that vein, exploring social media use by high school athletes is warranted. This study address that by investigating differences between highly-ranked prep football players, and the extent to which the timing of their college announcement influenced their Twitter following.

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

The most passionate college football fans have long followed the recruiting efforts of their favorite universities’ football program. Schools battle other college football programs in the pursuit of high school star players, with all trying to receive national letters of intent from these coveted prospects that then contractually oblige them to attend those respective universities on football scholarships. The rise of the Internet and social media has made following recruiting more commonplace among college sports fans, thanks to the popularity of Internet subscription sites such as those affiliated with networks like Rivals.com, Scout.com, and 247 Sports, all of which focus the majority of their subscriber-based content on college football recruiting (12). All three networks have been purchased by major media conglomerates, highlighted by Yahoo! buying Rivals.com for a reported $100 million in 2007 and Fox Sports acquiring the Scout.com network of sites for a reported $60 million in 2005 (2).

The hundreds of thousands of subscribers to these sites has made many of these coveted high school football prospects household names among fans of the various colleges pursuing them (2). However, some of these players are now communicating directly with fans of those teams, seemingly in attempts to increase their notoriety. Twitter has emerged as the preferred medium to do so for most United States’ top high school football stars in recent years. Over the last several years, many standout high school football recruits began actively tweeting and interacting with fans of various college football programs that are recruiting them, an interactive process that could result in violations of NCAA rules if any of these fans are construed as official representatives of a university. Prior to 2013 National Signing Day, MaxPreps released a list of Twitter handles of their top 100 recruits, with 71 of them having publicly accessible Twitter accounts (21). Some coveted recruits are now announcing their college choices on Twitter, or at least using Twitter to build suspense before revealing their college choice. Theoretically, these recruits could also simultaneously increase their number of followers through revealing hints about their favorite colleges, all before ultimately choosing a school (6).

However, these self-promotional efforts of high school football stars occasionally backfire. Some of these teenagers fail to comprehend that just increasing their brand awareness in the short-term by encouraging more people to follow them on Twitter could hurt their long-term brand identity through missteps while using that medium. This generally results because often people post their initial reactions to comments or issues on Twitter without analyzing how their comments might be interpreted (11). Such outcomes are more likely to cause problems for higher-profile Twitter users, especially younger athletes who have less media training, especially on social media (e.g., athlete could lash out at fans, thus further enflaming the situation).

For example, Davin Bellamy, a defensive end who eventually signed with the University of Georgia in 2013, tweeted out a photo of him and others sitting in front of a bong (paraphernalia used to smoke marijuana) during his official visit to the University of Oregon. He eventually deleted the picture, but not before prominent Internet blogs were able to archive the image, which was heavily publicized on the Web (3). Bellamy repeatedly has since proclaimed he does not use illicit narcotics, but his image will now forever be linked to a photo with a bong.

One highly rated recruit in 2012 had a scholarship offer from the University of Michigan revoked for his posts on Twitter. Yuri Wright used explicit language and lewd overtures in tweets expressing his desire for sex with random women willing to partake in one-night stands (23). Wright had his Twitter account protected, but allowed more than 1,600 requested followers, many of whom were fans of various universities, reporters, and college coaches. Wright’s controversial tweets were screen-saved and published by multiple media outlets, resulting in his eventual expulsion from Don Bosco Prep, a parochial high school in Ramsey, New Jersey that is best known for its prowess in high school football (22).

METHOD

Most of the published research on sport Twitter usage has focused on professional and college athletes (10, 1). The purpose of this study was to examine individual branding efforts of high school football recruits who had active Twitter accounts and were ranked among the top players in the country by Rivals.com in advance of the 2013 National Signing Day. Specifically, this research aims to uncover if recruits who delay publicly announcing their college choice (i.e., building suspense) see significant differences in their number of Twitter followers before and after choosing a college when compared to recruits who commit early to one university but do not publicly waiver after making that choice.

Content analyses have been the primary methodological means used to examine athlete postings on Twitter (8, 17). This study tracked Twitter accounts of two sets of players rated among the top 100 U.S. national high school football recruits by Rivals.com in advance of the 2013 National Signing Day: (a) The 10 highest-rated recruits with Twitter accounts who had not publicly given a non-binding oral commitment to any university; (b) The 10 highest-rated recruits with Twitter accounts who were orally committed to a specific university three weeks before signing day. The number of daily followers and total number of tweets for all athletes from both groups were examined for the periods of three weeks before and after national signing day to see how many Twitter followers they gained/lost over those periods.

Researchers in this study used the app, Twitter Counter (twittercounter.com), to track the amount of followers each recruit had on individual days. As a clarification of how the app works, it takes an average of the number of followers for a single Twitter feed over a course of time instead of a daily count. This was confirmed through the tracking of three personal accounts on the app and comparing it to how many followers each person actually had for a given day. For example, Twitter Counter could say that a person gained two followers over the course of two days when that individual actually gained one on the first day and three on the second. Daily followers for the top 10 committed and uncommitted prospects are shown in Tables 1 and 2.

No hypotheses were formed due to a lack of published research on high school athletes’ Twitter usage, although our assumptions were that (A) uncommitted recruits would see a steady increase in followers before signing day, only to fall afterward, because fans of opposing colleges would stop following them; and (B) that the players who were consistently committed to one school would see little increase or decrease in the weeks before or after national signing day.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

An average growth rate of Twitter followers was determined by calculating the percentage increase from three weeks before signing day (January 16, 2013) to three weeks after signing day (February 27, 2013) for all 20 players. Robert Nkemdiche was the only prospect that Twitter Counter could not provide data for all days. January 27, 2013 was used as the first available date for his count. Chi-squares were calculated on each player from both categories to see if the differences between the expected amount of followers (based on the average rate for all 20 players) and actual amount of Twitter followers were significant. An alpha level of 0.05 was selected to determine statistical significance. Tables 3 and 4 show that 16 of the 20 total players (eight from each category) saw a significant difference in followers over the six-week period.

Contradicting our first assumption, seven of the top 10 uncommitted recruits had a significant increase in followers after signing day compared to before, while only Robert Nkemdiche among the top 10 uncommitted players, had a significant decrease in followers after signing day. In contrast, just five of the long-time committed players had a significant increase in followers after signing day, whereas three committed players actually had a significant lower amount of followers (even though all three still gained followers during this period) compared to the expected average rate of increase after signing day over the six-week

period.

When looking at the raw numbers in Tables 1 and 2, dramatic differences in followers for Robert Nkemdiche and Alex Collins were clearly outliers among all 20 players. Nkemdiche, a defensive end from Georgia rated as the top overall prospect in the country by all major recruiting services, made a non-binding but well-publicized commitment to play for Clemson University in June before his senior year of high school. However, he backed out of that oral commitment in November and then waited to announce his decision to commit to the University of Mississippi on signing day. He had 36,585 followers on February 6th (signing day), but saw his follower count decrease 26% to 27,057 within three weeks. That decrease could have been attributed to lost followers from fans of the University of Florida and Louisiana State University – the other two programs where he made official visits – and/or other universities he publicly expressed interest in, which included Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia. Nkemdiche, who was clearly the most followed recruit of the class of 2013, was an exception more than a trend. The other nine examined recruits who waited until signing day to commit all saw a numerical increase in Twitter followers during the three weeks after the Feb. 6th national signing day.

Alex Collins’ 420% increase in number of followers was more than 6 times higher than any other recruit from either category. The Florida high school running back’s rapid increase in followers coincided with national media attention he garnered after his mother – in front of television cameras – sabotaged his letter-of-intent to sign with the University of Arkansas in hopes he would switch his college choice to the nearby University of Miami (9). Even after the dispute was resolved the next day and she agreed to co-sign his national letter of intent to attend Arkansas, Collins still had his followers increase by 5,260 during the three weeks after national signing day. Due to the extreme sways in their follower counts, Nkemdiche and Collins were removed when computing the average rate of increase for the other 18 players to see if that significantly impacted the remaining players’ number of followers as shown in Tables 5 and 6 below. The average rate of increase was 27% after removing those two players. However, again the chi-square tests showed that 17 of the 20 overall had a significant difference in total number of followers, with two of three exceptions among the list of long-standing committed recruits. Among uncommitted recruits in Table 5, six had their follower rate increase significantly more than the average, whereas the rate of increase for four others was significantly less than the average. After excluding Nkemdiche and Collins from the averages, three committed recruits (i.e., Smith, Fuller, and Tyner) had significantly lower rates of increases than the average, while five other committed recruited had their rates of followers significantly increase compared to the averages as shown in Table 6.

CONCLUSIONS

This was the first known study to examine Twitter usage and potential marketing efforts of high school athletes. Findings showed that high profile football recruits who may have directly or inadvertently attempted to increase their number of Twitter followers by waiting to announce choices are no more successful than those who commit to one school early. It was surprising that uncommitted recruits (i.e., those still publicly considering multiple colleges to sign) did not have more followers than those who had been consistently committed to one school. Even more unexpected was that most prospects did not lose many – if any – followers after signing day. This could be because many fans do not, or are slow to stop following athletes on Twitter, if they stop at all. It could also be that these fans found specific athletes interesting to follow and plan to continue doing so even though those recruits did not select their schools, trends that have been shown to manifest with the personal Twitter feeds of professional athletes who change franchises (14).

However, it should be noted that the two outliers to our findings were unique individual cases. Nkemdiche was one of the highest-rated prep football recruits in recent memory, and one of the only few to earn near consensus among major recruiting services as the nation’s top overall prospect in the 2013 class. Nkemdiche “played the recruiting game,” having been committed to Clemson, reportedly leaning to Alabama for several months, and also publicly expressing interest in the likes of Florida, Georgia, and LSU during the process. By signing day, he had built up substantially more Twitter followers than other examined recruits. Given that he had considered some of the most prominent programs in the country, each with rabid and passionate fanbases, it was not surprising that his number of followers steadily dropped in the weeks after selecting the University of Mississippi, a school with a significantly smaller fanbase than each of the other five universities he publicly considered during his recruitment. Based on revenue premium based brand-equity rankings, Ole Miss ranked No. 13 in the 14-team Southeastern Conference (SEC), with fellow SEC schools and Nkemdiche suitors ranked as follows in the conference: No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Alabama, No. 4 Florida, and No. 6 LSU. Clemson, the other school Nkemdiche considered, ranked No. 1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference through the same criteria (7).

Alex Collins’ signing with Arkansas drew national attention and interest due to the theatrics of his mother during his signing-day press conference, where he planned to sign with Arkansas before she refused to sign his letter of intent and left with the papers (9). This was one of the more bizarre recruiting stories imaginable and the resulting national media attention (e.g., a segment on the incident was featured on the popular ESPN news show SportsCenter) clearly helped increase Collins’ number of followers after signing day through no acts of his own during the recruiting process, but rather through his mother’s actions. However, there were no significant rises or drops in number of Twitter followers before or after signing day for the other 18 examined recruits’ feeds, regardless of their commitment status leading up to signing day.

This study only examined the number of daily followers for each selected athlete and their activity (total number of tweets) for each day leading up to and following national signing day. The frequency and content of athlete tweets, as well as their interaction with fans/followers, were not analyzed. Moreover, examinations or surveys of who actually followed and dropped these recruits were not examined. With the rise in popularity of college football recruiting as a hobby, and in some cases, a passion, among sports fans and the corresponding proliferation of websites predominately covering recruiting, many more studies are needed in this area. With high school athletes becoming more well-known through nationally-televised prep games, all-star contests, and increased coverage from both specialized and mainstream sport media, more studies are needed on how these youngsters interact with fans and followers through social media, such as Twitter. Further, improprieties in such actions are difficult for either universities or especially the NCAA to enforce, which is another area ripe for research.

APPLICATIONS IN SPORT

These results showed that most of the top high school football recruits who waited to verbally commit to a college longer than some of their peers did not increase their number of Twitter followers in doing so. Whereas these examined recruits were so highly coveted that they likely still had scholarship offers from all of their favorite suitors up until signing day, most recruits also risk losing their spots in their favorite teams’ recruiting classes by waiting.

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Table 1
10 Highest-Rated Uncommitted Recruits 3 Weeks Before Signing Day – Daily Twitter Followers

Date Robert Nkemdiche #1Ole Miss Eddie Vander-does #21 Notre Dame Vonn Bell #32Ohio State Alvin Kamara #45 Alabama Priest Willis #56 UCLA Signed 2/9 Dee Liner #61 Alabama Elijah Daniel #107 Auburn Alex Collins #117 Arkansassigned 2/7 Kylie Fitts #121 UCLA Asianti Woulard #141UCLA
Jan. 16 N/A 4,063 3,578 4,290 8,076 4,992 1,130 2,463 1,163 3,375
Jan. 17 N/A 4,106 3,614 4,347 8,166 5,012 1,140 2,499 1,192 3,390
Jan. 18 N/A 4,149 3,650 4,404 8,256 5,032 1,150 2,535 1,221 3,405
Jan. 19 N/A 4,192 3,686 4,461 8,346 5,052 1,160 2,571 1,250 3,420
Jan. 20 N/A 4,235 3,722 4,518 8,436 5,072 1,170 2,607 1,279 3,435
Jan. 21 N/A 4,278 3,758 4,575 8,526 5,092 1,180 2,721 1,308 3,450
Jan. 22 N/A 4,321 3,794 4,632 8,616 5,112 1,190 2,834 1,337 3,465
Jan. 23 N/A 4,364 3,830 4,689 8,706 5,132 1,200 2,947 1,366 3,480
Jan. 24 N/A 4,407 3,866 4,746 8,796 5,152 1,210 3,281 1,395 3,495
Jan. 25 N/A 4,450 3,902 4,803 8,886 5,172 1,220 3,610 1,424 3,510
Jan. 26 N/A 4,493 3,938 4,860 8,976 5,192 1,230 3,939 1,453 3,525
Jan. 27 39,839 4,536 3,974 4,917 9,066 5,212 1,240 4,268 1,482 3,540
Jan. 28 39,519 4,579 4,010 4,974 9,156 5,232 1,250 4,597 1,511 3,555
Jan. 29 39,193 4,622 4,046 5,031 9,246 5,252 1,226 4,926 1,540 3,570
Jan. 30 38,867 4,665 4,082 5,088 9,336 5,272 1,230 5,255 1,569 3,585
Jan. 31 38,541 4,708 4,118 5,145 9,426 5,305 1,234 5,584 1,598 3,600
Feb. 1 38,215 4,751 4,154 5,202 9,516 5,329 1,238 5,913 1,627 3,615
Feb. 2 37,889 4,794 4,190 5,259 9,606 5,353 1,242 6,242 1,656 3,630
Feb. 3 37,563 4,837 4,226 5,316 9,696 5,377 1,246 6,571 1,685 3,645
Feb. 4 37,237 4,880 4,262 5,373 9,786 5,401 1,250 6,900 1,714 3,660
Feb. 5 36,911 4,923 4,298 5,430 9,876 5,425 1,254 7,229 1,743 3,675
NSDFeb. 6 36,585 4,966 4,334 5,487 9,966 5,449 1,258 7,558 1,772 3,690
Feb. 7 36,259 5,009 4,370 5,544 10,056 5,473 1,262 7,887 1,801 3,705
Feb. 8 35,933 5,052 4,406 5,601 10,146 5,497 1,266 8,216 1,830 3,720
Feb. 9 35,607 5,095 4,442 5,658 10,236 5,521 1,270 8,545 1,859 3,735
Feb. 10 35,821 5,138 4,478 5,715 10,326 5,545 1,274 8,874 1,888 3,750
Feb. 11 34,955 5,181 4,514 5,772 10,416 5,569 1,278 9,203 1,917 3,765
Feb. 12 34,358 5,224 4,550 5,829 10,506 5,593 1,282 9,532 1,914 3,780
Feb. 13 33,763 5,267 4,586 5,886 10,596 5,617 1,286 9,861 1,908 3,795
Feb. 14 33,168 5,310 4,622 5,877 10,686 5,641 1,290 10,190 1,902 3,810
Feb. 15 32,573 5,353 4,658 5,867 10,776 5,665 1,294 10,519 1,896 3,825
Feb. 16 31,978 5,396 4,694 5,857 10,866 5,689 1,298 10,848 1,890 3,840
Feb. 17 31,383 5,439 4,730 5,847 10,956 5,713 1,302 11,177 1,884 3,855
Feb. 18 30,788 5,482 4,766 5,837 11,046 5,737 1,306 11,506 1,878 3,870
Feb. 19 30,193 5,525 4,802 5,827 11,136 5,761 1,310 11,835 1,872 3,885
Feb. 20 29,598 5,568 4,838 5,817 11,226 5,785 1,314 12,164 1,866 3,900
Feb. 21 29,903 5,611 4,874 5,807 11,316 5,809 1,318 12,493 1,860 3,915
Feb. 22 28,408 5,654 4,910 5,797 11,406 5,833 1,322 12,822 1,854 3,930
Feb. 23 27,813 5,697 4,946 5,787 11,496 5,857 1,326 12,814 1,848 3,945
Feb. 24 27,218 5,740 4,982 5,777 11,586 5,881 1,330 12,815 1,842 3,960
Feb. 25 27,200 5,783 5,018 5,767 11,676 5,905 1,334 12,816 1,836 3,975
Feb. 26 27,128 5,826 5,054 5,757 11,766 5,929 1,338 12,817 1,830 3,990
Feb. 27 27,057 5,869 5,090 5,747 11,856 5,953 1,342 12,818 1,824 4,005
Date Robert Nkemdiche #1Ole Miss Eddie Vander-does #21 Notre Dame Vonn Bell #32Ohio State Alvin Kamara #45 Alabama Priest Willis #56 UCLA Signed 2/9 Dee Liner #61 Alabama Elijah Daniel #107 Auburn Alex Collins #117 Arkansassigned 2/7 Kylie Fitts #121 UCLA Asianti Woulard #141UCLA
Jan. 16 N/A 4,063 3,578 4,290 8,076 4,992 1,130 2,463 1,163 3,375
Jan. 17 N/A 4,106 3,614 4,347 8,166 5,012 1,140 2,499 1,192 3,390
Jan. 18 N/A 4,149 3,650 4,404 8,256 5,032 1,150 2,535 1,221 3,405
Jan. 19 N/A 4,192 3,686 4,461 8,346 5,052 1,160 2,571 1,250 3,420
Jan. 20 N/A 4,235 3,722 4,518 8,436 5,072 1,170 2,607 1,279 3,435
Jan. 21 N/A 4,278 3,758 4,575 8,526 5,092 1,180 2,721 1,308 3,450
Jan. 22 N/A 4,321 3,794 4,632 8,616 5,112 1,190 2,834 1,337 3,465
Jan. 23 N/A 4,364 3,830 4,689 8,706 5,132 1,200 2,947 1,366 3,480
Jan. 24 N/A 4,407 3,866 4,746 8,796 5,152 1,210 3,281 1,395 3,495
Jan. 25 N/A 4,450 3,902 4,803 8,886 5,172 1,220 3,610 1,424 3,510
Jan. 26 N/A 4,493 3,938 4,860 8,976 5,192 1,230 3,939 1,453 3,525
Jan. 27 39,839 4,536 3,974 4,917 9,066 5,212 1,240 4,268 1,482 3,540
Jan. 28 39,519 4,579 4,010 4,974 9,156 5,232 1,250 4,597 1,511 3,555
Jan. 29 39,193 4,622 4,046 5,031 9,246 5,252 1,226 4,926 1,540 3,570
Jan. 30 38,867 4,665 4,082 5,088 9,336 5,272 1,230 5,255 1,569 3,585
Jan. 31 38,541 4,708 4,118 5,145 9,426 5,305 1,234 5,584 1,598 3,600
Feb. 1 38,215 4,751 4,154 5,202 9,516 5,329 1,238 5,913 1,627 3,615
Feb. 2 37,889 4,794 4,190 5,259 9,606 5,353 1,242 6,242 1,656 3,630
Feb. 3 37,563 4,837 4,226 5,316 9,696 5,377 1,246 6,571 1,685 3,645
Feb. 4 37,237 4,880 4,262 5,373 9,786 5,401 1,250 6,900 1,714 3,660
Feb. 5 36,911 4,923 4,298 5,430 9,876 5,425 1,254 7,229 1,743 3,675
NSDFeb. 6 36,585 4,966 4,334 5,487 9,966 5,449 1,258 7,558 1,772 3,690
Feb. 7 36,259 5,009 4,370 5,544 10,056 5,473 1,262 7,887 1,801 3,705
Feb. 8 35,933 5,052 4,406 5,601 10,146 5,497 1,266 8,216 1,830 3,720
Feb. 9 35,607 5,095 4,442 5,658 10,236 5,521 1,270 8,545 1,859 3,735
Feb. 10 35,821 5,138 4,478 5,715 10,326 5,545 1,274 8,874 1,888 3,750
Feb. 11 34,955 5,181 4,514 5,772 10,416 5,569 1,278 9,203 1,917 3,765
Feb. 12 34,358 5,224 4,550 5,829 10,506 5,593 1,282 9,532 1,914 3,780
Feb. 13 33,763 5,267 4,586 5,886 10,596 5,617 1,286 9,861 1,908 3,795
Feb. 14 33,168 5,310 4,622 5,877 10,686 5,641 1,290 10,190 1,902 3,810
Feb. 15 32,573 5,353 4,658 5,867 10,776 5,665 1,294 10,519 1,896 3,825
Feb. 16 31,978 5,396 4,694 5,857 10,866 5,689 1,298 10,848 1,890 3,840
Feb. 17 31,383 5,439 4,730 5,847 10,956 5,713 1,302 11,177 1,884 3,855
Feb. 18 30,788 5,482 4,766 5,837 11,046 5,737 1,306 11,506 1,878 3,870
Feb. 19 30,193 5,525 4,802 5,827 11,136 5,761 1,310 11,835 1,872 3,885
Feb. 20 29,598 5,568 4,838 5,817 11,226 5,785 1,314 12,164 1,866 3,900
Feb. 21 29,903 5,611 4,874 5,807 11,316 5,809 1,318 12,493 1,860 3,915
Feb. 22 28,408 5,654 4,910 5,797 11,406 5,833 1,322 12,822 1,854 3,930
Feb. 23 27,813 5,697 4,946 5,787 11,496 5,857 1,326 12,814 1,848 3,945
Feb. 24 27,218 5,740 4,982 5,777 11,586 5,881 1,330 12,815 1,842 3,960
Feb. 25 27,200 5,783 5,018 5,767 11,676 5,905 1,334 12,816 1,836 3,975
Feb. 26 27,128 5,826 5,054 5,757 11,766 5,929 1,338 12,817 1,830 3,990
Feb. 27 27,057 5,869 5,090 5,747 11,856 5,953 1,342 12,818 1,824 4,005

Table 2
10 Highest-Rated Committed Recruits 3 Weeks Before Signing Day – Daily Twitter Followers

Date Vernon Hargrea-ves III #2 Florida Jaylon Smith # 3 Notre Dame Laquon Treadw-ell #5 Ole Miss Kenny Bigelow #6 USC Max Browne #7 USC Kendall Fuller #9 Virginia Tech Su’a Cravens #12 USC O.J. Howard #16 Alabama Thomas Tyner #17 Oregon Tre’Davi-ous White #18 LSU
Jan. 16 4,426 7,982 11,628 1,492 2,875 3,621 2,900 3,821 7,781 1,320
Jan. 17 4,465 8,004 11,723 1,503 2,894 3,627 2,912 3,881 7,805 1,327
Jan. 18 4,504 8,026 11,818 1,514 2,913 3,633 2,924 3,941 7,829 1,334
Jan. 19 4,543 8,048 11,913 1,525 2,932 3,639 2,936 4,001 7,853 1,341
Jan. 20 4,582 8,070 12,008 1,536 2,951 3,645 2,948 4,061 7,877 1,348
Jan. 21 4,621 8,092 12,103 1,547 2,970 3,651 2,960 4,121 7,901 1,355
Jan. 22 4,660 8,114 12,198 1,558 2,989 3,657 2,972 4,181 7,925 1,362
Jan. 23 4,699 8,136 12,293 1,569 3,008 3,663 2,984 4,241 7,949 1,369
Jan. 24 4,738 8,158 12,332 1,580 3,027 3,669 2,996 4,301 7,973 1,376
Jan. 25 4,777 8,180 12,359 1,591 3,046 3,675 3,008 4,361 7,997 1,383
Jan. 26 4,816 8,202 12,386 1,602 3,065 3,681 3,020 4,421 8,021 1,390
Jan. 27 4,855 8,224 12,413 1,613 3,084 3,687 3,032 4,481 8,045 1,397
Jan. 28 4,894 8,246 12,440 1,624 3,103 3,693 3,044 4,541 8,069 1,404
Jan. 29 4,933 8,268 12,467 1,635 3,122 3,699 3,056 4,601 8,093 1,411
Jan. 30 4,972 8,290 12,494 1,646 3,141 3,705 3,068 4,661 8,117 1,418
Jan. 31 5,011 8,312 12,521 1,657 3,160 3,711 3,080 4,721 8,141 1,425
Feb. 1 5,050 8,334 12,548 1,668 3,179 3,717 3,092 4,771 8,165 1,432
Feb. 2 5,089 8,356 12,575 1,679 3,198 3,723 3,104 4,831 8,189 1,439
Feb. 3 5,128 8,378 12,602 1,690 3,217 3,729 3,116 4,891 8,213 1,446
Feb. 4 5,167 8,400 12,629 1,701 3,236 3,735 3,128 4,951 8,237 1,453
Feb. 5 5,206 8,422 12,656 1,712 3,255 3,741 3,140 5,011 8,261 1,460
NSDFeb. 6 5,205 8,444 12,683 1,723 3,274 3,747 3,152 5,071 8,285 1,467
Feb. 7 5,245 8,466 12,710 1,734 3,293 3,753 3,164 5,131 8,309 1,474
Feb. 8 5,284 8,488 12,737 1,745 3,312 3,759 3,176 5,191 8,333 1,481
Feb. 9 5,323 8,510 12,764 1,756 3,331 3,765 3,188 5,251 8,357 1,488
Feb. 10 5,362 8,532 12,791 1,767 3,350 3,771 3,200 5,311 8,381 1,495
Feb. 11 5,401 8,554 12,818 1,778 3,369 3,777 3,212 5,371 8,405 1,502
Feb. 12 5,440 8,576 12,845 1,789 3,388 3,783 3,224 5,431 8,429 1,509
Feb. 13 5,479 8,598 12,872 1,800 3,407 3,789 3,236 5,491 8,453 1,516
Feb. 14 5,518 8,620 12,899 1,811 3,426 3,795 3,248 5,551 8,477 1,523
Feb. 15 5,557 8,642 12,926 1,822 3,445 3,801 3,260 5,611 8,501 1,530
Feb. 16 5,596 8,664 12,953 1,833 3,464 3,807 3,272 5,671 8,525 1,537
Feb. 17 5,635 8,686 12,980 1,844 3,483 3,813 3,284 5,731 8,549 1,544
Feb. 18 5,674 8,708 13,007 1,855 3,502 3,819 3,296 5,791 8,573 1,551
Feb. 19 5,713 8,730 13,034 1,866 3,521 3,825 3,308 5,851 8,597 1,558
Feb. 20 5,752 8,752 13,061 1,877 3,540 3,831 3,320 5,911 8,621 1,565
Feb. 21 5,791 8,774 13,088 1,888 3,559 3,837 3,332 5,971 8,645 1,572
Feb. 22 5,830 8,796 13,115 1,899 3,578 3,843 3,344 6,031 8,669 1,579
Feb. 23 5,869 8,818 13,142 1,910 3,597 3,849 3,356 6,091 8,693 1,586
Feb. 24 5,908 8,840 13,169 1,921 3,616 3,855 3,368 6,151 8,717 1,593
Feb. 25 5,947 8,862 13,196 1,932 3,635 3,861 3,380 6,211 8,741 1,600
Feb. 26 5,986 8,884 13,223 1,943 3,654 3,867 3,392 6,271 8,730 1,607
Feb. 27 6,025 8,906 13,250 1,954 3,673 3,873 3,404 6,331 8,727 1,614

Table 3
Rate of Increase of Twitter Followers Before vs. After Signing Day for Top 10 Uncommitted Recruits

Name/Rank/School Jan. 16 Feb. 27 % Increase Jan. 16 Expected Difference Chi-squ. Sig. <.05
Robert Nkemdiche #1 Ole Miss 39,839 27,057 -32% 39,839 45,940 -18,883 0.0000 *
Eddie Vanderdoes #21 Notre Dame 4,063 5,869 44% 4,063 4,685 1,184 0.0000 *
Vonn Bell # 32 Ohio State 3,578 5,090 42% 3,578 4,126 964 0.0000 *
Alvin Kamara #45 Alabama 4,290 5,747 34% 4,290 4,947 800 0.0000 *
Priest Willis # 56 UCLA 8,076 11,856 47% 8,076 9,313 2,543 0.0000 *
Dee Liner #61 Alabama 4,992 5,953 19% 4,992 5,757 196 0.0096 *
Elijah Daniel #107 Auburn 1,130 1,342 19% 1,130 1,303 39 0.2807
Alex Collins #117 Arkansas 2,463 12,818 420% 2,463 2,840 9,978 0.0000 *
Kyle Fitts #121 UCLA 1,163 1,824 57% 1,163 1,341 483 0.0000 *
Asianti Woulard#141 UCLA 3,375 4,005 19% 3,375 3,892 113 0.0698

Table 4
Rate of Increase of Twitter Followers Before vs. After Signing Day for Top 10 Committed Recruits

Name/Rank/School/Commitment Date Jan. 16 Feb. 27 % Increase Jan. 16 Expected Difference Chi-squ. Sig. <.05
Vernon Hargreaves III #2 Florida 7/26/12 3,375 4,005 19% 3,375 3,892 113 0.0698
Jaylon Smith #3 Notre Dame 6/2/12 4,426 6,025 36% 4,426 5,104 921 0.0000 *
Laquon Treadwell #5 Ole Miss 1/17/13 7,982 8,906 12% 7,982 9,204 -298 0.0019 *
Kenny Bigelow #6 USC 11/30/11 11,628 13,250 14% 11,628 13,409 -159 0.1701
Max Browne #7USC 4/4/12 1,492 1,954 31% 1,492 1,721 233 0.0000 *
Kendall Fuller #9 Virginia Tech 7/29/12 2,875 3,673 28% 2,875 3,315 358 0.0000 *
Su’a Cravens #12 USC 6/6/12 3,621 3,873 7% 3,621 4,176 -303 0.0000 *
O.J. Howard #16 Alabama 7/18/2011 2,900 3,404 17% 2,900 3,344 60 0.3006
Thomas Tyner #17 Oregon 10/18/12 3,821 6,331 66% 3,821 4,406 1,925 0.0000 *
Tre’Davious White #18 LSU 2/4/12 7,781 8,727 12% 7,781 8,973 -246 0.0095 *

Table 5
Rate of Increase of Twitter Followers Before vs. After Signing Day for Top 10 Uncommitted Recruits (Excluding Differences of Robert Nkemdiche and Alex Collins in Average For All 20 Recruits)

Name/Rank/School Jan. 16 Feb. 27 % Increase Jan. 16 Expected Difference Chi-squ. Sig. <.05
Robert Nkemdiche #1 Ole Miss ** 39,839 27,057 -32% 39,839 50,459 -23,402 0.0000 *
Eddie Vanderdoes #21 Notre Dame 4,063 5,869 44% 4,063 5,146 723 0.0000 *
Vonn Bell # 32 Ohio State 3,578 5,090 42% 3,578 4,532 558 0.0000 *
Alvin Kamara #45 Alabama 4,290 5,747 34% 4,290 5,434 313 0.0000 *
Priest Willis # 56 UCLA 8,076 11,856 47% 8,076 10,229 1,627 0.0000 *
Dee Liner #61 Alabama 4,992 5,953 19% 4,992 6,323 -370 0.0000 *
Elijah Daniel #107 Auburn 1,130 1,342 19% 1,130 1,431 -89 0.0183 *
Alex Collins #117 Arkansas 2,463 12,818 420% 2,463 3,120 9,698 0.0000 *
Kyle Fitts #121 UCLA 1,163 1,824 57% 1,163 1,473 351 0.0000 *
Asianti Woulard#141 UCLA 3,375 4,005 19% 3,375 4,275 -270 0.0000 *

Table 6

Rate of Increase of Twitter Followers Before vs. After Signing Day for Top 10 Committed Recruits (Excluding Differences of Robert Nkemdiche and Alex Collins in Average For All 20 Recruits)

Name/Rank/School/Commitment Date Jan. 16 Feb. 27 % Increase Jan. 16 Expected Difference Chi-squ. Sig. <.05
Vernon Hargreaves III #2 Florida 7/26/12 4,426 6,025 36% 4,426 5,104 921 0.0000 *
Jaylon Smith #3 Notre Dame 6/2/12 7,982 8,906 12% 7,982 9,204 -298 0.0019 *
Laquon Treadwell #5 Ole Miss 1/17/13 11,628 13,250 14% 11,628 13,409 -159 0.1701
Kenny Bigelow #6 USC 11/30/11 1,492 1,954 31% 1,492 1,721 233 0.0000 *
Max Browne #7USC 4/4/12 2,875 3,673 28% 2,875 3,315 358 0.0000 *
Kendall Fuller #9 Virginia Tech 7/29/12 3,621 3,873 7% 3,621 4,176 -303 0.0000 *
Su’a Cravens #12 USC 6/6/12 2,900 3,404 17% 2,900 3,344 60 0.3006
O.J. Howard #16 Alabama 7/18/2011 3,821 6,331 66% 3,821 4,406 1,925 0.0000 *
Thomas Tyner #17 Oregon 10/18/12 7,781 8,727 12% 7,781 8,973 -246 0.0095 *
Tre’Davious White #18 LSU 2/4/12 1,320 1,614 22% 1,320 1,522 92 0.0186 *
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