It is difficult to remember a time when social media apps were not a part of our lives.
Social media has impacted all aspects of our lives since the turn of the century, and more so in the previous decade with the advent of fast internet connectivity. Thus, it should not come as a surprise that platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have assumed a great deal of importance in sports like football.
Apart from the convenience and efficiency provided by these platforms in connecting with the fans, a global reach and popularity on social media can exponentially boost a club's brand and earning potential.
It's not just about the presence on social media. Keeping the fans engaged and expanding their fan-base have become vital for football clubs. Nowadays, every club's official Twitter handle releases line-ups before games, along with half-time and full-time updates.
Many clubs release interviews and training session videos on YouTube, while also keeping up with the trends on Instagram.
So, on that note, let's take a look at the 10 football clubs which boast of the highest social media following.
Note: Only followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as YouTube subscribers, have been considered.
10. Manchester City - 69.2 million
Manchester City's transformation from mid-table nobodies to one of the finest clubs in world football is proof that money can buy success, if not happiness. The club's fortunes changed after the investment in 2008, and the success brought with it an army of fans that now stands 69.2 million strong.
On their official YouTube channel, we can find highlights of their fixtures, as well as documentaries featuring players and managers. One of the most unique offerings is their Inside the City series in partnership with Nissan, which showcases exclusive behind the scenes footage for fans.
Here's how the 69.2 million fans are distributed across their social media -
Facebook - 39.8 million
Twitter - 7.9 million
Instagram - 19.0 million
YouTube - 2.5 million subscribers
9. Arsenal - 72.7 million
Arsenal might be struggling to achieve success on the pitch in recent years, but their rich history still makes them one of the popular clubs in world football.
They still own the distinction of being the only club in the English top-flight to remain undefeated for an entire season and perhaps this legacy is what has kept fans loyal. They have a massive 72.7 million strong fan army on social media.
Here's how the 72.7 million fans are distributed across their social media -
Facebook - 37.6 million
Twitter - 15.8 million
Instagram - 17.5 million
YouTube - 1.8 million subscribers
8. Bayern Munich - 77.16 million
Bayern Munich are a force to be reckoned with in the German Bundesliga, where they are on track to win the league title for a record-extending eighth time in a row this season. Outside Germany, they have found success in the Champions League as well.
They are also one of the eight UEFA affiliated clubs to have won the European treble, a feat they achieved in the 2012-13 campaign.
They have the league's biggest stars in their ranks, as a result, they have attracted a lot of fans online. They have a total of 77.16 million followers as of now, which is more than double Borussia Dortmund, the second most-followed German club online.
Here's how the 77.16 million fans are distributed across their social media -
Facebook - 49.5 million
Twitter - 4.8 million
Instagram - 21.4 million
YouTube - 1.46 million subscribers
7. Paris Saint-Germain - 80.49 million
Like Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain are behemoths in their league, the Ligue 1, but have not proved themselves at the continental level yet. But that does not mean they are not popular.
A significant investment in 2011 propelled them to the top of French top-flight. When they signed some of the top players in Europe, their social media following went through the roof.
In Neymar, they have the world's second most followed player in their ranks. They also have Kylian Mbappe, probably the best young footballer in the world, so it is not shocking to see 80.49 million people following them on social media platforms.
Here's how the 80.49 million fans are distributed across their social media -
Facebook - 41.3 million
Twitter - 7.8 million
Instagram - 29.1 million
YouTube - 2.29 million subscribers
6. Liverpool - 81.68 million
Last year's Champions League winners and this season's favourites for the Premier League title, Liverpool have established themselves as the team to beat in Europe.
A strong squad, a charismatic manager, and a newfound hunger for trophies has seen their social media hit an upward trajectory, with them adding nearly 10 million followers since the new year alone.
Here's how the 81.68 million fans are distributed across their social media -
Facebook - 36.3 million
Twitter - 14.6 million
Instagram - 26.1 million
YouTube - 4.68 million subscribers
5. Chelsea - 86.19 million
Chelsea emerged as a serious contender for the league title in the early 2000s and have not looked back since. They have won the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup since.
Though most of the familiar faces at Stamford Bridge have either retired or been sold off, a new generation of talent that looks quite capable of keeping the club's reputation intact is being brought to the fore by Frank Lampard.
Here's how the 86.19 million fans are distributed across their social media -
Facebook - 48.0 million
Twitter - 14.3 million
Instagram - 22.1 million
YouTube - 1.79 million subscribers
4. Juventus - 92.03 million
Juventus are a traditional powerhouse in Italian football. They have always had some of the biggest talents in Europe in their ranks, but never have they been as popular as they are now.
In the summer of 2018, they announced the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid, and what followed showed the true power of a brand on social media. Within 24 hours of the announcement, 2.2 million new followers were added across their various social media platforms.
Now, they command more than 92 million followers online, though the question remains: will they remain despite the lack of European success?
Here's how the 92.03 million fans are distributed across their social media -
Facebook - 41.4 million
Twitter - 8.0 million
Instagram - 40.0 million
YouTube - 2.63 million subscribers
3. Manchester United - 133.68 million
Manchester United is more than just a team. It is a brand, and the legacy associated with this brand is so huge that despite performances on the pitch being on a gradual decline, they have continued to add social media followers.
They are the league's most-followed team online and one of only three clubs that have crossed the 100 million follower barrier. They seem to have a global appeal, but for how long can they hang on to the past?
Here's how the 133.68 million fans are distributed across their social media -
Facebook - 73.2 million
Twitter - 22.0 million
Instagram - 35.6 million
YouTube - 2.88 million subscribers
2. Barcelona - 232.4 million
There was never a shadow of a doubt who the top two clubs in our list were going to be.
But what is astounding is that when it comes to social media presence, the two titans from La Liga, Barcelona and Real Madrid, have more than 200 million supporters online each, setting the bar too high for others.
Their captain and arguably the greatest player of all time Lionel Messi is a huge factor in their massive fanbase, but they have been graced by some of the best players ever throughout their history. This has helped build their reputation as one of the greatest clubs of all time.
Despite missing out on the top spot, they can take at least take pride in the fact that they have the most subscribers on their YouTube channel among all football clubs.
Here's how the 232.4 million fans are distributed across their social media -
Facebook - 104.0 million
Twitter - 32.6 million
Instagram - 86.4 million
YouTube - 9.4 million subscribers
1. Real Madrid - 239.09 million
Just edging ahead of their arch-rivals, Real Madrid consolidated their position not only as the most popular football club online, but also as the most popular sports franchise in the world. They have just under a quarter of a billion followers.
El Clasico is the biggest single fixture in world sports, which gives us an idea about the global reach of these Spanish giants, and it is easy to understand why. With unparalleled success in UEFA competitions and some of the top talents in their ranks, who wouldn't want to follow them?
Here's how the 239.09 million fans are distributed across their social media -
Facebook - 111.2 million
Twitter - 34.2 million
Instagram - 88.0 million
YouTube - 5.69 million subscribers.