The key bookmakers were very active on social during The Grand National and Cheltenham this year, especially on Facebook where we saw lots of content being delivered. But quantity isn’t everything, and our social media scorecard analysis focusses on how engaging that online content was.

We’ve looked at this kind of engagement before but that was when you could only ‘like’ something on Facebook. This up-to-date snapshot of the marketplace incorporates the ‘Reactions’ that have recently arrived as a feature on Facebook, where users can apply emotions including love, laugh and anger, in their response to posts. We believe this delivers a more nuanced level of engagement.

Paddy Power and Ladbrokes are out on their own

The top two on our scorecard are Paddy Power and Ladbrokes, scoring 62.87 and 61.60 out of 100, respectively. Paddy Power’s strong showing is built on both audience volume and reactions, trumping Bwin by seven points on the latter.

Honing in on the key engagement metrics, we can also see that Ladbrokes are doing well in terms of comments, shares and likes, suggesting their audience is engaged with the content they’re sharing. The high performance in terms of shares also tells us that Ladbrokes’ audience are helping them with content amplification.

These two brands are leading the market by a considerable margin, with third-placed Skybet back on 46.33, closely followed by Bwin on 44.48 and Betfair on 42.30. Bwin, with potentially the largest audience of the three, isn’t getting that much traction from its content, placing fifth for Facebook interactions.

Grand National grabs first place

A layman might expect the Grand National to have much more Facebook activity than the Cheltenham Festival, being the most highly publicised race in the calendar. However, we still found it a slight aberration that it generated so much more reaction, because of how bookmakers usually treat it. The key brands often see the Grand National as generating a lot of so-called ‘Granny Bets’ that don’t lead to an ongoing customer relationship. The Cheltenham Festival, on the other hand, delivers customers with a higher lifetime value, which means bookmakers are keener to promote it.

While we can see that some bookmakers had more success with reactions for the Cheltenham Festival – Unibet, Bet365, Boylesports and Stan James – this was the exception rather than the rule. Cognisant of the kind of customer the Grand National traditionally generates, Stan James didn’t deliver any Grand National content.

Flagship brands such as William Hill, Coral and Paddy Power fared much better in getting engagement with their Grand National content, although this may well be down to brand prominence. Their high street visibility, in additional to their online presence, seems to have persuaded customers that they’re a safe haven not only for their bets, but for their social media interaction around the race.

Brands reaction to reactions

Our analysis also suggests that the addition of the reactions feature to Facebook is having some impact on content. Boylesports, for example, who fared badly on likes and shares, did very well on reactions, particularly for ‘laugh’. A look at their content show that they are delivering material with a humorous slant. We expect bookmaking brands to employ more of this targeting in the future as more and more users adopt reactions rather than just likes as their default click.