Just checking in.
Many users of Facebook are eager to let you know where they are. In 2012, a lot of Facebook users were checking in at baseball stadiums across the country.
The social media site released its Top 10 "check-in" sites and Top 10 sports topics among users in the United States on Wednesday, in addition to several other national and international Top 10s in 2012. Of the 10 places in the United States with the most check-ins in 2012, seven were major league baseball venues. The NFL's New York Giants were the No. 1 sports topic.
Times Square in New York topped the check-in list and was followed by Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, was the leading baseball site and stood at No. 3 on the list, followed by: Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.; Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas; Boston's Fenway Park; and Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., was eighth overall, followed by Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, and Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
People feel the need to check in at sporting events for two major reasons, according to Tariq Ahmad (@Tariq_Ahmad), the co-founder, with his brother Nabeel (@Nabeeloo), of SportShadow. The site tracks sports-related Facebook and Foursquare check-ins across the college and pro spectrum.
The No. 1 reason is status.
"[Checking in] lets people know that they are at a sports venue to watch a big game, and others are not," Ahmad wrote to Playbook in an e-mail interview Wednesday. He cites the New York Knicks, who averaged an NBA-best 1,220 check-ins per home game last season, according to SportShadow data, as an example. During the "Linsanity" craze last February, Knicks home games averaged more than 1,850 check-ins per home game, a 51.9 percent increase. "With 'Linsanity' being a huge sensation, even more people wanted to let others know they were at Madison Square Garden ... and checking in provided a medium to do so," Ahmad wrote.
The second reason is infrequency.
"People generally attend sporting events less frequently than going to a grocery store or coffee shop," he wrote. "The infrequency of the sporting event check-in leads to higher significance and importance for people, thus they feel the need to share it with everyone in their network."
While baseball stadiums were tops on Facebook's list, Ahmad wrote that NFL stadiums also do well with check-ins, along with certain FBS teams. "The key factor is the stadium size. NFL, MLB, and FBS teams (specifically BCS teams) have larger venues, which naturally will attract more check-ins," wrote Ahmad, who is completing his doctorate in sports management at the University of Northern Colorado, focusing on the intersection between sports and social media.
His 2011 white paper on the subject, which offers much more detail on this topic, can be found here. His research found that fans use Twitter on site after checking in at sporting events four times longer than Facebook (up to 5 minutes versus 21 minutes) and concludes that fans don't get much in terms of rewards by checking in, "but this is changing."
The Super Bowl left its impact on Facebook, as the NFL champion Giants were the No. 1 U.S. sports subject in 2012, followed by the team they beat in Indianapolis last February, the New England Patriots. Facebook users could not get enough of Tim Tebow and Tebow-mania, as the former Broncos’ starter and currently sidelined Jets quarterback was the No. 3 sports topic and top sports figure on the list.
Tebow is active on Facebook and has more than 2 million subscribers to his Facebook page in addition to his 2 million Twitter followers (@TimTebow). Tebow's finish was even more impressive considering he topped the London Summer Olympics -- which finished fourth. The Oklahoma City Thunder, powered no doubt by Kevin Durant's 3.4 million Facebook subscribers and their appearance in the NBA Finals, finished fifth. In a bit of an upset, the NBA champion Miami Heat and LeBron James, despite his more than 12.1 million Facebook likes, didn't make the Top 10 sports topics.
The remaining five are: the Denver Broncos, the San Francisco 49ers,
QBs Eli and Peyton Manning, Jeremy Lin (1 million likes) and, in a bit of a surprise on any Top 10 popularity list, the Los Angeles Clippers -- boosted by Chris Paul and his 1 million likes. The Broncos benefited from the fact that they've had both Tebow and Peyton Manning on their roster in the 2012 calendar year. Tebow led Denver to two playoff games last January before being traded to the Jets in March, while Manning has been Denver's QB for the entire 2012 season.
Facebook compiled its data after taking the pulse of its global community through posts and comments, to see what events, people and things matter the most to its users. The social media site, a Facebook spokesperson said, then "compared what was talked about this year to what was talked about last year and looked at the overall volume of mentions during 2012 to identify the most popular topics, trends and ideas emerging on the site. All posts were aggregated and personally identifiable information was removed from them to conduct this analysis."
Bill Speros is an ESPN.com contributor. He can be reached on Twitter @billsperos or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.