After signing Lionel Messi, PSG gained some 3 million Instagram followers in a day, not 23 million

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Multiple posts shared across social media claim that star player Lionel Messi’s move to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) saw the football club gain about 23 million followers on Instagram in the span of a day. This is false; while the historic football transfer has significantly boosted the page’s follower count, the figure being shared on social media is vastly overstated.

A Facebook post by a popular Nigerian news site claimed the club gained more than 23 million followers in less than 24 hours. 

“Less than 24 hours after Messi got signed to PSG, the club's followers on Instagram went from 19 million to 42 million,” the post reads, describing this as “The G.O.A.T EFFECT!”. Messi is referred to by fans as the “Greatest of All Time” (G.O.A.T).

A screenshot taken on August 12, 2021 showing the false post

Similar posts reporting overexaggerated Instagram counts have been reported by newspapers, blogs and social media accounts across the world. We archived some of those here, here, here, and here

From Barcelona to PSG

Football superstar Messi left Barcelona Football Club after two decades to join PSG in the second week of August. At PSG, Messi will be reunited with former Barcelona teammate and Brazilian forward Neymar Junior. 

Messi, who was in tears during his farewell speech in Spain, told a news conference in Paris that he was “extremely happy” to join PSG. 

His move has led to a number of misleading and false claims, some of which AFP Fact Check has debunked here and here

What the data shows

Using data from social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle, AFP Fact Check found that PSG’s official Instagram account had gained some 3 million new followers in the 24 hours following Messi’s signature on August 10, 2021 -- a far cry from 23 million. 

From his signature to the date of publication of this article -- August 13, 2021 -- the club gained about 7.13 million followers, bringing its total to 45.93 million.

A CrowdTangle screenshot taken on August 13, 2021, showing PSG’s Instagram growth from August 6 to August 13, 2021.

CrowdTangle is a tool made available to researchers by Facebook (which owns Instagram). Other social monitoring tools that are free and open to the public, like IGBlade, show similar results.

A screenshot showing PSG’s Instagram growth after Messi’s signing

The biggest growth spurt since Messi’s signature occurred on August 10 and 11, 2021, with a combined 5.6 million new followers.