The Olympics and Social Media

By Sarah Lokitis | Aug 13, 2012
More Articles by Sarah


London Olympic Games 2012U-S-A! U-S-A! The U.S. swam, jumped, ran, dived, flipped, skip hop jumped, and volleyed away with the most overall medals in the 2012 Olympics in London, England. But now that the Olympics wrapped up last night, I don’t know what I’m supposed to watch tonight! (Actually, I plan on watching Shark Week!!)

The best I can do is reflect on how the games went in terms of social media as this was the world’s largest social media sporting event. It was a “conversational” Olympic games, according to Forbes.com. Guidelines were made and broken. Social media growth for athletes and fans was recorded and tracked.

The International Olympic Committee set up IOC Social Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelines (Guidelines) for participants and other accredited persons at the London Olympic Games that encourage the use of social media, but with limits to how social media may be used. The social media used could not be for commercial or advertising purposes and must be in first person in a non-journalist style. The athletes could not comment on competition or include audio/images from events at the Olympics Venues. It was great to see how much social media engagement occurred and how the athletes were able to grow their fan bases as they competed and won medals. You probably agree with me, though, that tape delay and social sharing did negatively impact several events as the outcomes were already publicized, but overall it was amazing to see how much social use occurred during these games. 

Social Media Wins

  1. Social media mentions for athletes like Usain Bolt was phenomenal. During week 2, Bolt captured the most social media mentions, according to Radian 6, as he captured gold in the 100m and 200m races. Twitter and Facebook followers for the star athletes grew exponentially, as well, generating buzz for the athletes and Olympics in general.
  2. Instagram took off during the Olympics, providing glimpses into behind the scenes activities, as well as tourists sharing their experience in London.  More than 650,000 photos were posted with the #olympics hashtag and 27,000 photos were shared with the hashtag, #michaelphelps.

Social Media Fails

  1. Rule #40 – Due to restrictions in the Guidelines, athletes were not allowed to thank their sponsors – the companies that made it possible for most Olympians to get to the Olympics. Several Olympians families declared bankruptcy before the Olympics, including Gabby Douglas and Ryan Lochte, and this was a much disputed Guidelines issue. Check out #Rule40 and #WeDemandChange  to see more about the protest of the gag order. Is restricting product promotion in social media a violation of free speech?
  2. Inappropriate Use of Social Media – Michel Morganella and Voula Papachristou were both kicked off their national teams due to insensitive comments posted to Twitter.  Aly Raisman deleted a tweet about going out and partying with the U.S. men’s gymnastics team and instead wrote something about going to bed early. These Olympians need to know they are in the public eye and have to be mature about what is said on social media.

How did social media affect your experience watching the 2012 Olympics? Did you tweet often and share articles online? I’d love to hear about your experience and what you think was done successfully or could be improved for the next Olympic games in 2014. Comment below or find me on Twitter @Lokitis.

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