The 2012 London games, dubbed the ‘social media Olympics,’ are certainly living up to that title. Finally, fans of the Olympics are able to see the games from their favorite athlete’s perspective, and interact with them as well. There were more tweets during the opening ceremony (roughly 10 million) than during the entire Beijing Olympics, suggesting this Olympics will likely be remembered as much for its social media activity as it will for the events themselves.
Following the Olympics on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter has allowed viewers to participate in the first ever “conversational” games, but like most firsts there are many things future Olympics games and sporting events can learn from the social media blunders these games have experienced.
Sporting events are no longer just a TV experience—Social Media has changed that. Starting your social media plan early gives you a better chance at building a solid online community, and improves your chances of influencing the conversation. Social media marketing is one of the best ways to shape your brand and generate profits. It’s always better to be proactive as supposed to reactive when it comes to your brands online conversation. The IOC launched the “Olympic Athletes Hub”, as a way to gather videos, photos and chats from the Olympic Village, but it seems like this might have been the only social media preparations the IOC made. It is clear that the IOC didn’t understand the different social media platforms and how they have changed the way society communicates. Future Sporting events should work with social media experts, to prepare a robust social strategy, set goals and carryout an effective implementation of the strategy.
Restricting an athlete’s voice isn’t interesting to fans. The moment the IOC set restrictions on social media the Olympics became less interesting. Future events should not ban athletes from using social media to promote personal sponsors. If an organization places restrictions that limit the way it engages with the public eventually the brand itself will become less relevant. These restrictions have also prevented the Olympics from turning their online community into buyers. If Michael Phelps were allowed to talk about his sponsorship with Speedo, you could turn fans of Phelps into fans of Speedo. Cross promote, advertise, and expand the conversation.
The conversation online should flow the same way as it does offline. Let it happen naturally, influence it, don’t restrict it. Listen up NFL, NBA, MLB, and FIFA, the athletes represent the sporting event; trust them to carry out the message.