Twitter wins gold at the first social media Olympics, says Mark R Lyberger from Kent State University
Date: 16 August 2012 10:23
One does not have to look far to find the plethora of interactive exchanges that empowered and inspired people surrounding the 2012 Olympic Games. Consumers and corporate engagement in these rising forums, that afforded instantaneous interaction, surpassed numerous predictions produced by algorithms and industry analysts, helping the International Olympic Committee proclaim the 2012 London Olympic Games, as “the first social media Olympics”.
The 16 days of competition delivered memorable headlines allowing consumers, media and corporations alike to harness the power of social media. This social Olympomania left behind images of grandeur and austerity while showing compelling images that promoted the feel-good story of the Games. Whether it be Usain “Lightning” Bolt’s 200-meter sprint victory inspiring a flurry of more that 80,000 Tweets per minute, or the illustrated dedication of Volunteer Lady on YouTube, social media extended the spheres of marketing influence, providing tools that enabled, created, shared and promoted consumer exchanges at a variety of levels.
One look at the 2012 Olympics in London revealed the continued emergence of an interactive web strategy promoting the age-old activity of “chatting” as well as an interactive exchange across nations. The 2012 forum was a conduit that afforded consumers to interact and exchange dialogue with the likes of the most decorated Olympian ever, Michael Phelps (USA) one minute and then share in the triumph of the successes of Katie Taylor (Ireland), the first-ever female gold medal winning boxer, the next. However, the social buzz was not just affiliated with the athletic performances, the spectacles of the opening and closing ceremonies generated more chatter than the sporting events themselves.
If one were asked to identify who the gold medal winner of the social media category of the world’s largest sporting extravaganza were, it would not be the IOC, nor the country affiliated NOC’s, it would not be London, NBC or BBC, it would be the up-and-coming, and relative new comer, who at the time of the Beijing Olympics was hardly two years old, Twitter. Twitter represented 97 per cent of all online mentions of the opening ceremony. As Reuters highlighted, the platform provided consumers of the 2012 London Games with the highs, lows and everything in-between, all chronicled in 140 characters or less. Bolt (Jamaica) , Phelps (USA), Daley (GB), Lochte (USA), and Douglas (USA) were among the most talked-about athletes on Twitter recording more than one million mentions while the Facebook line-up was slightly different with Bolt and Phelps remaining at the top followed by Douglas, Lochte and Daley. The Bolt “forum” also ranked as the first, second and the fourth most talked-about events, while Andy Murray’s victor over Roger Federer in the men’s tennis was third overall.
In their relatively short life spans, items such as Facebook and Twitter have infiltrated consumers' lives as important, if not indispensable, tools for communication. Engagement not only extends brand support but also provides consumers with the opportunity to have real-time interaction enabling the procurement of exclusive content and an aforementioned sense of belonging. Traditional media is all about reach, and while reach can be achieved in large numbers, traditional platforms do not allow for the instantaneous exchange of dialogue.
The London Olympics provided an array of viral exchanges. NBC and BBC reported that over two-thirds of their Olympic IP video streams were utilised on mobile and tablet devises. Google’s themed “doodles” and “London Hub” included interactive transmedia platforms that engaged consumers. In addition, transactional, inbound and outbound media strategies were seen on an array of media outlets including YouTube, NBC and BBC. In fact, BBC utilised semantic web technologies to further promote the exchange of conversation between athletes and consumers instilling content that interacted with their broadcast. The expansions of these viral encounters were virtually everywhere. Numerous global brands used the likes of infographics to portray, illustrate, and grow social media exchanges. In addition, there was a staggering number of photos and ideas shared across platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. Collectively, these exchanges provide opportunities for consumers to engage in meaningful discussions to achieve a common objective, an objective that often further exploits brand interactions.
PROs are challenged to decide how best to tap into these communities to cultivate awareness of their brands, products or services. More importantly, are the challenges of identifying and defining resources to help leverage awareness of the brands and convert it into tangible business results. Whether the intent is to promote or disseminate information about brands, products, services, events, personalities or issues, this social Olympomania has become a forum that engenders a radically new way of soliciting consumer interaction. While social media provides opportunity, at the same time, it presents a threat to the regulatory control, symbolic transparency, and delivery of its broadcast model that the IOC and respective NOC’s must tackle to ensure image of the Olympic brand.
Mark R Lyberger gave a talk about sport and social media platforms at the 5th International Sport Business Symposium hosted by Birkbeck College, University of London in early August.
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