The eyes of the world are on London this summer: the 2012 Olympic Games were, without a doubt, the most social yet. From the lead-up and promotion, all the way through to the execution, social media appears to have permeated every aspect of this gigantic event, and the Games have been nicknamed “The Socialympics”.
Even as recently as the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, social media was not as ubiquitous a part of our lives as it is today. Facebook now has nearly ten times as many members, and the number of tweets sent each minute has increased from 300,000 at the time of the last Games to 400 million today.
The International Olympic Committee has taken full advantage of these platforms to promote the Games, launching a number of official Twitter accounts (@London2012, @Olympics) and an Official Olympics page on Facebook which has garnered over 3.4 million “Likes”, not to mention a central Olympic Hub (hub.olympic.org), from which you can follow your favourite athletes.
Sponsors have made similar efforts, as you will no doubt have seen if you have been near a television or computer screen any time in recent months. Coca-Cola is currently the highest performer as far as engagement goes, beating Adidas, British Airways and Visa in terms of popularity, receptiveness, interaction, network reach and trust.
Individual athletes enjoyed the opportunity to engage with their fans throughout the Games. US hurdler Lola Jones kept her followers up to date on her pre-meet nerves, while middle distance runner Nick Symmonds used digital media to raise his profile and secure sponsorships. For 2012, he auctioned off space on his left shoulder via eBay to a Milwaukee advertising agency, and intends to wear a temporary tattoo of their Twitter handle during every race he runs in this year.
British diver Tom Daley is one athlete to have experienced an unexpected side effect of the “Socialympics”. After narrowly missing out on a medal alongside partner Pete Waterfield in the synchronised 10m diving event, the eighteen year old Olympian received abusive and threatening messages from one of the internet’s most reviled creatures: the Twitter troll.
However, Daley already seems to have a pretty firm grasp on how to use social media to his advantage. He simply retweeted the message to his 580,000 followers and said very little on the matter. The press condemned the culprit, who was promptly placed under arrest and fans of the diving star, ensured the hashtag #TeamDaley became a trending topic in the United Kingdom. Ultimately, the entire incident ended up winning Daley a whole new host of supporters – highlighting the power of a single tweet.
Even the much-anticipated opening ceremony was no exception to the influence of social media; director Danny Boyle dedicated an entire segment of the celebrations to depicting just how much innovations in technology have changed the way people communicate over the years. The spectacle was set to a medley of popular music from the last five decades and culminated in a guest appearance by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web.
Of course, it makes perfect sense that a sporting event which aims to bring the world together is being viewed and shaped using technology whose purpose is ultimately the same. So, were you behind one of the mind-blowing 9.66 million tweets that were posted during the rather long and divisive opening ceremony? Did you help get #TeamDaley trending? Or did you cheer on your favourite athletes from your smartphone or tablet?
If your answer to any of the above is “yes”, then congratulations. You have played a part in something that will go down in the history books: the first fully social media savvy Olympic Games.