Technology: Five tips from Jamie Riddell following the first ‘social media’ OLympics

LONDON 2012 has become the first truly ‘social games’. Over 300 different Team GB athletes (and hundreds more international athletes) have been active on Twitter, engaging with their fans and thanking them in televised interviews.

The official Facebook Fan Page for London 2012 has doubled in fans over two weeks as they share updates and photos from the games.

As the Olympics become a very fond memory, what can businesses learn from this social media success? In this article, I give you five points to consider.

: : 1 Social Media is Instant and Real Time

From the opening ceremony, through each heat, final and medal ceremony, social media has been alight with sharing. How many Facebook photos have you seen with friends visiting the Olympic park? Every second of the games will have been tweeted about, photographed and shared. Team GB’s Gold Medal Facebook updates have been seeing over 100 likes per minute, achieving well over 100,000 likes for an update.


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This instant appeal had caught out NBC, the US Olympic broadcaster. The Television channel decided not to show the opening ceremony live because of the time difference, instead opting to show the full ceremony at Prime Time in the US. The lack of online streaming [of the event] meant the US audience had no means to watch the event live.

Social Media is a global connection and the volume of tweets, pictures and status updates lead to many US complaints about the lack of live video from NBC. They could see ‘chatter’ of an amazing live event but would have to wait hours to see it.

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If you are running any kind of event now, think about facilitating and encouraging the sharing of your event as it happens. Suggesting elements like the use of a Hashtag (like #TeamGB) will help you identify followers of your event.

: : 2 Consumers want to engage with you on social media

The growth in followers for Team GB Athletes, and national teams on Facebook has shown a desire for consumers to get more closely acquainted with these sportsmen and women. In return, the athletes have been thanking their followers during televised interviews.

Most of our companies will never be able to offer the inspiration of an Olympic athlete but we can ensure we mention our audience. If you look at most corporate Twitter accounts, they only follow a handful of people, in contrast to the hundreds or thousands of people that follow them. This can be seen as quite rude, potentially a demonstration that the business does not care about its audience.

If you have a following, no matter how small, make sure you connect with them and reward their following.

: : 3 Brands can be mis-represented

On Twitter, broadcaster Piers Morgan offered to donate �1,000 to charity, every time a Team GB athlete sung on the podium. A supposed Twitter exchange between Piers Morgan and Bradley Wiggins has been widely shared across all social networks. The exchange, whilst amusing turns out to be false. (Google it and I’m sure you will find it.)

This is relevant for brands. In this age of instant sharing brands need to ensure their messages are not being misrepresented. Whilst the alleged exchange was amusing it also could be seen as potential liable for one or both parties. Simple monitoring of company or brand mentions [on social media] will help ensure your company does not get caught out.

: : 4 Sharing is instant, content lasts a lifetime

Long after the tweets die down we will still have the content. When the 2016 Olympics come around, we will not just be watching old videos of 2012, we will be looking at personal pictures on Facebook or Twitter, watching home made videos on YouTube and maybe listening to the Olympic sounds on SoundCloud.

The content you create, or your audience creates for you, can last a long time. Any form of content has a value if managed well. Videos can give you a presence on YouTube, photos a presence on Instagram. Your website will also benefit from content. Google loves a regularly updated site so take the content you have and share it across the channels, updating your site little and often to keep the search engines interested.

Coupling an event with social sharing and content creation will give you much more value than keeping it behind closed doors.

: : 5 Social Media is one part of the communications story

The BBC TV coverage has enabled consumers to watch sports on demand across television, computers and mobile platforms. The Opening Ceremony achieved a TV audience peaking at 26 million. NBC’s Prime Time showing of the Ceremony gained 41 million viewers (potentially proving their point about saving it for prime time). 17 million viewers watched ‘Super Saturday’ on t he BBC. At the same time, the global Twitter audience was delivering 100,000 tweets per minute, peaking with Usain Bolt’s 100 metre final.

So, from a games that will be remembered as the first ‘social media Olympics’ remember that social was only one part of the mix. Your business should not rely on social media alone. Your business can ‘win’ at social media if you are active in social media monitoring mentions, encouraging sharing and engaging with your audience.

: : Jamie Riddell is a commentator on digital trends and a director of Suffolk-based website and app developer V4 Technical.

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