— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) July 27, 2012
We are only a few days into the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the hype machine dubbing them the first “Socialympics” has proven to be 100% spot on. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and numerous social games and check-ins are playing what can only be described as an unprecedented role in how the 2012 Olympics are being experienced and absorbed.
Spectators, athletes, and online users from around the world are using everything from laptops, TVs and enormous Live Screenings in parks to mobile phones and tablets. We are interacting with and customizing our 2012 Olympic experience like never before. Vancouver embraced social media, but in a much smaller capacity with a barebones social strategy.
This year’s Olympics will forever be recognized as the year that social media was fully adopted by the games
However, in the years since Vancouver and Beijing, we have seen an explosion of social media engagement and smart phone adoption that is possibly equivalent to the difference in dog versus human years.
We are in the midst of the first “Socialympics.” The cultural discussion taking place at the 2012 Olympics is about how social media should play a role in our event experience and consumption of media. This year’s Olympics will forever be recognized as the year that social media was fully adopted by the games; it represents a shift in norms for how the world will consume and participate in the Olympics henceforth.
Every Olympics has a theme: Greece represented a return to roots and Olympic tradition; Beijing represented the inclusion of a new world leader; Vancouver’s theme was friendship and heritage. Britain 2012 is the year, no matter how restricted, that social media was adopted by the eternal Olympic flame.
There are countless reasons why the 2012 Summer Olympics take social media adoption to levels not seen previously. First and foremost, the Summer Olympics are typically more widely viewed by the international body due to the sports being more pan-inclusive than those of the Winter Olympics—the population participating internationally is quite a bit larger than in Vancouver.
Secondly, Beijing was a gorgeously executed Olympics but media, individual, and athlete censorship was witnessed on a large scale—we saw a suppression of social media.
Thirdly and most importantly, social media usage and connected mobility has erupted since 2008; Facebook has gone from 100 million users (during Beijing) to 900 million today and Twitter has shifted from a mere 6 million users (during Beijing) to 150 million users; and YouTube witnesses approximately 800 million unique visits per month.
social media usage… has erupted since 2008; Facebook has gone from 100 million users… to 900 million today and Twitter has shifted from a mere 6 million users… to 150 million
One can only imagine the content explosion that has emerged with the rise in populations and engagement across these three major platforms as well as the expansive populations on newly developed platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. With the 2012 Olympics and social media campaigns underway, these platforms have exploded like social media supernovas with activity continuously ignited by the sponsors and the athletes themselves.
Athletes, Sponsors, and the Olympic committee have taken to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube since the onset of this international event. Most of the athletes are utilizing Facebook and Twitter to promote events, health, workout regimens, their goals, causes, and Olympic culture – stimulating the minds of thousands of spectators, enthusiasts, and athletes who, for the first time in Olympic history, feel the full-warmth of inclusion that these channels enable. Athletes are the dominant purveyors of the 2012 “Socialympics.”
Take Olympic runner Nick Symmonds, an old classmate of mine, who has embraced all major social media to advocate for his brand, athleticism, and the future of athlete branding and sponsorship causes.
“My brand identity is to treat every day like it’s your last, live life to the fullest.” – Nick Symmonds, in NY Times
Nick like many of the athletes has harnessed the power of social communities for publicity and support as he negotiates his digital identity with them. Similarly, all of the Olympic sponsors and brands at the games are launching grand social media marketing campaigns, emphasizing the symbolic global interconnectedness of the 2012 Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee has also embraced social media with enthusiasm and a comprehensive social/digital campaign with Olympic Games Facebook,London Olympics 2012 Facebook, London 2012 Games,Official YouTube Olympic Channel , Olympic Athlete Hub, numerous other sites, and a social media “Ambassador Training” program for athletes. The above reality does not even include all the athlete handles and digital properties, Google +, Foursquare, Pinterest, Instagram, mobile apps and the spectrum of blogs contributing to this year’s “Socialympics.”
While the International Olympic Committee has embraced social media for the Olympics, they have also censored and restrained it this year with official Olympic social media, blogging and Internet guidelines for athletes, sponsors, spectators, and participants. The guidelines add an interesting twist to the “Socialympics.” The Olympic message this year is that the Olympics will, from now on, include social media as a part of the event’s DNA.
However, the reality seems to be that the Olympics will embrace social media into the event’s DNA if social participants meet guidelines, censor individual expression and authenticity (a central social media tenant) and that engagement does not in any way tarnish the Olympic brand.
The rules and guidelines add an ironic and nearly contradictory element to the 2012 “Socialympics”. In my mind, social platforms represent the ultimate in expressive tools and while branding, personal accountability, (etc.) should be considered and respected, I am unsure if producing guidelines this restricting, that limit speech and usage is the right way to go about it or the right message to convey for the “Socialympics.”
Olympic Social Media Guidelines aside, athletes, individuals, brands, and the international community seem to be taking this idea of the “Socialympics” to never before seen levels. What’s more, the echo chamber allows spectators to appreciate the Olympics in hyper-replay, with social media channels enabling us to see the events instantaneously and often through numerous lenses, permitting an individual to experience the world in a customized and tailored fashion, according to one’s preferences. Individuals have been very active during these games.
However, the 2012 Olympics are embracing social media at its core and that means that the Olympic committee acknowledges that the Olympics are now customized. These Olympics will be guided by your preference, your timeline, your availability, and your passion.
all future international events will have social media and social strategy baked into event DNA
Live Streaming, Tweeting, FaceBooking, Instagraming and more will add a personalized dimension to the events and how we receive news of games. The fact that we can watch any event when we want, or watch these games via numerous applications, on our phones or tablets and share our experience via numerous outlets means we have officially entered a new era in Olympic spectating. The days of organizing your schedule to watch an event are no-more; the days of being limited to viewing the popular sports are no more.
The “Socialympics” are a paradigm shift in how the world will understand, engage, and experience the Olympics henceforth. Because of this year’s “Socialympics,” all future international events will have social media and social strategy baked into event DNA.
I also believe that the International Olympic Committee is underestimating just how much activity will continue to take place across social media platforms during this year’s games. The guidelines document should be massively modified to encourage free global expression, involvement, participation, personal branding, and inclusive engagement. If the Olympic Committee doesn’t rethink the social media guidelines for future events, then the dream of what a “Socialympics” can be will never be realized to its fullest potential. The social media churn taking place at this year’s Olympics is unmatched and beautiful for an international sporting event and our experience is the most customized it has ever been because of it.
These are our Olympics. Imagine what the “Socialympics” four years from now will look like.
How are you embracing and engaging this year’s “Socialympics?” Tell us in the comments section below.