The World Collaborates – Social Media at the Olympics

August 8, 2012, by nparker in Collaboration

With collaboration becoming more and more social, we will be looking at the effect of social media on society, culture, and group dynamics. What better way than to start with the 2012 Olympics in London, a social media hot spot.

NBC’s coverage of the Olympics includes tape-delayed broadcasts of live events that are available in real-time to fans around the world via NBC’s live video streaming service and various social media web sites. It would seem that in the age of up-to-the-minute news and sports coverage, NBC may suffer a decline in TV viewers of the games.

Actually, social media’s influence may be helping the network earn higher ratings. Social media adds to the hype of Olympic competitions, drawing viewers in and giving them a forum to discuss and comment on the performances they have seen; the energy of enthusiastic sports fans is moving from the stadium to web sites.

The organizer of the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), recognizes the place social media now has at the Olympic games, and condones its (appropriate) use by athletes. The IOC encourages athletes and other accredited personnel to “take part in ‘social media’ and to post, blog and tweet their experiences,” according to its published guidelines. Facebook created a page for athletes to communicate with their fans called Explore London 2012. Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Instagram all have Olympic themes as well.

Social media allows fans to get into more detail of the games than the networks can provide. Users share stories, pictures, and videos. Sarah Hughes, an American figure skater and 2002 Olympic gold medalist, is attending the games in London this year. Ms. Hughes, who has a following of thousands on her blog and social media web sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, is chronicling her experience at the games. She gave IVCi a first-hand account of the influence that social media is having at the Olympics this year.

“Many athletes competing in London have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, which is letting them have a more direct connection to fans and supporters. Athletes are posting personal pictures and sending real-time updates, sometimes even from the warm-up area right before their competition. Social media has added a whole new dimension to the Olympic experience, making the games even more exciting,” said Ms. Hughes.

For example, those interested in gymnastics can follow USA Gymnastics on Twitter and receive updates on competitions, access instantaneous analysis by sports reporters, and read athletes’ commentaries. In addition to having her own web site, Gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is featured on several YouTube channels, has a Facebook page fans can ‘like’ and uses a Twitter account to communicate with fans.

We are just beginning to see the impact social media has on the Olympics and other major sporting events. Athletes like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Roger Federer all have major followings online. The Olympics is setting a powerful precedent: when it comes to sporting events, let the social media games begin.

Photo courtesy of www.icenetwork.com

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