If the NBC Olympics coverage has been the loser of the 2012 Olympics, social media has taken home the gold.
Virtually no one in the world can deny the relevance of social media in our current generation. With the increased reliance on websites like Twitter in our modern age, the everyday individual has become accustomed to habitually checking their Twitter timeline. That means social media has become such a mainstay that the mere existence of time zone “tape delay” virtually ruined the thrill for many of the most exciting events because results were known hours before.
As the world continues to evolve into the digital age, social media has become a story in and of itself. The Olympics act as the world’s biggest stage for sporting events and certainly have no exemption from this social media presence.
One article on Forbes.com suggests that this is the first “conversational” Olympic games, hinting that the online presence is simply “further connecting the world during the seventeen day span.”
Websites like Facebook and Twitter can help the Olympic brand gain the international following that it is hoping for, and Twitter acts as king for many of the events in 2012. While Vancouver only saw Twitter receive around 50 million tweets a day in 2010, this year, Twitter is receiving around 400 million. An estimated 15 million of those are regularly checking #London2012.
“Social media platforms can effectively shape the brand and generate profit when incorporated into your communications strategy as a collaborative marketing tool,” writes Adriana Lopez. “It’s not just about broadcasting, but also fostering that conversation that’s happening online.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has even made an attempt to embrace the technology as they launched the Olympic Athletes’ Hub that featured tools like the “Top Followed Athletes” on social media and the latest updates from the Olympic Games on Facebook and Twitter.
Athletes are essentially required to either embrace the technology of the age or get lost in the shuffle of the rest that are. As the individual begins to fall in line with the way that social media connects our world, so too will fans of the Olympic games.
SocialTimes.com captured the mood of the influence of the athlete by highlighting the significance of individual athletes in the “Social Media Games” of 2012. They use Kred and BlueFin Labs as their two resources.
Kred creates an influence score out of 1000 based on “tweets that use the hashtags #london2012 or #olympics in tandem with an @name. It then awards points in real time to both the person posting the tweet and the person mentioned in the tweet.”
Last night, when Gabrielle Douglas won the Gold Medal, earning Twitter praise from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Dominique Dawes, Shawn Johnson and Nicki Minaj.
And athletes like Phelps don't even need to say much once they're online. It's simply their presence alone that causes the influence.
"Last prelim swim tonight... 2 big ones tonight... Nap time now..." writes Phelps.
Social media company PeopleBroswr has created a rating system out of a thousand using Kred as their resource to test influence. In this article on Mashable.com, LeBron James is the overall leader with a near-perfect score of 999.
Behind him is Kevin Durant (992), Hope Solo (977), Phelps (977), Lochte (975) and gymnast Jordyn Wieber (937).
According to the Blue Fin Labs Blog, Phelps is again the leader on social media as his 2.1 million social media comments have earned him 31.5 percent of all buzz for non-team sport athletes.
Following Phelps is diver Tom Daley with 2.0 million comments (29.1 percent), Lochte with 1.1 million comments (16.4 percent) and Wieber with 305,000 comments (4.5 percent).
The blog goes on to say that the top commented sports online in order are swimming, diving, gymnastics, soccer and basketball.
Due to the existence of social media, the brand of athletes like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Michael Phelps, Hope Solo, Ryan Lochte, Jordyn Wieber and Gabrielle Douglas absolutely skyrockets. They are given a new, viable form of communication that connects them with the fans at home and over seas.
But the social media platform isn’t helping every athlete.
Greek runner Voula Papachristou and Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella were both kicked off of their national teams due to insensitive comments posted to Twitter during the games.
Of course, it’s not just athletes who have been punished for their comments about the Olympic events.
According to this article in USA Today, Twitter user @Rileyy_69 was arrested around 2:00 AM for his negative comments to diver Tom Daley on Twitter. He later tweeted that he was in custody to “sort this” out and that he “will be back.” But the damage had been done.
"After giving it my all you get idiot's (sic) sending me this,” wrote Daley on his Twitter after reading the insensitive comments by the user.
This is not the only instance of online controversy for social media in the Olympic games. The most notable story of all comes from a set of social media restrictions that athletes must comply with based on the guidance of the IOC.
According to the Rule 40 Guidelines of the United States Olympic Council (USOC), athletes are essentially prohibited from posting anything related to their personal sponsors if those sponsors are not Olympic sponsors as well. This means that athletes can openly tweet about Adidas, McDonalds, Coca Cola and BMW but not Nike, Red Bull, Gatorade or other products that often sponsor athletes.
More so, it silences the valuable voices of the athletes and demeans them to the standards of whatever the USOC wishes.
This caused a movement from athletes worldwide in protest via social media, with most protests coming from the US track and field team. They used the hash tag #WeDemandChange to express their concerns at their denial of a voice.
Sprinter Lauryn Williams has been a positive voice via blogging to explain her concerns.
“This means that during the time period when we have the biggest platform to be heard we can not even thank those who have helped us the last four years by providing resources for us to reach our goals,” writes Williams. “It also reduces an athlete's value to any sponsor outside the scope of the IOC or USOC, making it difficult for most athletes to secure personal sponsorship and make a living.”
Regardless of whether or not the restrictions will last until the next Olympic Games or not, there is clearly a role that social media will be playing for the upcoming Games in the winter and the next Games in Brazil. The fact of the matter is that this is a medium here to stay; the importance of it in our society is undeniable.
The IOC may try to prevent athletes from tweeting certain things, but the mere fact that this is even a concern proves the significance of social media in our current generation.
The games are no longer just about what happens on the field; what happens online is equally as weighty. And what happens on Twitter will be seen by millions.