The 2012 Olympics have been dubbed the “Twitter Olympics” and this title seems quite accurate. There were more tweets in the opening ceremony than in all of the 2008 Bejing Olympics. Twitter also has become the most popular social media channel for the Olympics receiving a ranking of 97% during the opening ceremony according to digital analyst iProspect.
Twitter creates the ultimate back channel for communication about what happens in real time. Another way to describe this is, as if there is a virtual speakeasy with millions of people milling around discussing events and gathering around those whom they deem important, listening to their thoughts and engaging in discussions. All these twitter users voluntarily follow people they deem as interesting, for example their favorite athletes from the Olympics. In a matter of seconds an individual’s influence can grow from the hundreds, to the hundreds of thousands.
After British Cyclist Lizzie Armitstead won silver, she gained Twitter followers at a rate of 500 per second, reaching over 25,000 new followers in a single hour. There is nothing comparable to this instantaneous formation of a mobile, savvy, diverse audience that spans the globe. While it is the notoriety and attention that gains these athletes the interest and attention of masses, it also affords them the opportunity to use their influence however they deem fit.
What some athletes have learned the hard way, is that a careless comment, update, or tweet can be read by hundreds of thousands. The results can be potentially devastating and in some cases career ending. Two Olympic athletes have already been banned from competition for sending offensive tweets.
While social media during the Olympics seem to have captured some negative buzz, the positive benefits are numerous and create a new interactive sphere leveling playing fields and destroying barriers for communication. What remains to be seen, is how these athletes will use their new platform and influence.
Have any of the US athletes successfully leveraged their new influence for other purposes, such as to promote charities or non-profits?