Social media and the Olympics

Chris Caceres · February 11, 2010 · Short URL:

What to get out of Facebook and Twitter this 2010 Winter Olympics

The Vancouver 2010 Olympics begin tomorrow, and of course like any other major event, its committee has embraced social media practices to connect with the potential millions across the Web.  Will this increase the success of the Winter Olympics?  We can't really answer that question just yet, but two very important online entities, Facebook and Twitter, will play a roll in our online interactions with the sporting event this year.

First comes Facebook.  The International Olympic Committe (IOC) has set up an official Olympic Games page on the largest social networking site in the world.  At the moment, the Fan page has nearly 1.2 million fans.  Here, "fans" can find wall updates posted by the Olympics showing off pictures from the event, videos, and links to athlete pages.  

As for interactivity, Fans can engage by posting comments on whatever the IOC posts on their wall.  At the sametime, the IOC took it up a launch and got creative by allowing fans to help create an 'Olympic pin,' which is only available to Facebook Fans.  

Alex Huot, head of social media for the IOC shared on the Facebook blog, "When I started managing social media for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) this year, I immediately saw the connection between the concept of a "fan" on Facebook and the long-standing fans of the Olympic Games. Just as the Olympic rings are universally recognized, so too is the concept of a "fan" of Olympic sports."

But beyond the International Olympic Committee, let's not forget about the actual athletes themselves, and here's where Twitter comes into the mix.  

First off, the IOC hasn't seemed to set up a Verified Olympics Twitter page.  I found this page which seems to be the closest thing.  But, the micro-blogging platform, which also wants a piece of the Olympic pie, has set up a Verified Olympians List where Twitter users can go and either follow individual athletes or the entire list itself.  Interestingly, the list which is meant to be a central hub where all the Olympians tweets are aggregated, has only a mere 297 followers (at the current moment).  The actual Olympians on the other hand, have hundreds or up to thousands of followers.  

I picked a random Olympian by the name of Speedy Peterson to observe the differences between his Facebook and Twitter pages.  First of all, on Facebook, Speedy has about 2,130 fans, whereas on Twitter, he has 395 followers - quite a significant difference.  But the content of his updates across both social networking sites is actually pretty similar.  Some of his posts on Twitter actually come directly from Facebook.  While some may come from Facebook, his Twitter page actually has more updates.  Over the past week, Speedy updated his Facebook twice, while his Twitter page was updated four times, with simple blubs like "Just finished up Olympics processing.  We picked up all of our clothes for the ceremonies!"

Overall the content, as in updates and tweets across both social media sites for the Olympians is quite similar.  By the looks of things though, users across these social networks seems to be more engaged with Olympians on Facebook.  It also seems the Olympic Committee has chosen to embrace Facebook over Twitter.  The Facebook page has over a million fans, while the Twitter/Olympics page (which I'm not sure is official) only has about 7,500 followers. 

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