It’s a flat, instant society

Shawna Samuel

The Summer Olympic Games have been dubbed “the social media Olympics.” It’s no surprise. We can live-stream all 3,500 hours of athletic competition, and we can choose one of four screens on which to watch the games.

The effects give us a mixed bag. Before the last of the American athletes had arrived in the stadium, their Ralph Lauren uniforms were being criticized on Twitter. Following the opening ceremony, Ryan Seacrest provided an instant social media analysis – citing the “top three favorite moments” of the opening ceremony as noted on Facebook. The most retweeted image – the queen.

There were nearly 10 million Twitter mentions about the opening ceremony alone. That tops the total number of Twitter posts during the entire 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Since then, the number of Facebook users has risen from 100 million to 900 million. Twitter has risen from 6 million to more than 500 million – 170 million of which are active.

As we tell our clients, social media is a double-edged sword. Undoubtedly, instant, two-way communication, that’s visible to all, and lives online forever, will do that. There is vulnerability. That’s why you have to be smart and strategic about using it.

Twitter has already claimed its first victim. A Greek triple jumper was forced to leave the games because of a racist tweet. An Olympic fan may be prosecuted for threatening an athlete in a tweet. Some Olympians have been disciplined for promoting their sponsors’ products. There were so many tweets during a cycling event that it interfered with GPS coverage of the event. It is no surprise that many athletes have removed themselves from all social media during the games – to protect themselves.

Ironically, “the social media Olympics” have ended up turning people away from social media in droves. Both viewers and athletes took a break and cut themselves off from their social media nectar to avoid spoiling their Olympic experience – whether it’s packing their bags and leaving the competition or ruining a live experience on good ol’-fashioned TV with their family.

– Shawna Samuel, vice president/account group director

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One Response to It’s a flat, instant society

  1. I have to say I have enjoyed the Olympics (and the Mars Space Lab landing) a lot more with Twitter spoilers and social media updates. Down side, I suppose, is that it really does remind us that our Olympic heros are people, too. Social media has kind of equalized that in a way.

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