Social Media Scores Perfect in Olympics

Now that the last race has been run, the last event has been finished and the last medal has been awarded, the Olympic flame has officially been extinguished in London, marking the end of the 2012 games.

But with any major event, the measure of success or failure comes well after everyone has gone home and the numbers come in.  And for the London games, the results have shown the power of the Internet and solidified the fact that social media is here to stay.

In an Associated Press report, Twitter estimates there were more than 50 million tweets about the Olympics, at a pace of 80,000 per minute after Jamaica's Usain Bolt won the gold medal in the 200-meter sprint. Facebook saw the number of fans of Olympic athletes soar: American gymnast Gabby Douglas had 14,358 followers on July 27 and 540,174 less than two weeks later.

NBC, which had exclusive broadcast rights to the games, agreed to partnerships prior to the games and its impact proved to be a successful one. Engagement on Twitter and Facebook led to live discussions about the games that generated record ratings.  With live events becoming increasingly social, NBC saw its primetime audience average 31.1 million viewers a night, which was an increase of 12% from the 2008 games in Beijing.

According to the report, chief NBC researcher Alan Wurtzel says that one out of five Olympic viewers in the U.S. watched more than one screen at the same time, with tablets or smartphones hooked into the Internet or social media.

The report shows that there were 63.1 million live video streams downloaded, up from 14 million in 2008. The total number of video streams downloaded, live or otherwise, was 154 million, double Beijing.

While social media created a forum to discuss and debate the performances of the athletes from around the world, it also opened the door for criticism, which was just as prevalent throughout the games. One of the main complaints from viewers centered around NBC’s decision to tape delay many events that, because of social media, viewers already knew the results of.

As PR News documented here, NBC was able to weather the negative PR it received and continued to produce a successful event, despite the negative press.

In the end, the ultimate gold medal goes to Twitter and Facebook, as the two social media leaders proved their worth as the go-to source for information not only to everyday users, but to the Olympic athletes as well. 

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson