How London 2012 enabled the Olympics to be a social media event

How London 2012 enabled the Olympics to be a social media event

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Before this summer’s Olympic Games, there was much talk about how London 2012 would be the first social media games. There was talk about the regulations for athletes and volunteers using social media. And there was talk of restrictions on what news could be broken where. But in the end it turns out that London 2012 really was a social media event.

The BBC has a great review and analysis of social media during the Olympic Games – from the most Tweeted moments (Bolt winning 100m Gold just beat Mo Farah’s 10,000m win) to the most discussed minutes on Facebook (where Andy Murray beat Chris Hoy and Jessica Ennis). But the organisation of the event itself made it very social media friendly and created the conditions that allowed the sharing and discussions to flourish.

There were three simple things that London 2012 just got right, and any event hoping to inspire social media coverage and discussions can learn from this.

1. Make sure information and news gets out quickly

People want to know what is happening, they want to share it with friends and comment on this. Getting information (be it news, results or imagery) out quickly thought official channels enables people to have these discussions. London 2012 reminded us that Twitter works well for live events and for live discussions. The speed at which information was shared – in venues, through official channels and on the London 2012 apps and social channels facilitated the discussions people want to have.

2. Make sure people can connect to social channels

The barrier to many people taking up and using social channels is access – can they access the tools, apps and sites they want to use, when they want to use them. At any large event (even those much smaller than the Olympics), connectivity is a problem. Mobile networks were not built for such a high density of people uploading photos and videos and Tweeting what they can see. At most events that offer WiFi it never really lives up to expectations. At London 2012 it did – there is free and efficient WiFi across the Olympic Park. Nobody needs to use mobile networks and can share photos, video and opinions in real time.

This seems like a simple thing, but very rarely is connectivity so good. At a live event, the best engagement happens live so you need to make sure that nothing will stop this from happening.

3. Make your venues Instagram-able

The Olympic park really is an Instagrammer’s dream

This comment by Neal Mann during the Games was very true. The Olympic Park is very photogenic, and photos are increasingly important in social media, especially with the rise of apps like Instagram. If the venue is interesting, photogenic or impressive in some way, people will want to take photos of it – often lots of people taking the same photos. This was certainly true in the London 2012 venues and even across London (at endless Wenlock and Mandeville statues hidden across the city). To help this photography and sharing you need to provide places where good photos can be taken – provide the space and even signal where people can get that interesting or impressive photo. Make space for people taking photos and they will share them.