Personally, I’m not sure if it was the U.S.’s lackluster performance (see: second in overall medals; most bronze medals awarded; figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White the only U.S. Olympians to win multiple medals); the incessant whining about the conditions (see: the bumpy half-pipe, the slushy and slow women’s alpine course, the unfinished and unsafe hotels, etc.); losing Bob Costas for a few days to a nasty eye infection; or the time-delayed coverage, but some of the fun was sucked out of it for me.
NBC reported that average prime-time viewership for Sochi was 21.4 million, compared to 24.4 million for the mostly-live 2010 Vancouver Games and 31.1 million for London 2012 – the most-watched event in TV history. (Though the Summer and Winter Olympics are apples and oranges, IMHO!)
The silver lining here is that the 2014 Sochi Games reached more Americans through more platforms than any previous Winter Olympics. Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, noted that prime-time viewership is only one piece of the puzzle, as technology continues to change how we consume content.
So we have to give it to Sochi, it did social well. Providing a social media look-back at the Games, HipLogiq published a press release, “2014 Winter Olympics Roundup: How to Do Social like Sochi.”
Lesson 1: Trending topics and reputation management
Before the games even began, the parody account @SochiProblems was created to document the many difficulties journalists and athletes were having with accommodations in the Russian city and became an instant success. @SochiProblems even has nearly 70,000 more followers than the 2014 Winter Olympics official, verified Twitter account, @Sochi2014.
The #SochiProblems topic gained wide exposure and showed just how quickly consumer complaints can be communicated via social media. While most businesses wouldn’t see this kind of volume, it emphasizes how important it is to quickly and efficiently participate in online reputation management.
One brand that smartly took advantage of #SochiProblems was Clorox, who responded to a tweet about double toilets in a single bathroom with appropriate humor about a double headed toilet wand.
Clorox’s tweet is a prime example of a brand leveraging a trending topic, making them a part of the social conversation and gaining exposure.
Lesson 2: Real-time results and twitter
NBC received a lot of negative attention because of their delayed broadcasting of Olympic events. Through Twitter, viewers were able to find out event results and important details in real time. This example of sharing time-sensitive information triggers the need for a discussion about how traditional news outlets will be able to compete with social media.
One way businesses can take advantage of Twitter is to use real-time communication opportunities with potential customers. Just like Olympic results were tweeted instantly, potential customers also express their needs relating to a certain industry or even mentioning a business directly. A gold-medal social media strategy is for businesses to listen for tweets relevant to their product or service and engage immediately to participate in online conversations as they are happening.
Lesson 3: Olympians going viral
There’s no exact formula for creating content that is guaranteed to go viral. It’s difficult for most businesses to publish something that is going to be seen by millions of people across the nation but there is a way to create “clickable” content. What’s important is recognizing opportunities to provide content people will find entertaining and be compelled to share across social media.
When bobsledder Johnny Quinn tweeted about busting out of his Sochi hotel bathroom, the hashtag #quinning quickly spread across the Internet.
One of the main reasons this hashtag became so popular was people were able to easily participate in this trend by posting their own examples of #quinning.
Another example of an Olympian going viral was when U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner expressed disappointment with her scores and her “losing face” was instantly dubbed the 2014 Olympics’ first meme. Wagner’s meme-worthy expression spread across the Internet, inspiring a variety of humorous content. Brands can learn a lesson from the rate at which the meme went viral by incorporating entertainment and humor into their own content and inspiring customers to interact.
Were there any other social media wins that you recall from the Games? I’d have to say that my favorite social media element of Sochi was Canada’s #wearewinter calling card, simply because it reminds me of my beloved Starks in Game of Thrones. Still, it’s nice that even if the Games didn’t draw me in as I’d hoped, there’s something to be learned.
And hey, there’s always Rio.