How the “Social Media Olympics” #FAIL at social media

For all this talk about the 2012 London Olympics being the first “Social Media Olympics,” things aren’t exactly going according to script for NBC, the IOC and London 2012. Rather than understanding how social media works — sharing, listening, engaging, building relationships, and absolute honesty and transparency — they’ve botched it on almost every level.

Thin skin. Any mammoth event like the Olympics is going to get huge chatter on social media, and of course it’s not all going to be smiles and sunshine. A third of the people will say everything is awesome, a third will be snarky about everything and the remaining third are just trolls. You simply just have to ignore the trolls and not make things worse by arresting 17-year-olds for tweeting stupid, insensitive things. And you can’t shut down a journalist’s Twitter feed just because he’s critical of you. When you try to play the Internet Thought Police, you end up looking foolish. Part of being a business in the social media realm is that you have to take the criticism as well as the compliments. These iron-fisted tactics aren’t going to win NBC or the IOC any more fans. That’s how you wind up with things like #NBCFail.

Twitter is right now. NBC is six hours from now. Twitter’s been in an uproar about NBC saving marquee competitions for tape-delay during the prime-time hours, even when it doesn’t make sense in this age of information immediacy. Imagine if the Super Bowl was tape-delayed on the West Coast. The whole concept of building an online community engaged around a single, live, big event can’t possibly work when your audience is divided in half. Half of Twitter is watching the Olympics live online and talking about it. News agencies are reporting results right after they happen. I know what happened hours before NBC airs it, essentially taking away any drama from the prime-time telecast. There are people on Twitter telling others just to “turn off Twitter” if you don’t like getting the results before they air on TV. I have to use Twitter throughout the day for my job, and not solely for following the Olympics. I’ve got TV news coming from the TCA press tour and there are actually other sports I’ve got to follow, so just unplugging from all social media for the day to avoid Olympic spoilers isn’t realistic. The situation isn’t going to change as long as NBC keeps getting huge prime-time audiences.  NBC has a business to run, and they’re not really concerned about what you like or don’t like. But since we live in a (supposedly) free market economy, many people have chosen to take their business elsewhere.

Olympians are dumb on Twitter. When the IOC declared that athletes couldn’t tweet about any product that’s not an official sponsor, that immediately raises the flag of censorship. So you know that what you’re getting may not be the athletes’ true voice. There’s even a whole uprising of athletes who just want to have the rights to their own identities back. They’ve started a protest on Twitter using #WeDemandChange2012 and #Rule40. But authenticity didn’t seem to be a concern for the two athletes who’ve been kicked off their teams for posting racist tweets. I’ve seen a few of the athletes’ tweets and they’ve all been of the most vapid, least insightful or cheerleading variety. The most interesting or newsworthy thing tweeted about the Olympics so far was the silly feud between Hope Solo and Brandi Chastain.

Hands off of our stuff! If links and content sharing are the currency of the Internet, then the Olympics are the miserly old dude yelling at kids to get off his lawn. Yesterday I was looking to do a post about USA gymnast Aly Raisman’s creepy parents, and wanted to embed the video. NBC is in league with YouTube to stream all video content, and all YouTube videos can be embedded, right? Sadly, no. There was no embed code on any Olympic content. I saw USA Today had posted a story about Raisman’s parents, and they had video embedded. Playing the video resulted in the “Video taken down at the request of the International Olympic Committee” message. And did you know you can’t even link to the official London Olympic website if you plan to say mean things?

About Ryan Berenz

Star Wars nerd. Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL). Father of two. Husband of one. I write about sports on TV because I am bad at sports in real life.
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