A year ago I wrote a blog post about digital immigrants and digital natives, (Being a Digital Immigrant in a Digital Native World) and I thought it was a good opportunity to reflect on my thoughts following the success of the first “twitter-olympics”.
The London games are the first to take place since Twitter exploded onto the social media scene. Whether it was comments about the opening or closing ceremony, or the sporting acheivements of the athletes themselves, Twitter provided the catalyst for everyone to join in and share their views. Athletes tweeted their thoughts on competing, both pre and post event, whilst spectators commented on our Olympic successes and medal wins and encouraged the athletes.
The figures speak for themselves:
150 million tweets posted about the Olympics
9.66 million mentions of the opening ceremony
80,000 tweets per minute about Usain Bolt’s 200m gold win
116,000 tweets per minute about the Spice Girls performance during the closing ceremony
But it wasn’t all good news! Olympic organisers blamed spectators sending updates to Twitter for disrupting tv coverage of the cycling road race, when crucial updates about timings and positions failed to reach commentators. It was also responsible for some of the more disturbing headlines of the games, when a twitter user was arrested for sending abusive tweets to GB diver Tom Daly.
So why was Twitter such a success? Many of the athletes are amateurs without an army of PR people to look after them, and they want their “voice” to be heard, they are young digital natives who have grown up being techno savvy. The IOC acknowledged and encouraged the use of Twitter but called for postings to be “dignified and in good taste” and the USA swimming organisation held a summit last year to tell its athletes how to use Twitter to their advantage and not make mistakes that could lose them their sponsors. The realisation that there is a need to embrace social media is a positive step, to empower and not stiffle its users but still maintain a “brand” is to be applauded.
So if this can be done in the sporting arena, Twitter being used as a (mainly) positive force, then why is local government still a reluctant adopter? I hear many colleagues from all over the UK complaining that social media is blocked in their Authority, and yet their comms units are running corporate Twitter and Facebook accounts to try and engage their public, but at the same time they are disengaging their staff! Surely it’s time to “Inspire a generation” by the social media success from the Olympics on Twitter as well as our sporting legacy?