While the Games of the XXX Olympiad may be over, the analysis of their social media success is underway. Considered to be one of the most “connected” Games of all time, the Olympics were consumed across multiple platforms in various content types. And though more people than ever tuned in to watch athletes compete (with delays), social media activity reached a peak as well.

Social Pomp & Circumstance

The London Olympics were the first Olympics where social media platforms played a key role in marketing and communications. Before you get defensive, consider the following:

  • February, 2006 -- Winter Olympics begin in Turin, Italy
  • March, 2006 -- Twitter Debuts at SXSW
  • September, 2006 -- Facebook opens to everyone
  • August, 2008 -- Summer Olympics begin Beijing, China
  • August, 2008 -- Facebook Reaches 100 million Users
  • March, 2011 --  Twitter reaches 140 million tweets posted daily
  • April, 2012  -- Facebook Reaches 900 million users
  • July 2012 -- Summer Olympics begin in London, England

With Facebook and Twitter alone, a perfect social media storm created the optimal atmosphere to promote and produce Olympic content. Factor in other channels like YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr and it just adds to fuel to an already empowered media.

Win, Lose, Social Media

However, being able to leverage the power of social media worked better for some than it did for others. The International Olympic Committee, for one, wasn’t quite ready for the consequences of the Social Games. Whether it was trying to control the types of information and style athletes and journalists alike tweeted out or trying to keep users from adding to the Twitter stream at all to keep bandwidth at a minimum.

If you were a brand, on the other hand, the social media Olympics helped to bring home the gold. Nike, for instance, was among the brands who excelled at sporting social engagement during the London Olympics. According SocialBakers, who launched its CheerMeter tool for the games, Nike’s Facebook fan base grew by 166,718 -- more than double the growth of its sporting rival, Adidas, who netted just 80,761 new fans over the same period. Nike also dominated Twitter with over 16,020 tweets associating the brand with the word Olympic, 6,725 more tweets than Adidas, who were part of just 9,295 Olympic-themed tweets.


As athletes won medals, their exposure grew as well. Socialbakers also revealed which athletes trended across social media. Swimmers led the pack as most talked about athletes, with Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in first and second place respectively and Missy Franklin in seventh place. Meanwhile, British diver Tom Daley just missed the Twitter social podium as fourth most discussed athlete.

Popularity v. Engagement

Of course, being talked about on Social Media doesn't necessarily mean that it's a positive experience or an engaging one. Though many have talked about how social media proved to be a successful outlet during the Olympics, not many have touched on the engagement factor. Despite the excess of Tweets and Likes generated for athletes and the brands they represent, engagement remained low.


While many brands may have gained more fans and followers in the course of two weeks, the trick will be in engaging them so they stay active fans and followers. For the rest of us, we don't have an Olympic-sized event to bring millions of new fans to our door, instead we must attract new users with engaging, useful content and a brilliant customer experience. The lesson learned, is not the active role that social media played during the Olympics, but rather how brands and athletes can use that popularity to further engage their fans after the Olympic flame has burned out.