Why Communication Directors Must Embrace New Technology
During the first week of the 2012 Olympics when TV commentators blamed Twitter for disrupting their data feed, IOC communications director Mark Adams asked spectators to “consider only sending urgent Tweets.” Specifically, this occurred during a cycling race, where bikes were fitted with a GPS chip which transmits data about competitors’ placement and progress to organizers and commentators. Data overload made it difficult for some commentators to pinpoint who was in the lead and by how much. On a global scale, this is a classic example of traditional media not willing to embrace new technology, or not fully understanding its potential.
Twitter is one of the most popular means of global communication today, with some even dubbing the London 2012 games as the “Social Olympics.” For a communications director to ask to suppress the most popular form of user-broadcasted information is simply absurd. This would be analogous to the department of transportation asking to avoid a major freeway due to potholes, or any other obstruction to quality, instead of addressing the root of the issue. The 500 million+ Twitter users, must have reacted the same way Alexander Graham Bell felt when the ‘Mute’ button was invented for the telephone.
Now that the games have concluded, we can see the popularity of the medium from which spectators were asked to restrain just two weeks prior. More than 150 million Tweets about the Olympics were transmitted over the 16 day period. In fact, the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony generated more than 9.6M tweets, surpassing the entire 2008 Olympics games in Beijing. One way to assess excitement is to measure Tweets per minute, and several moments generated a remarkable volume of Tweets. Usain Bolt winning the gold in the 200m sprint generated 80K+ TPM. Andy Murray securing the gold over Roger Federer accounted for over 57K TPM. When Jamaica won gold and set the world record in the men’s 4×100 relay 52K TPM were broadcasted, and when Team USA defeated Spain in basketball over 41K Tweets per minute populated the digital medium.
Certain athletes and individual Twitter accounts produced noteworthy mentions throughout the games. Tom Daley, the British Diver and hometown favorite who secured the bronze medal in the 10 meter platform competition was mentioned over 1.4 million times during the Olympics. Although Ryan Lochte couldn’t beat Phelps in total medal count, he surpassed him by over 70,000 mentions during the games. The above chart is the cumulative mentions per Twitter account for the 2012 Olympics.
The London games even proved popular enough to generate a Presidential Tweet when @BarackObama congratulated Michael Phelps on his world record medal count. Yet despite the fierce competition amongst the world’s greatest athletes, the TPM gold medal went to none other than Great Britain’s Spice Girls. Their closing ceremony on August 12, 2012 inspired more than 116,000 Tweets per minute.
Will Twitter be able to evolve, and sustain its popularity through Rio? Stay tuned…