Spoilers aside, the Internet has changed the way we watch the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has actually called the 2012 Games the Social Media Olympics. In fact, the Committee created a four-page document outlining what is and what is not acceptable for participants to post online during the Games. But it’s not just athletes who are buzzing the social media, fans are tweeting everything from congratulations to broadcast critiques to results spoilers for those who choose to watch the tape delayed events in prime time. Unfortunately, athletes and fans have also suffered consequences for thoughts they posted on the World Wide Web. Two athletes have been kicked out of the Games for what they said on their Twitter accounts, and one fan has been arrested for comments directed at an athlete on Twitter.

What can we learn from the first social media summer games? Here are three lessons that apply to both sports and business.


A lot happens in four years

During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Twitter had approximately 6 million users worldwide. Currently, Twitter boasts approximately 150 million users. That increase combined with the increased use of smart phones (the first iPhone didn’t go on sale to the public until mid 2007) has drastically changed the way we interact with the world. Technology changes rapidly, and to keep up with the times, companies need to pay close attention to online trends in social media as well as the latest gadgets potential clients may be using.

The Olympics (and the Internet) is no longer a spectator sport

Never before have Olympic fans been given such a raw and inside perspective on their favorite athletes, and never before have they had the ability to congratulate or criticize in real time. Social media has opened that door and made watching the Olympics an interactive activity.

There was a time when having a company website was sufficient for online marketing. That time has passed. Like Olympic athletes (whose sponsors love their social media platforms), businesses need to interact with their “fans” in order to achieve greater profitability. If your company does not have a Twitter profile or Facebook fan page, you are missing a big arena full of marketing opportunities.

If you can’t say something nice…

While social media provides additional marketing opportunities for your company, it also provides a venue for you to be misunderstood and damage your company’s reputation. Be careful what you say. If you are unsure about how a comment might be received, don’t post it. One tweet posted and quoted out of context can quickly become a public relations nightmare. Just ask Dan Cathy.

As always, if you need help starting or managing a social media marketing campaign, the team at StartRankingNow.com is here for you.