Olympic-Level Social Media Issues 0

I’m a huge fan of the Olympic Games. There’s two main reasons for this. First, I was in the US Junior Olympic Shooting Program (Indoor/Outdoor Running Game Target, for those interested) and secondly because the Games represent a triumph of the human will over everything that human beings can throw at it.

Social Media is one epic example of that latter idea.

There were two major issues that sprang up out of the 30th Olympiad that center around two immutable Laws of Social Media:

1 – Information always will be free.

2 – In any instance where those who own the information desperately do not want it to be free, see rule 1.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decreed that – in effect – Social Media was banned from the games. No one was permitted to tweet, post, or blog about what was going on. The presiding factor for this was overall security – something that was proven to be a concern when Olympic Athletes began posting photos (with close-up detail) of their security ID badges online. The decree was fiercely criticized as being more about economics (NBC wanted to time delay the games for US consumption, thereby making tweeting live problematic) than security.

However, even the massively edited footage NBC aired of the Opening Ceremonies showed hundreds of people with mobile phones happily snapping photos and taking videos, so the ban was not quite successful. Athletes and attendees have been tweeting non-stop, even getting themselves into very public battles over negative tweets that had been thrown at them.

In the second example of these rules, NBC ran afoul of most of the world due to an ill-edited time-delayed version of the Opening Ceremonies themselves.

In a widely publicized gaff, NBC chose not to show a tribute portion of the Ceremonies in their US telecast. The tribute was – outwardly – for all those who the Olympic Family lost in the past 4 years, but was widely viewed as a tribute to the victims of the 7/7 attack against the UK the day after London won the right to hold the Games. Instead, NBC chose to show an interview segment between Ryan Seacrest and Michael Phelps.

Immediately, Social Media erupted with tweets and postings about the missing segment. The outcry was swift and vicious, with people from dozens of countries lambasting NBC for insensitivity, misjudgment and – in several cases – outright stupidity. What followed was three days of criticism against NBC for time-delaying key events, clueless commentators, horrible editing of segments, and the overall lackluster coverage of the Games in general.

What can we learn from this? First, no information is safe from Social Media. Try as you might, the info will get out there, and the more you try to restrict it, the further it will spread. Secondly, NBC has attempted to ignore the outcry, issuing semi-meaningless public statements (NOT via Social Media) that did nothing to placate the social mob. Your company needs to be ready to address these outbursts with a solid plan of responses and information to plead your side of the case. The age of the press release is definitely over.

Enjoy the Games, celebrate your country’s victories and cheer with other countries in theirs. Also, always remember that when the eyes of the world are watching, these days those eyes come in the form of cell phone cameras and instant communication.