It’s a wrap for the London 2012 Olympics, and in addition to the new athletic records that were set, fans, brands and athletes interacting together collectively took the gold as the undisputed winner of the first Social Olympics.
From the opening ceremony on July 27th, which generated 9.66 million tweets (and in the next 24 hours more than all those during the entire 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing), a total of more than 150 million tweets were shared during and about the Olympics.
World's Fastest Man™ Usain Bolt was the most talked about athlete, inspiring a blinding fast 80,000 tweets per minute (TPM) during his gold medal-winning 200m sprint and 74,000 TPM during his 100m run, while the Spice Girls reunion at the closing ceremony inspired 116,000 TPM.
Twitter's recap highlights other social highlights of these games including: Michael Phelps and Tom Daley trailing Bolt as the most discussed athletes, and Andy Murray, third-highest at 57,000 TPM after winning the gold medal in men’s tennis singles.
Phelps gained one million Twitter followers during the Games, leaving London (and his competitive swimming career) as the most decorated Olympian in history, with 22 medals and the most fans on social media.
Soccer was the most popular competitive sport, generating more than 5 million tweets, followed by swimming, track and field, gymnastics and volleyball.
Attensity's analysis of top social media conversations and mentions found that “The results from the entire data set from June 24-August 7 show that social media users expressed an overwhelming 98 percent positive sentiment toward the Olympics.”
The most popular Olympics-related Twitter hashtags concerned the performance of British-Irish boy band One Direction, followed by the drama and triumphs of the U.S. women's gymnastics team.
"The sentiment expressed on social networks toward the games has continued to thrill and surprise us, as we moved from analysis of the key swimmers, to gymnasts this time around," said Michelle de Haaff, VP of strategy and corporate development at Attensity.
Gabrielle Douglas, nicknamed "the Flying Squirrel," garnered 600,000 new Twitter followers, two gold medals and new fan Justin Bieber, which pushed her Facebook fan count from 15,000 to 600,000.
Other athletes whose fan followings spiked include British heptathlete Jessica Ennis, Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte, Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, badminton player Lin Dan, and U.S. basketball star LeBron James.
British distance runner Mo Farah made history as the seventh male athlete to win both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters and his signature “Mo-bot” celebration sparked a new craze.
Read Write Web awarded Gold to Twitter, Silver to Facebook and Bronze to Google+. While the fans and the athletes sported digital acumen in watching and sharing, it was the infrastructure of the Games, and in particular, the IOC and NBC that traversed the steepest learning curve.
From trying to impose strict guidelines to limit what athletes posted on social media, to the satirical, ersatz sailing video about the controversial Twitter suspension of the journalist who criticized NBC’s coverage, “there has been a consistent tone-deafness from the IOC and its commercial partners when it comes to social media,” writes Wired. “The IOC is all about control: control of the image of the Games, control of the money the Games generate, control of every aspect of what it calls the Olympic Movement. But in social media, and especially Twitter, which allows athletes and journalists to broadcast immediately to a wide audience, the IOC has run into its worst nightmare — something that’s simply not controllable.”
The spoiler alert challenges of real-time vs delayed broadcastss only showed that social media bested traditional media at its own game, as non-linear, real time communication left analog, and even web-based broadcasting in its dust this Olympics. By the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, no doubt a different platform, model and challenge will emerge — hopefully one in better step with the athletes, the audience, and the marketers helping underwrite the games.