Twitter will be transformed by The Olympics

Every four years I settle in and enjoy the drama and spectacle of the Olympics. I have my own personal competition too, as I see how many people I can fool into thinking that I really know the scoring system in judo or the history of the heptathlon, or whatever is on the tube at the moment.  I make it up as I go and see how long it takes before my friends realize I am full of crap. My record is nine minutes, 36 seconds of continuous bullshit. I know. You’re impressed, and you should be. I am already inviting a whole new crop of friends for the festivities. The excitement is building!

And while I have been training to best my personal mark, I’m also guessing another hallowed record is about to fall — Twitter volume. In fact, I think it is safe to say that Twitter may be transformed during this sustained period of athletic activity that captivates every corner of the world.

In the four years since the Beijing Games, use of social media platforms has surged and Twitter has grown from 6 six million users to about 150 million. And many more people now have smartphones and access to wi-fi so they can react immediately to something they have seen in a stadium, arena, court, pool, ring or velodrome. The London Games will be tweeted, tagged, liked, blogged, and hashtagged like no previous event in the world.

The Olympics will transform Twitter

  • At trials in Calgary for Canada’s Olympic track and field team, athletes wore Twitter handles on their bibs – encouraging fans to send messages of support as they race!
  • Time reports that the IOC, with 760,000 Twitter followers and 2.8 million on Facebook, is planning live chats with athletes from the Olympic village, allowing the public to pose questions using social media accounts. It has already created an online portal, called the Athletes’ Hub (shown above), which will collate posts from athlete Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • To give you some idea of the Olympian tweet volume we can expect, the AP reported that users sent 13,684 tweets per second during a Champions League soccer match between Barcelona and Chelsea in April, a record volume of tweets for a sporting event – busier even than the 2012 Super Bowl.
  • That record will probably fall multiple times during the Games. Reportedly Twitter is braced for a surge of traffic.

But what I think is exciting is that Twitter is about to go global like never before as users sign up for the first time to follow their favorite athletes and event. Every single sport has its own Twitter handle and Twitter has been the social media platform of choice for most athletes too.

So I think Twitter will be transformed in the coming weeks, but …

Twitter will also impact the Olympics

The next few weeks are going to provide a lot of excitement for sports fans but I think by the closing ceremonies, Twitter will also be one of the big winners from London 2012. What do you think?

All posts

  • I agree, and appreciate the specific ideas you included on what might happen over the course of the games. I’m hoping the unique content of the Olympics acts as a catalyst for more sharing and connecting, rather than a mere increase of broadcasting messages via Twitter. Loved your idea / question of whether Twitter will be employed for solving problems.

  • Perhaps there will be new records set at the London Olympics, such as “fastest tweet by an Olympian after winning a medal” and “fastest 100 metre race while tweeting.” The possibilities are endless.

    I look forward to seeing what impact social media has on the upcoming games. You’re right, the prevalence of social media and Internet connections will bring a new dimension to the games.

  • Dave

    That’s excellent! I really like the idea of tweeting from the medal stand! And it will be amusing to see the fusty old IOC try to regulate tweeting: I can see it now, some poor athlete getting banned due to someone with a fake account going TMI ballistic.

    If an athlete carried 10 smartphones set to vibrate, and then had everyone tweet while they’re racing, they could get extra muscle stimulation for more speed!

    Pretty soon, the only things not Tweeting will be birds!

  • apedley

    Great post. Twitter better have something up their sleeve, since they cut off LinkedIn and many others, removed the partnership with Google some time ago and annoyed a large portion of app developers who’s product depends on Twitter.

    Otherwise they aren’t going to last at this rate they are cutting ties. Hopefully it is all in the name of a greater future for Twitter and their users 🙂

  • I think it it certainly will be employed that way. The Olympics may be the greatest crowd-sourcing experiment ever! Thanks Kyle.

  • Fun comment Carolyn. Thanks!!

  • Yeah, the IOC guideles don;t have much teeth. A very weak social media policy I think. We’ll see what happens!

  • And don;t forget the outage last week! They better be adding bankloads of servers! Let’s hope anyway? Thanks for the comment.

  • radiojaja

    Thanks for the tip off Mark, I had little interest in the games despite being so close to me – now Ive an excuse to plug in! Very exciting!

  • Something to experience i think! Is there Olympic golf? : )

  • radiojaja

    Not till 2016! Now thats something to experience

  • Knowing my fellow Londoners – I’m sure Twitter will also be used to advise the best Olympic ‘watering holes’ (pubs, winebars etc) and public viewing stations for those without tickets or find themselves battling transport issues.

  • Oh yeah! Now THAT is helpful! : )

  • Haha, not too surprised that a “soccer” match gor more attention than the superbowl! Undoubtedly something at the Olympics will bust it as you say!

  • It should be a boon to those that follow sports that don’t interest NBC.

  • I actually just wrote a blog about this after having watched the US Women’s Gymnastics Trials and finding myself totally sucked in by Twitter during the live event! What I particularly find interesting is the fact that the Olympians themselves have become/are becoming more popular than the sports accounts (on social media) that they represent. I enjoyed watching the Twitter profile of gymnast Gabrielle Douglas (@gabrielledoug) abruptly change overnight from that of a stereotypical 16-year-old’s into an Olympics/USA branded profile (the moment she was named to the team). She’s going to be a fun one to watch!

  • Whoops – posted under the wrong account by accident. This is @tiffabrown 🙂

  • Should be exciting to see!

  • Very good point. The democratization of sports coverage?

  • Thanks Tiffany! So nice to hear from you. Thanks for adding that observation.

  • I look forward to the commentary not only on Twitter, but on all the platforms.
    For the first time, we’ll have a chance to get behind the network TV official profiles and get a sense of who these amazing athletes really are.
    And as Debra says, there’ll also be a very practical application: finding pubs, avoiding traffic and where there’s an empty seat…
    Get your Olympics Pinterest Boards at the ready!

  • It really will be fun Ray. Will be a two-screen Olympics for me!

  • With all this happening in the world of sports I was surprised how in the dark ages of “Social media” the #AmericasCup was a couple of weeks ago. I was expecting something like you are describing…… WOW what a missed opportunity this go around. It would be interesting to find out why they have not embraced Social Media yet.

  • There will doubtless be a plethora of sponsor infringing “promoted tweets” and the like too – or at least I hope so. Sadly corporate branding controls on the games do make it feel like a giant conversion marketing exercise to me at times. That said… does anyone know of a list of “athletes that tweet” ?

  • Twitter will definitely dominate the Olympic scene. I am very sure I’ll be using Twitter to keep myself up to date with scores, live matches going on etc. 🙂

  • Maybe says something about the demographic?

  • If you click on the Athlete Hub above you can see all the atheletes who are tweeting (just about all of them!). And companies are already all over this! That will be another interesting dynamic. Thanks Simon!

  • Twitter’s impact on the Olympics will not likely stem from the IOC’s or any corporate efforts. The global interaction between athletes and fans, combined with the first-world host city, will take both the Olympics and Twitter to the next level.

  • The Olympics would be a great event to try one of those branded hashtag pages on. They have a lot of the same characteristics that make it work for sports like NASCAR and the UFC (Hasn’t had a hashtag page yet, but would certainly do well with one).

    The Olympics and Twitter were made for each other, it will definitely be interesting. I can’t wait for Mark Phelps to tweet a picture smoking out with the Jamaican shuffle board team, or Usian Bolt to send an unsolicited advance to Darya Klishina.

  • Have you checked out Its way better than the Olympics hub and has youtube videos as well a facebook and twitter from all the teams and athletes

  • David Albrecht

    I have been blogging about an Ernst & Young accountant who is on the Olympic team. I have been referring to Gwen Jorgensen as the Olympic Accountant. She is competing in the triathlon. And yest, I’ve been tweeting about her.

    Dave Albrecht
    The Summa

  • Pavel Konoplenko

    Great look into these year’s Olympics. A friend and I were were discussing the implications and a good question popped up. For those who aren’t “tech-savvy,” will these Olympics truly be much more different. Fine, they get more access, more pictures, more interviews; but they won’t feel the unprecedented engagement. Many Americans, for example are not on Twitter, so they won’t be directly engaged with the Athlete like you and I would for instance.

    I am very curious if there’s a noticeable spike in Twitter signups after these Olympics. I’m willing to bet there will be, because social media will be brought to the forefront of a global event in all its glory.
    My prediction for these Olympics is that many smaller countries will have tremendous engagement. After all, small communities tend to have very strong engagement. The athletes from these small countries will literally be the face of the nation, and I think they will represent the nation strongly on social networks.

  • Thanks for commenting Sookie.

  • Absolutely agree David!

  • Ha. I’m sure there will be some of that!

  • What a blast. Thanks for sharing that David!

  • Twitter is kind of weird in that less than 10% of Americans are active on Twitter but 50% of them see tweets every day (on TV, online, etc) so the platform is not as highly-adopted as Facebook but it is impactful. I think the Twitter stream will be key to the Olympic viewing experience this year whether the audience is really active on it or not. It is going to be referenced constantly. Thanks for your very relevant points Pavel!

  • I’m thinking spoilers are going to perhaps mess w/ the TV viewing (just read Standford’s post) more than ever before. If we’re tweeting in real time, that means we’re getting results well ahead of prime time. Yes I know we have for years, but I think these games will be the first to feel a major ‘social’ impact from Twitter (as well as many other platforms). Also not sure about real-time tweeting from athletes; just suspect most will be ‘in the zone’ and tweeting on off-days or after competitions. Either way, it will be interesting to see what happens.

    The real question isn’t if Twitter will benefit during the games. If a lot of this is managed well – if the athletes have fun with it, if Twitter supports capacity, if people find ways to meet and have fun with other fans – it’ll hit. The real question is what next? I’ve followed all these athletes – and after the games, they’ve gone quiet? Now my new ‘friends’ I met are tweeting kitten pictures and ranting about the election and all kinds of junk that doesn’t interest me? I get Twitter is a fluid network – people, brands, interests come and go. I think in order for Twitter to win big they have to find ways to keep users around after the games are done. FWIW.

  • Lev Naginsky

    Small correction to your post. The new sports TPS record is 15,358 at #Euro2012 final.

  • Really interesting points Davina. The spoiler thing could be huge with the time zone differences. Thanks for the superb comment!

  • Many thanks. I’m a week behind the times!

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  • It’s nothing new. We have to put up with Eurovision spoilers from the media in the morning until primetime in Australia.

  • Let me know if you need help with that judo scoring system, Mark ;). We will definitely be watching judo, tennis, gymnastics and swimming/diving. Probably catch the sprints, too…and maybe some basketball.

    I am sure that the records will be falling at the games and on Twitter. I’ve kicked around the idea of a Pulse Analytics interactive infographic like what we did for NFL/NBA sentiment…but the Olympics are BIG! So many events and athletes. Need to check out some of the official hashtags they plan on using, too.

  • Thanks for extra info Mark…

  • I love the idea of the athlete’s wearing their Twitter handles on their bibs, makes me want to go purchase a T-shirt with my Twitter handle and wear it to every athletic event I attend =) (no I am not an athlete lol)

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  • Yoav Burger

    Great post Mark,
    It was interesting and is just another example of how social media is changing and enhancing the world around us. I have included this in ‘Best of the Web’ at .

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