3 Lessons from The Social Media Olympics

Twitter and other social media channels that were relatively new during the previous Olympics have gone mainstream over the past four years, thereby making the big stage of the 2012 Olympics invaluable for learning how to use social media well.

Four years ago many of us were just experimenting with this thing called Twitter. We found it to be a cool way to connect with like-minded people and make new friends, while also wondering how we could use it to for practical business purposes.

Consider that there were no real celebrities on Twitter during the previous Olympics. None. Now they dominate the upper echelon of influential power users. That alone is indicative of the evolution of social media for building a brand.

Twitter was a neat little playground for early adopters just four years ago. Now it is a valid media tool, and with media exposure comes responsibility.

This holds true for celebrities and mainstream businesses alike.

#1 – You Make Your Own Rules

You will often hear media experts suggest that you should be yourself when using social media. That’s not a good idea if taken literally.

Athletes are businesses, and fans and sponsors are their customers. More than one Olympian proved that showing the world who you really are will cost you fans and potential sponsors. Everyone has the right to speak their mind, but when you do you have to accept the consequences.

Making your own rules means respecting your audience – your customers. This is why most of us find it is wise to apply a few light filters that consider our core values and business objectives.

The days of spinning your message after the fact simply doesn’t work anymore. Your audience is now media savvy and will collectively discredit anything that smells fishy.

One quality of social media is it works the same for all of us – athletes, businesses, celebrities, and even fans. The only difference is celebrities still have a better chance of having their message amplified.

You can do the same by being controversial, but that too is a hallmark of the early days of new media. It’s usually best to take the high road.

In fact, that may be especially true for those who command a larger following.

#2 – Applaud the Home Team

While you will still notice plenty of people, brands, and businesses using social media to blow their own horns, many of us are finding there is a better way to earn attention.

The young United States gymnastics team clearly had some media training. After winning the team gold medal, all of them commented to Bob Costas on national television that they were proud to represent their team and their country.

Michael Phelps did the essentially same thing when the United States men won the 400 m relay. He applauded the team, even though he had individually made history by winning his 19th medal. That’s smart.

Applaud the home team. If you are a business, your home teams are the communities you serve.

You need each other to succeed.

#3 – You Are the Message

Media agencies may work well for corporations and large enterprises, but for athletes, small businesses, and even celebrities, we know if that is really you behind that Twitter handle.

Just as important as the message is how it is delivered. It’s easy to hire others to create content and automate your messaging, but that removes the most essential component for achieving success with social media – you.

You are the message.

Your personal qualities and presence are essential to the message. Why do you think political leaders and CEO’s eagerly take to the podium?

They are the leaders, and nobody can or should speak for them. This respects the communities they serve.

This best practice is listed last for emphasis, but in reality you should make it your number one rule to follow.

What media lessons have you learned from the 2012 Olympics?

What rules do guide your social media messaging? 

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 Photo Credit: London Olympics