Talking The Social Media Olympics Today On Outside The Lines - Social Media Explorer
Talking The Social Media Olympics Today On Outside The Lines
Talking The Social Media Olympics Today On Outside The Lines

In case you can, we wanted to let you know that I will be one of the panelists today at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN’s Outside The Lines discussing social media and the Olympics. The program airs live and — I can’t believe I have to write this on my blog — check your local listings. Heh.

This was supposed to be “The Social Olympics” but all the talk of social media has mostly be negative, from a wide perspective. Two athletes have been kicked off of their respective teams for derogatory Tweets. NBC is airing many events on a tape-delayed basis while the world finds out winners on Twitter and Facebook, spoiling the evening viewing for many or taking them away from NBC altogether. Organizers in London apparently didn’t even plan for the taxation of the cellular grid as mobile and smart phone usage adversely effected GPS devices used in cycling events.

ESPN (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If anything, this has been The Social Media Fail Olympics. Everything from the IOC’s constrictive policies for athletes to its technical planning for venues and NBC’s ill-fated tape delays that reek of old school media thinking. But what could have changed it? Planning on the technical side, sure. But should the IOC protect the privacy of athletes and its broadcast partner’s investment by limiting participant’s social posts?

A college student-athlete can be kicked off a team for violating it’s coach’s policies, including posting something inappropriate online. Professional athletes can be fined or disciplined for Tweeting or posting items deemed detrimental to the team, league, etc. Aren’t Olympic athletes subject to the same kind of privilege-responsibility?

I’m interested in your thoughts as I prepare my own for this afternoon. And I hope you have a chance to tune in. I’ll be on with television analyst and former U.S. Women’s Soccer star Julie Foudy, Syracuse professor Robert Thompson and ESPN business and legal analyst Andrew Brandt. Should make for a lively discussion. Outside the Lines airs live at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at
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  •  I think the broadcast coverage has been poorly produced. It’s not engaging the audience. They are missing all kinds of opportunities to engage viewers through hashtags, etc. and with those of in in the audience who just like to watch, aren’t doing much to help us connect (e.g. need bug to tell is what swim race is one the screen instead of just mentioning it once, need running total of gymnasts scores to help raise the stakes for viewers). Obviously absent are “Up Close and Personal” background pieces on the athletes and athlete interviews (with athletes other than female gymnasts and Bela’s “great team” commentary). How ’bout driving the audience to places online to engage more with athletes and other behind the scenes extras? While most reading this are more than proficient with social media, there are a lot of folks in the Olympic audience (including athletes) for whom social media- especially Twitter- is new.

    • When I was young, the Olympics were a series of sporting events. Now they are a reality show. With proper use of social channels, NBC could move the non-sports content to places where we could engage, and let us enjoy the sports for what they are again.

  • Jason, If I can’t make it at 3pm will you air a tape delayed version tonight at 8pm? If so, please don’t tweet about the 3pm show in real-time because I don’t want you to spoil it for me at 8pm … 

  • Nancy Myrland

    Jason, the only issue I think must be addressed is that of inadequate bandwidth to allow for the free-flow of Social Media communication around the world.  To not have planned for massive use of the tools which are not new to the organizers was a lack of planning, strategy and foresight.  

    To worry about finding out results in advance of our delayed coverage is something we should have learned to live with by now.  Yes, as Ike said, we have been spoiled by the immediacy of these tools so many of us have come to love, so we have to get used to that.  No entity is going to block all communication so that there are no spoilers. That is a silly notion.  

    Yes, we can spend some time training athletes from around the world on what is acceptable regarding posting on Social Media.  The basics don’t take that long.  We’re not talking about learning the ins and outs of each tool.  We’re just talking about guidelines and/or suggestions that have been fully vetted by our attorneys that are fully informed on what is legally allowed to be restricted, and what is not.  There are lawyers who are studying NLRB, and other governing bodies that would apply here, issues, and would be able to offer us the guidelines from which to train these athletes and coaches.  

    I’m sure you, @ikepigott:disqus and I would have loved to tackle the opportunity to train on these issues.  

    Again, the lack of bandwidth, and the expectation that anyone hold back updates and conversation are issues that must be addressed because they are completely unacceptable and unnecessary. 

    • Granted, there would have been a LOT of groundwork to do in advance, to understand the ins-and-outs of the law for athletes from 200 nations.

      • Nancy Myrland

        Ike, I think with their budget in the billions of dollars, we could have made it work…somehow.   I know we could handle the U.S. with no problem! 

  • Rosemary

    I’ve been avidly watching the Olympics, and constantly remarking on how poorly they’ve leveraged the social side.  With the entire world tuned in, they really could have done some cool things, and it was a wasted opportunity to innovate.  The coverage itself has felt very dry to me as well…Bob Costas looks tired and lonely in his evening broadcasts.  Perhaps the Winter Games will learn from this whole debacle and bring some life back in.  How about some social content from inside the Olympic Village?  I’d love to see more “behind the scenes” stuff.

    I’ll be tuned in this afternoon Jason!

  • This is not an easy answer.

    The athletes are already busy enough, so the time for training them on social is minimal. Maybe something universal that fits the “Don’t Be Stupid” mantra.  (Yet, we know that athletes have done stupid things at past Olympiads. What is really new?)

    I’m a little surprised that NBC hasn’t been more proactive in shaping the social conversations. Where is the curation? Where are the interactive questions for the athletes? Where are the Tweetchats with the athletes who have have already finished?  NBC could have easily embedded that feature on the NBColympics page, making that functionality visible and possible to the legions of Twitter users who have never done such a thing.

    I agree with you, that NBC’s mistakes are not just “social,” but are tied to the Command and Control model they still must cling to in order to reap the revenue. Like it or not, that’s the reality of the business model.

    The real interesting question is this:  Does the IOC need such partners in the future? Can it not develop its own channels with entities like Facebook and Google and Microsoft to deliver the action live, and channels that can be more directly monetized? Or rather, will it have to do so in the future?

    The truth is that the real disruption here is that social media has “spoiled” its users, who expect instant-on, access and availability. The mindset of the consumer has changed, and that is the root of more of the #NBCFail than the specific gaffes.


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