(Whitney Forster) - There is no question that this has been a very gold (and silver, and bronze) Olympics for U.S. athletes, but a great article out in Wired this week talks about what a "golden" Olympics this has been for social media. Writer Mark McClusky compares his experience reporting on the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, where he faced delays waiting for film processing and headed to cover the Olympic Park bombing based only on the sounds of an explosion and sirens, armed with only a notebook and cell phone.
Contrast that to today's world of sharing real-time tweets from the athletes themselves, and it is amazing how far our culture and the technology that enables it have come in 14 years.
One group that doesn't appear to be enjoying the chatter appears to be the International Olympic Committee. In her "Molly Rants" column on CNet this week, Molly Wood outlines the actions the IOC has taken to control social media and blog mentions of athletes and sponsors, even going after one of Lindsey Vonn's sponsors for a note of congratulations to the skiier on their web site, as they weren't an official Olympic sponsor.
All this supports the importance of a good and clearly communicated social media policy, whether you are the IOC or part of any business or organization. Unfortunately many athletes were confused by the IOC's policy, as were sponsors. There is a lot of good that comes from having constituents - from athletes to employees - engaging in social media as they are spreading your message to a broader group than you could target through traditional communications channels. In the case of the Olympics, the athletes are helping to make the games a lot more exciting for viewers at home, and promoting the Olympic brand for a new generation of fans.