Friday, August 3, 2012

London Olympics: How the IOC Controls Social Media

The International Olympic Committee's social media policy will more than likely frustrate athletes and fans, as the strict rules stymie their possibility to share the knowledge.

The IOC is allowing athletes to work with Twitter and other forms of social websites, but they've placed specific parameters around their usage -- as an example, they're not allowed to post videos in the Olympic Village where they will be hanging out the majority of the trip, and they need to get permission from anybody else they include in their photos and tweets.

In addition, spectators are permitted to take videos, but can't stick them up on social media. This means no candid clips of Michael Phelps slicing over the water or Gabby Douglas nailing a landing.

These provisions are supposed to protect the privacy in the athletes also to ease potential profit losses with the networks, who have paid to supply coverage of the Olympics. The networks tend concerned people uploading amateur videos to the Internet will cannibalize broadcast ratings, although the chances of brief footage distracting viewers isn't likely.

Placing limits on social websites sharing to meet the networks is silly, but trying to keep up that privacy for the athletes is a bit more understandable, albeit a bit misguided. After all, they're competing in one from the most public events on the planet, so that they will be ready for intense scrutiny. Worrying about whether they'll show up in the background of someone's Facebook picture hardly seems appropriate or a wise using time and resources. At the same time, the rules will minimize athletes taking unflattering pictures of each other or posting what to psyche each other out.

Social media usage has affected one athlete, even before the opening ceremonies. Voula Papachristou, a track and field athlete for Greece, was pulled from her country's Olympic team for a racist tweet, proving how intensely policed the medium is and how carefully athletes must navigate their usage.

The IOC doesn't need the personnel to prevent every spectator from uploading a photo of Olympic Village to social networking, and yes it isn't a worthwhile pursuit. Instead of concentrating on the downsides of social media, the Olympic Committee should use their resources to capitalize on the unprecedented access websites like Twitter give fans.

The contradictions implicit in the IOC's social media policy reflect both a desire to capitalize on the viral nature and wide reach of Twitter and Facebook, but also anxiety over controlling what and how information is posted. The key to strong social websites, however, can be a sense of grassroots immediacy and authenticity, and the IOC's policies could curtail the viral nature with the medium. Finding a balance between propriety and openness is tricky, and might be ultimately futile.

The IOC encourages use of social media marketing, but the accompanying restrictions will chafe Internet-savvy users. Unfiltered social media marketing updates would engender more excitement about the Games and heightened emotional connections with all the athletes, which could ultimately boost viewership a lot more than wanting to clamp down.

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