I embarked upon a social media experiment for the London2012 Olympics. I have been a writer and commentator on canoe slalom for more than 25 years and volunteered to write a daily blog on canoe slalom as a feed for several sports websites. This was my contribution to the Olympics in raising awareness of our incredible, exhilarating sport of canoe slalom. Here is an account of what transpired and what can be learnt from the exercise.
I have been an early adopter of social media starting with Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr in 2007, blogs starting from 2008, Twitter in 2009 and more recently Google+. The blog was published through WordPress, which I had used in other work related areas. https://unofficialolympiccanoeslalom.wordpress.com. Each post was on a different topic related to international canoe slalom and I was working a couple of days ahead. Each post was about 500-1000 words with about 3 photographs. The blog ran for 31 days with 42 posts during between July 2nd and August 3rd. I posted live text from an iPad at the venue at the end of each class during the semi-finals and finals. The blog resulted in over 6000 views, with 743 on the last day of the Olympic canoe slalom event at Lee Valley Whitewater Centre.
The most searched item was Jessica Fox, the 18 year old Australian who won silver in the K1W – kayak single women class, followed by in order; Lee Valley, canoe slalom & Hannes Aigner, who won a bronze medal for Germany in K1M – men’s single kayak class. The number of views on the sports websites is unknown. The greatest number of referrals was through Google by a huge margin, followed by www.canoeslalom.co.uk , followed by Facebook and Twitter. The daily blog posts and multiple posts on the day of the finals and Team GB Gold & Silver medals meant that the blog came up multiple times in the first page of Google if searching for canoe slalom. So frequency of blog or website updates has a hugely significant effect on search engine optimization, as suggested by Eileen Brown in her book, ‘Working the Crowd’ and also in a guide ‘Going Social – Tapping into Social Media for Nonprofit Success’ www.convio.com/social-media.
There were 215 tags. Top posts were; home page, Lee Valley venue, Spectators Guide, What to expect & Canoe Slalom from behind the lens. Top click-through’s were to the blog URL, London2012, Sportscene.tv and International Canoe Federation www.canoeicf.com . The tribute to Martyn Hedges received the most comments from several Olympian and paddlers at World Championships who had personally known Martyn. My own favourite post was the ‘My Ultimate Run’. In all the years of canoe slalom media I can never think that I have read an article written in the first person on what it ‘feels’ like to paddle a slalom race at this level. It was a fun piece of creative writing.
I publicized the blog through Twitter, Facebook and Linked. It was regularly retweeted including by BBC Sport. The most spectacular photography was made available to me by Michael Barnett www.mb23photography.com, Antony Edmonds www.aephotos.co.uk, Rob van Bommel www.sportscene.tv and various other individuals and this added a professional look and depth to the quality of the posts.
How does this relate to the business world?
Over the years much of what I have learnt in the use of social media in business has come from my experiences of using social media in sport and charitable organisations. On this occasion, I have used more tags than ever before, seen the impact of these and the frequency of updates on search engine optimisation. I used captions below each photograph. Each post has been automatically publicised in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I also spent time reviewing the daily, weekly and month to date stats, which was exciting and motivating.
John Gregory August 28th 2012