At the end of last week, we found out that the Olympic social media “debacle” may not have been a debacle at all. It may have actually helped the games. According to the ratings released on Friday, total viewership for the Olympics is substantially better than it was four years ago. Through the first five days, viewers were up nearly 30% higher than what NBC had originally expected.
At the heart of that, overall viewership for teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 increased 29% from the 2008 Summer Olympics. That’s quite a jump considering that the Beijing games featured Michael Phelps sweeping the competition in eight separate races. So what could be the difference between then and now? Well, it could just be the exact thing everyone was previously complaining about – social media.
The issues concerning the coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics became quite apparent over the first week of this year’s games. Just a day into the event, people from all over the U.S. were up in arms about receiving information about the games via social media before they could find out about it on television. The results of an event airing at eight o’clock at night could be found out by three o’clock earlier that afternoon.
This actually led many to either declare that they were not going to interact with social media during the games or that all reporters and athletes at the games should go dark until the results were revealed on this side of the pond. Yet, no one counted on the effect of social media, strongly driven by teens whose response to results being posted would seem to be a huge contributing factor to higher ratings.
While there is no exact evidence to prove that the increase in television ratings is directly related to Olympic results being accessible through avenues like Twitter and Facebook, this is one of the more popular theories out there. Integration is undoubtedly the future of advertising and marketing. But what is funny about this particular case is the fact that integration as we know it almost traveled in reverse.
QR codes are constantly driving people to their computers or mobile devices. Ads during the Super Bowl now often encourage people to take their eyes away from the “big game” and interact with a brand online. Yet, in this case, could it be that social media is driving people to other types of media? Sure, a few sourpusses might still be upset about getting results ahead of time but, overall, social media’s greatest asset is its ability to create buzz. In this case, the buzz may be sending people to their TVs to actually see the events take place, rather than read about them in a 140-character passage.
Integration is not a one-way street; it is a circle of media life. There is no reason to think that Twitter and Facebook can’t drive young people, in particular, back to things like television and radio. The naysayers will preach about the 30-second spot being dead, but tell that to hundreds of marketers who are now clamoring to get a piece of the Olympic action after hearing how much ratings have improved. As social technology continues to progress, marketers will find new ways to promote integration. Young people, who otherwise might not have even bothered with older forms of media, will be at the center of all of it.