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Team GB Win the Social Media Olympics

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Everyone and anyone could follow this year's Olympic Games and get real-time updates at any time via a smartphone or digital TV. Of course previous Olympics had always been a curated experience via TV, radio and online where broadcasters controlled what was streamed and what viewers would see around the world but this year felt slightly different. It was more sociable. We weren't just watching it, we were in it. No one had to miss out on a single thing and the power was with the fans to consume the Olympics exactly the way they wanted to via the social networks they know and love.

Updates and opinions were told daily in 140 characters. We could follow our favourite Olympians on Twitter. We could download a whole host of apps to tell us how the team were doing at all times. For the first time, the fans were given the opportunity to tell the story alongside the official commentators. It was a social experience, and for those unable to attend any events, following the excitement on social media was almost just as exciting. Whilst we watched interviews with the athletes after competing on TV, we saw tweets roll past with personalized messages from fans and whilst watching the opening and closing ceremony following Grace Dent's tweets was a great alternative if you didn't manage to get tickets.

The growth in mobile and social network users since the last Olympic Games has been truly staggering. Facebook grew from 100 to 900 million active users. Twitter grew from 100 million tweets per yearly quarter to 340 million tweets per day. The use of smartphones is sky high, up 456% from 18.9 million to 106.7 million this year. Every company under the sun now has social media strongly embedded in their online strategy and Team GB was to be no exception. Social media is the perfect way to get personality across, engage in real-time with fans and instigate one big conversation amongst the nation.

So, how did Team GB begin their big digital campaign? It started on 27 February 2012 by launching their brand new website and with it the real identity behind 'Our Greatest Team'. This was a new fresh approach to previous communication with the audiences and through social media it meant the fans could receive exclusive content, send in messages of support and really feel a sense of community in London and all over the world. Every upload onto the site gives that real-time impression too displaying how minutes ago the last photo was uploaded. The first thing to be seen on the site is the social buttons: G+ for daily blogging, Twitter to join the Olympics cocktail party of conversation, Facebook for visual content and YouTube for exclusive behind the scene clips.

Social networks connected us to the Olympians in a way like never before. The Team GB channels curated the content, but connecting personally with the voices of the athletes was something very special this year. We could talk to the individuals and congratulate them or wish them luck. Even Pride the Lion had his own Twitter account. The whole team could invite the entire 60 million people of the nation to join them on the Olympic journey through live content. Team GB reached that goal and Joe Morgan, Team GB's Digital Manager said he was "proud to say that we did that on Facebook alone - 62,000,000 people were reached in the two weeks with our content."

Team GB Live put London 2012 into the hands of the fans, providing them with a truly customized Olympic experience by letting them "remove the noise and follow just the athletes you like and the sports you're interested in". It allowed fans to stay completely up to date with all the latest news and plan their Olympics with the full, interactive Team GB event schedule. This allowed fans to customise their desktop or mobile app by choosing only the athletes, sports and venues they wanted to follow and get every London 2012 result straight to their device.

Team GB employed a team of four volunteers named the "Social Media Sports Commentators" who were trained up and briefed with the ambition and strategy who then worked 8 hour daily shifts to divide and conquer all of the events GB were competing in. This team had to learn the full strategy, tone of voice, crisis management procedure and even planned future hashtags like #aMOzingg (two g's for two golds) and #GoldenHoy. Every day they managed to get around 4 or 5 hashtags trending within 60 seconds(including #GoMo, #GoldWednesday, #BigBen). This is an example of how we can now broadcast in a less expensive and a lot more spontaneous way than before, but the long working hours and graft behind it is something that cannot be avoided.

As a way for fans to feel included, Team GB created a real time fan gallery that showed the fan story of the Olympics through the power of photos. This pin board of stories was created for and by the fans, showing wherever they were in the world and who they were cheering on; a key place for fans to share their own story. Fans could also receive a daily eCRM newsletter that wrapped up the previous day of competition and got everyone excited about the day ahead. By using the Team GB platforms the team increased awareness of the NGBs & Athletes simply by linking to their profiles to increase their fan base and ramp up the support for these individuals. By using 'Photo of the Day' albums - a visual wrap up of that days competition and highlights and including Cover Photo Poll meant fans choose what the Facebook cover photo should be for the day based on the main highlights of the day. It was also the posting of daily video content including exclusive behind the scenes video footage giving fans that inside scoop and sense of inclusiveness.

So what were the main results?

Team GB saw over 620% increase in social media fans/followers during the Olympics Games and over 2000% increase of media fans/followers since the start of the Our Greatest Team campaign in March.

On Twitter:

• Over 35 million people engaged with #TeamGB or #OurGreatestTeam at some point during the Games.
• The Closing Ceremony Twitter conversation received over 65,000 Re-Tweets & Opening Ceremony Tweet received 45,000 Re-tweets.
• The hashtag #OurgreatestTeam averaged at 542,000 views per day with peaks on August 4th and August 12th at over 750,000.
• The hashtag #TeamGB averaged at 1.8 million views per day with peaks again on August 4th/12th at over 2.8 million.

On Facebook:

• Over 60,000,000 people were reached on the Team GB Facebook page during the games reaching the goal of targeting our nation of 60 million people.
• On average over 2 million people were actively talking about Team GB during the games
• The top 5 Facebook posts had 909,915 likes, shared 74,153 times and received 25,789, engaging 1.9 million users and reaching over 11 million users in total.

So, what is next for Our Greatest Team and Team GB in terms of social and digital media? Of course there is expected to be a lapse and lull in engagement levels now that the Games are over, but with such a strong online community the job is far from done. What has been built over the course of the campaign is an online fan base for Team GB, an awareness of our country's sports, athletes and achievements. Now that Team GB now has over 1.6 million people that they can talk to on a daily basis with a new found motivation for sport, this is just the beginning of a powerful connection with our Olympic athletes and spirit of the Games, thanks to the power of social media.

*Sources = Nielsen, eMarketer, Forrester