As London gears up for the Olympics, marketers are getting ready for what many believe will be the first social media Olympiad. At the centre of events, the largest audience will be held by live television - the content distribution channel that has dominated audience figures for decades and shows no sign of giving up its top spot. However, dual-screening will come to the fore as people use their smartphones, tablets and laptops to interact on social media while watching the games on television.
This phenomenon, alongside the plethora of apps and video-on-demand services, will see audiences tweeting and updating statuses to cheer on their teams and share experiences with their friends.
At the centre of the battle for second screen attention will be Facebook and Twitter. Both social networks have forged a partnership agreement with NBC - Facebook will hold specially-created content which users can like and share, while Twitter will be curating user-generated content on a specific Olympic page. Facebook also has a partnership with the BBC to stream live content.
For Facebook, the key will be to get fans engaged. It's a great opportunity to show that they have a strong mobile platform and can provide large audiences during big events. Monetising its audience is Facebook's biggest issue at the moment, delivering a large, engaged audience for live events might be one part of the solution.
Twitter has already proved its strength in the mobile space - it's accessed through a mobile device by 80% of its UK users - and it has also demonstrated that when big events occur, its users flock to Twitter, to keep up-to-date with the latest events in real time. However, there is a need to keep growing revenue. Promoted tweets, one of Twitter's core revenue generators, will surely feature among the curated content in its Olympics hub.
For both social networks, the Olympics are an opportunity to prove the value of their services to brands at a global level and also to drive revenue growth. Social and digital marketing spend continues to grow, indicating that brands are eager to engage. This is an excellent opportunity for brands to really get the best from Facebook's and Twitter's commercial offerings.
Of course, brands need to be careful about how they engage. McDonald's, a worldwide Olympic sponsor, has already been burned by a Twitter campaign gone wrong with its #McDStories hashtag. The campaign, designed to encourage people to share their positive experiences at McDonald's, quickly descended into mockery. Additionally, the Olympic brand guidelines, as well as people's aversion to being 'sold at' while they're interacting with others, means that there are risks as well as rewards.
The BBC might not carry advertisements, but the second screen provides access to people who are engaged with a specific event and open to conversation.
Follow Larry Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheLarryWeber