A slippery slope for Sochi 2014?

As athletes across the globe gear up for the Winter Olympics 2014, the organisers are facing a communications challenge – how to maximise social media engagement with an international audience when the host country’s most popular social media channel isn’t even on the global radar?

London2012 was the first truly digital Olympics, with social media used effectively to communicate every twist and turn of the sporting extravaganza. Twitter and Facebook were used to engage with the international community by not only LOCOG but the individual teams and athletes themselves.

The figures speak for themselves – as the first ‘Socialympics’ it was a successful use of these communications tools.

According to Twitter, over 150m tweets were sent about London2012 during the 16 days of competition. Usain Bolt attracted the highest tweets per minute rate for his 200m performance, at 80,000tpm.

The Daily Telegraph analysed London2012’s success on Facebook – citing Usain Bolt as the most talked about athlete, but Michael Phelps being the one who added the most fans over the course of the Olympics, an extra 750,000, and TeamGB darling Jessica Ennis picked up an additional 620,000.

But can Sochi 2014 repeat the success?

It’s going to be a much harder proposition for the organisers. For a start, most Olympic fans will be on Facebook and Twitter, but to reach Russian fans it’s all about a platform hardly anyone outside of Russia has heard of, let alone has an active account.

Vkontakte, VK for short, is hugely popular in Russia, with more than 49m people using it monthly, compared with 8m accessing Facebook. The official Sochi 2014 page already has nearly 2m subscribers, but they’ve been hard won over the last 11 months, drummed up through social sharing and ticket competitions.

According to the Sochi Olympic committee it’s the most popular page on the platform now, but how are they measuring that? If it’s pure followers then it’s not an effective measurement of engagement levels or interest. The fact that a recent poll on the Sochi VK page only generated 48,000 votes, just 2.4% of the account’s fans, I’d suggest people aren’t that engaged with the account.

So, we’ll have to wait to see if Sochi 2014 can continue the social media legacy of London2012. I’d suggest that we’ll have to wait until Rio in 2016.