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Social media and the effect it can have on business and careers (as it relates to the 2012 London Olympics)

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The London 2012 Summer Olympics have (un)officially been dubbed the first social media Olympics ever. There were more tweets sent during the London 2012 opening ceremony than the entirety of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. From slip ups to successes, the London 2012 games have been well documented and discussed on social media sites across the globe. Athletes, journalists, fans, even major broadcast networks did some damage on the web during the London games. Was Cicero right – is every mistake a foolish one? Or can we learn a thing or two from the worst social media fails of the 2012 Summer games?
 
 

Your social media history isn’t history

For Australian swimmers, the London games have unfortunately become the anti-social media Olympics. Australian gold medalist Stephanie Rice spends most of her days in a bathing suit as an Olympic swimmer but during the London games, Rice tweeted and Instagrammed a photo of herself in a revealing bikini, receiving a ton of flack. The swimmer has faced backlash before, losing key sponsors as a result of a homophobic slur in a 2010 tweet. Rice’s teammates, Nick D’arcy and Kenrick Monk, were sent home immediately after their events after they posted a photo to Facebook of the pair holding firearms while training in the United States prior to Olympic competition.

The lesson to be learned from Rice, D’arcy and Monk seems obvious: clean up your history. Post a photo, make a comment or send out a tweet and it’s there forever. Rice learned the hard way, even if you delete after-the-fact, it’s probably already been seen. It’s better to underestimate the effect a tweet or posting might have on your career or personal life. It’s better to not take the risk then face the potentially devastating consequences.

You probably shouldn’t tweet that

When Olympic athletes Voula Papachristou of Greece and Michel Morganella of Switzerland qualified for the London 2012 Olympic games, they probably didn’t think they would get the boot because of a simple tweet. Papachristou was kicked out of the games before she even arrived for an enraged racist tweet. Morganella took to Twitter to express his thoughts about losing to the Korean soccer team. Unfortunately, those thoughts weren’t exactly appropriate. Both tweets were deleted, but not before the world saw.

Everyone makes mistakes, but social media mistakes have drastic consequences. The Olympics isn’t the first place we’ve seen careers go down the drain as a result of an inappropriate tweet, but it is a good indication of what can come from a Twitter trip up. It’s crucial to remember that even if your career has nothing to do with social media, your presence is public and slip ups can be seen by all.

What do you mean you’re not on social media?

Heard of LoLo Jones but never heard of Paige McPherson? One’s got nearly 300,000 followers and the other’s got 800. Jones has racked up almost 7000 tweets while McPherson’s at 500. Both are members of the 2012 United States Olympic team. Jones’ social media savvy has put her at the top of Athletes To Watch lists across the continent. Her marketing ingenuity has put her on the map next to the likes of Usain Bolt and Kobe Bryant. McPherson on the other hand, remains unknown and overlooked. Even though Jones struggled to perform in the 2012 London games, she remains a hero to many athletes because of her presence on social media.

The bottom line is, social media is an ideal platform to get yourself out there, and fast. Social media engages with consumers on a whole different level than other media. If you or your organization is not taking advantage of social media, you will fall behind. Remember that social media can be a double edged sword – be wary of tweets and posts, they can make or break you.

The London 2012 Olympics have revolved around social media – from social content to web apps. This year has seen the first Olympic “spoiler-alerts” popping up across social media as a result of, or lack of, NBC’s coverage (another story altogether). A British teen received a harassment warning after incessant inappropriate tweets to British diver Tom Daley got out of hand. The social media story hasn’t been all good for the London 2012 games, and the dangers of Twitter and Facebook have proven relevant. Take a page out of the London games, and don’t make that social media mistake that could change your career or your business – for the worse.

Meghan Tooley is a commerce student, active blogger and social media enthusiast from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She writes on behalf of Canada’s Web Shop, a communications firm also based in Winnipeg.

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