Universities take London 2012 'twitter Olympics' to the next level, says UCLAN expert
5 August 2012
Universities across the country have seized the opportunity to showcase their research and project-led London 2012 Games work on twitter, according to a university sports marketing lecturer and social media researcher. Have you?
With the use of the social media website more prominent at the London 2012 Olympic Games than any other previous Olympics, and for that matter sporting event, twitter, whether you like it or loathe it, has revolutionised the way we see, hear and do things.
From celebrating an athlete’s gold medal success to posting pictures of day-to-day existence in the athletes’ village, competitors' use of the media has caught the eye of most people but they're not the only ones getting involved with the phenomenon.
Dr Leah Donlan, a lecturer in sports marketing at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), who is currently analysing the use of social media by London 2012 sponsors, described some universities' latest use of the communication form.
"As a former Loughborough University student and member of staff at UCLAN, I've noticed both universities have been very, very active on twitter (during the Games).
"Loughborough, of course, have a lot of student athletes and Loughborough based athletes competing at the Games to keep track of their progress and update on twitter, but I've noticed many universities have seized the opportunity to post links, not just about sport, but focused on academic research and support which is heavily linked with the Games.
"Universities have been promoting these areas, such as the work of student volunteers, new technology and general Games involvement from a different angle. It's quite a wide tool to utilise because it's very easy to put a tweet out there and say something simply following on from a sporting result, but whether that adds a huge amount of value I'm not quite sure.
“However, to be able to say here's our research and this is how it links into the Games, is a powerful tool, because it's more relevant to what universities do and the role they play in society."
With 331 out of 541 Team GB athletes using twitter on a regular basis, there have been several controversial incidents surroundings its negative use reported in the media but Dr Donlan's studies suggest it can quickly raise any given athlete’s profile.
"We were all expecting that there would be a lot of activity on twitter, perhaps not quite as much as we have seen, and a lot of my research has been following the sponsors and they've been jumping on the band wagon and retweeting athletes.
“That obviously helps promote athletes’ names to a much wider audience as well and the retweet phenomenon is putting athletes in front of an audience who perhaps hadn't heard of them before.
“People then see them on the television and then see a tweet from them and start following the athlete. That's been the biggest area where I think athletes have been able to broaden their reach a lot more, as traditionally we wouldn't have known as much about them. It's brought athletes to the fore on twitter," said Dr Donlan, who is also a Podium Games Expert.
The spotlight and media expectation on competitors at a home Games has been intense, and as a result, Dr Donlan believes athletes have become more cautious about what they tweet and when.
“I think people are becoming more wary of what they tweet - we've already seen examples of athletes who've been sent home rightly so for putting offensive items on twitter. And I think with that happening and those kinds of sanctions I think other athletes are thinking: ‘That this is a very real threat, which could jeopardise my Games if I post something inappropriate on twitter’.
"The tone of the tweets that I've seen is very much 'congratulations to other athletes' - they're very much easy tweets if you like. In the past you've probably seen athletes tweeting about their daily routine but I've seen less of that this Games, perhaps because athletes are worried about giving away training secrets or the reaction of people to the way they're training etc.
“Athletes are staying on those very safe topics. It's understanding from their point of view but we're perhaps not getting the insight we once did from them.”
By Stuart Appleby
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