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And the Medals for the Social Media Olympics Go To…

Controversy surrounds almost every Olympic games, but with the rise of social media, the problems in Sochi have been magnified – issues with the hotels built specifically for the games, discriminatory human rights laws in the host country, the culling of stray dogs that angered animal rights activists, and snafus in the venues; journalists, athletes, and businesses are not holding back with their criticism and support.  For brands, with the entire world watching, the ability to capitalize on the unique marketing opportunities offered by social media platforms is key.  After all, twitter is free and accessible by anyone with an internet connection, whereas TV ads could be censored and are expensive.

Below I’ve awarded the gold, silver, and bronze medals to brands who have shown us the best use of social media during this Olympics, and included tips on how you can apply these tactics to your own business.

1)    Don’t be afraid of controversy. The gold medal here goes to Chobani yogurt.  Here’s why: Chobani promoted the tweet pictured at right in support of the LGBT community. This shows a perfect combination of showcasing the brand’s flavor offerings while not-so-subtlety reminding us that they support ALL members of Team USA.  Not using trending hashtags like #Sochi2014 #Olympics2014 or #GoTeamUSA may seem like a mistake at first glance, but by saying “Naturally Powering Everyone,” Chobani is also reminding us that all of us, Olympian or not, can eat like a champion.  Chobani, a sponsor of Team USA, received free press due to the fact Russia has failed to provide an import certificate for their yogurt, causing Olympians to complain.  In addition to showing support for Team USA and the LGBT community, this tweet also takes a swipe at Russia.  By changing the conversation from Russia to their yogurt, Chobani made controversy their friend.

BP tweet2)    Clever will always win.  Here, the silver medal goes to @BPGlobalPR, a BP Parody account that took advantage of the biggest mishap of the Opening Ceremony.  The failure of a snowflake to transform into the last Olympic ring was a perfect branding opportunity (see tweet pictured at left) and thus made twitterland giggle – drawing attention to the account that regularly rips BP’s environmental impact.  Meanwhile, BP’s official account, @BPAmerica has simply been retweeting @BPTeamUSA, which is offering nothing beyond what can already be found by following the U.S. Olympic team’s twitter account.  The lesson here is twofold: one, BP’s corporate accounts missed an opportunity by not immediately capitalizing on trending topics during the Opening Ceremonies.  Two, once the BP Parody account took advantage of the trend #SochiProblems, a lack of timely and equally clever response from BP only further reinforces a stereotype that BP doesn’t listen to the public.  Here, BP broke one of the golden rules of social media marketing: 80% of content should be what your audience wants to hear versus 20% promotional content that you want to put out.  When done well, ‘brand fights’ can combine criticism and creativity to equal viral goodness.

Moe's olympics3)    Videos rule.  On average, visual content like videos and pictures will receive 50% more engagement on social media.  However, it takes some creative marketing to ensure visual content remains on topic and relevant to an overall marketing plan – it is a tricky balance, as brands that are obviously taking advantage of trending topics will be mocked. Vine videos are the 2014 version of a mascot-on-the-street-corner: quick, easy to create (most are filmed on a smartphone), and cost savvy. So, the bronze medal goes to Moe’s Southwest Grill for their tweet, pictured above. Moe’s Vine video of their mascots participating in the Olympic’s most popular sport, ice-skating, included a touch of self-deprecating humor.  Their tweet prompted a response from a popular NFL player volunteering to wear a burrito suit all in the name of funny.  I awarded Moe’s the bronze medal here because of their quick response time, the fact that they utilized trending hashtags on topic, and their use of an emerging and increasingly popular technology in an amusing way.

So, to Chobani, BPGlobalPR, and Moe’s – we salute you!  Go Team USA.  EdgevilleBuzz readers, what’s your favorite Olympics marketing campaign?  Tell us in the comments!

Nora Brathol, Edgewater resident, is the CEO and Founder of Arka Pana Consulting, a social media marketing firm for businesses and non-profit organizations looking to raise awareness of their brands online.  Visit Arka Pana’s facebook page for daily social media tips.     

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