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Olympic athletes winning social media gold

|August 12, 2016
Runners on a track
Written by
Kristi McKee

Kristi McKee

Senior Consultant

If you have access to any sort of social channel, you know the Rio Summer Olympics are well underway. The International Olympic Committee has strict regulations in place for athletes, businesses and individuals posting about the Games, but the Olympic conversation continues across all platforms. From #PhelpsFace, to giving female athletes credit for their successes (and actually using their name), social media is playing a big role in #Rio2016.

And as social media continues to grow, and new platforms emerge, many athletes are taking advantage of social channels to share their journeys and build their personal brands. Instagram video clips, Snapchat and Instagram stories, Live tweets, YouTube videos and Facebook posts are just a few of the ways athletes are bringing fans along their Olympic journeys.

Let’s take a look at three athletes who are winning social media gold at the #Rio2016 Olympics:

Alex Morgan
Sport: Soccer
Country: USA

Instagram: 3.9M followers
Facebook: 2.9M followers
Twitter: 2.55M followers

When it comes to cross-channel reach, Alex Morgan is on her game. Her feeds are a curated mix of professional photos, personal candids and images featuring her sponsored brands. She also uses the platforms to further advocacy efforts for women in sport.

She’s doing something smart, too: using one platform (Instagram) to share across all three platforms regularly (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter). Sharing the same post across all channels helps her to streamline efforts, reach a wider audience and create a consistent brand. Her simple, candid captions make her accessible and approachable to her followers.

Tom Daley
Sport: Diving
Country: Great Britain

Instagram: 1.4M followers
Facebook: 2.65M followers
Twitter: 2.55M followers
YouTube: 278k subscribers

British synchronized diver Tom Daley uses a multi-channel approach to engage followers on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. He’s known for regularly posting health & fitness tips and training updates across all channels, and his Instagram account uses a mix of videos and photos to promote his longer YouTube videos. Using YouTube is rare among athletes, so Tom sets himself apart and offers his followers content that lasts for more than just 15 seconds.

Throughout the Games, Tom’s been using social media to share reactions, medal photos and event updates, staying accessible and sharing his Olympic experience with his millions of followers.

Simone Biles
Sport: Artistic gymnastics
Country: USA

Instagram: 1.4M followers
Facebook: 300k followers
Twitter: 302k followers
Snapchat: @simonebiles

Simone Biles has made a name for herself as one of the best, if not the best gymnast of all time—despite her young age. The fact that she’s 19 is not lost on her social media presence. Her accounts are fun, genuine and exactly what you would expect from a young athlete. She’s built an impressive following, fueled by her recent Olympic wins—her Instagram grew by 70k followers in the 24 hours following the USA Women’s team all-around win, and she gained over 300k Instagram followers after she won the Women’s individual all-around event the next day.

Simone’s Instagram is a mix of short videos, fun Boomerangs and professional and candid photos of her training, competing and spending time with teammates. Her regularly updated Snapchat story shows her playful side and gives an authentic peek into her personality. Through her channels she’s building her brand as a loyal teammate, dedicated athlete and that friend we all have who can laugh at her own jokes. And she’s getting the attention of a few celebrities, too.

What can businesses learn from these athletes?
Though diverse in the sports they compete in, these athletes share a lot of common traits on their social channels. Here’s what we can learn from all three.

Be active
When social accounts go dormant for days or weeks on end, followers lose interest. Keeping content fresh, timely and relevant shows investment in your followers and gives them a steady stream of content to keep your business top of mind.

Use multiple channels
Different audiences hang out on different channels, so cross-channel posts can reach diverse groups of people and build brand awareness. Why is this important? Posting across platforms creates consistent messaging and an increased likelihood that your audience is catching your content.

Be authentic
Your offline and online brands are no longer mutually exclusive. Social media and 24/7 access to the Internet mean that every piece of content you post must reflect how you want you or your company to be perceived by your followers. Posting actively is important, but it’s equally, if not more important, that your posts reflect your overall brand personality and stay true to your key messaging and business objectives.

Diversity is key
There are many features across social platforms, which makes it easy to keep your content fresh and exciting. From short Boomerangs, to carefully picked, branded photos, to on-the-fly candids and 15-second videos, using a diverse mix of media keeps followers coming back for more.

——— Kristi McKee is a former Senior Consultant, Integrated Strategy at NATIONAL Public Relations