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Going for gold on social media

Over the past couple of weeks, the adrenaline-fuelled Winter Games in Sochi has captured the world's attention. We've seen athletes jump impossible heights on skis, hurtle at great speed on the skeleton and we even got a hit of nostalgia from 1990s film classic, 'Cool Runnings', with the Jamaican bobsleigh team competing at this year's Games.

Lizzy Yarnold: she won gold at Sochi and became a social media winner too

Lizzy Yarnold: she won gold at Sochi and became a social media winner too

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But in today’s multi-channel world, it’s not just about what we see on our TV sets, hear on radio or read in the newspaper. With the rise of social media, the way consumers interact with current events and brands is a total game changer. Not only do we read and strike up discussions about certain athletes, celebrities, news or events that are happening, we now interact with the individuals themselves and publicly display that we are ‘fans’ (or not, as the case may be).

During Sochi 2014, we thought it would be interesting to see which sports stars were the digital winners by monitoring the ‘ones to watch’ and their social standing on Facebook and Twitter. Before the games, we analysed their popularity and then compared the impact that their sporting success had. Overwhelmingly, top sporting performance proved to impact social media interaction. Here’s a rundown of our social media podium:

The gold winner

Lizzy Yarnold – after winning gold in the skeleton for the UK, she proved to be the darling of the social media world, too. Her Twitter followers boosted by an impressive 1444 percent and Facebook likes increased by 909 percent, which combined were higher than any other athlete.

The silver winner

Javier Fernandez – the Spanish figure skater saw his Twitter followers jump by 8185 percent, which was higher than any other athlete after he came third in the men’s short programme.

The bronze winner

Arianna Fontana – the Italian speed skater saw her Twitter followers rise by 810 percent and her Facebook likes stormed ahead with a 5791 percent increase, as she bagged two bronze medals and a silver at the games.

Other runners-up included the US favourites Bode Miller, who received a 132 per cent rise in Twitter followers after the games, and despite experiencing a disappointing competition, Shaun White still added 110,000 Twitter followers and more than 77,500 new Facebook likes.

Across the pond, snowboarder Jenny Jones gained more than 70,000 followers on Twitter after winning the UK’s first-ever medal on snow. Off the back of the "Cool Runnings" effect, Winston Watts of the Jamaican bobsleigh saw a 500 percent increase in followers on Twitter.

What does this mean for businesses?

The social media boosts present a valuable opportunity for marketers. Consumers interact with subjects or brands they have an interest in, meaning there is a deluge of data available for businesses to gather and use.

Unlocking key insights such as who is the most influential sports star on Twitter, or which athlete is dominant overall, can allow marketers to personalise their strategies and campaigns, create meaningful interactions and reach out to the right audience at the right time with the appropriate services. This can be easily achieved through the use of a combined social and email marketing strategy.

Today, businesses need to keep their hand on the digital pulse and stay relevant – tying marketing into current events such as the Winter Games is certainly a good place to start.

Dave Walters is a product evangelist at Silverpop

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