Olympic Athletes Win Big On Social Media

The results are in. The 2012 London Olympics were the most actively followed on social media so far. Twitter has swelled, and Facebook has grown to 900 million active compared to 400 million during the 2010 Winter Olympics and 100 million during the 2008 summer games in Beijing.

New figures from Wildfire, the social ad firm that Google recently acquired, found that star athletes—Usain Bolt from Jamaica, Roger Federer from Switzerland and Russia's Maria Sharapova—powered their home nations to the top three spots for countries with the most global reach. U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas picked up a record number of Facebook followers—more than 550,000 in the month since mid-July, Wildfire says, leaping from 14,000 followers to 582,912 by August 12. Marcel Nguyen and Camille Muffat came in second and third place, each crossing 194,000 and 124,000 Facebook followers by the time the games closed.

Twitter says that the Olympics fueled 150 million tweets in total, spiking at 80,000 tweets per minute during Usain Bolt's closely watched 200 meters race. Bolt, followed by Michael Phelps and Tom Daley took the top spots on the Most Tweeted About list. A report from Starcount says Phelps added 1 million Twitter followers putting his total fan count at 1.2 million. Douglas, at last count, has a little over 650,000 followers on Twitter.

Facebook and Twitter, social media organizers like Shazam, and news organizations like the BBC and NBC News have been bending over backwards to collaborate at this summers' games, to tap into this accelerated engagement.

Bluefin Labs, the TV social media analytics firm has jumped in with numbers on how they performed. Bluefin says it recorded 36 million tweets and comments related to NBCU coverage of the games. In total, anywhere, Bluefin counted 86 million Olympics-related tweets and Facebook comments fly between July 27 and August 12.

Update:

Bluefin's comment counters have picked the most popular sports and athletes on social media, tallying comments and tweets across all sites. Michael Phelps racked up the most comments—4.2 million in total—across all social media, making him the most popular athlete on social streams. Next up was diving fiend Tom Daley who also picked up about 4.2 million comments, 75 percent of which came from women, Bluefin says.

Swimmers in general seem to have caused quite the, um, splash. Swimming events led the board with 7.9 million social media comments. Track and field finished a distant second with 5.4 million social comments.

Not surprisingly, China's microblog Sina Weibo was also busy during the games. In fact, Sina reported almost twice as many messages for the games than Twitter did, recording 393 million messages compared to Twitter's 150 million.

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