How can Vancouver use social media to benefit from the 2010 Games?

Post by Mike Klassen in ,


Direct link to this video "Twit This, Timbuktu" -- Video credit: Stewart Marshall & Bruce Sharpe

I've taken a while to post this as I didn't watch this video recording until today. Back in February I attended  the "MooseCamp" portion of the annual Northern Voice social media conference organized by several folks from Vancouver's blogging community. I've written several times over the years about my experiences at Northern Voice, and continue to support this great event.

If our 30-minute discussion about the topic of exploiting social media during the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Games was any indication, Northern Voice continues to attract some very creative minds.

For those who are interested in watching this recording, I would suggest that you stick with it. Until the eight-minute mark it's essentially me trying to get a room full of strangers to warm up to the topic. A PowerPoint might have helped, but I was only equipped with a board and a stick of chalk. If the format seems a little loose, it was intended. MooseCamp is modeled after the BarCamp participatory workshop concept.

My goal with the session, which I labeled "Twit This, Timbuktu: How BC can use social media during 2010 for economic gain," was to generate a discussion among social media users about how online connections can expand throughout the global community during the time they're paying attention to us most.

We musn't forget that all the athletes, plus many of their supporters and family members will be visiting Vancouver and Whistler next year. As well, thousands of members of international media will be here to report not only about the competitions, but they'll also be talking about us.

I asked those in attendance (some of whom were from abroad) what the world thought about Vancouver, or BC, or Canada for that matter. The answers were pretty predictable. The weather is cool and/or rainy. The people here are considered "nice" or "polite." As I remarked to the room, is New York considered "nice"? If you're a city, nice = boring.

Some exciting and positive ideas and opinions flowed from the room that day. A few highlights are:

  1. We should try to facilitate real time connections with viewers and locals through social media. A viewer in China or Austria might take some thrill by connecting with someone experiencing the Games first hand in Vancouver. One person referred to it as the modern equivalent of a pen pal.
  2. Social media types should refine a tag or set of tags to try and connect all conversations around Vancouver 2010 to build critical mass.
  3. VANOC should create a special media accreditation designation for bloggers (not just traditional media) for them to gain access to news and info from the Games and start their own web channels.
  4. Aid direct links between local small businesses and similarly sized enterprises from abroad (credit to Pete Quily).
  5. Create a "Virtual Travel Council" of locals who can use blogging and social media to introduce the region to the world.

The evening before Moosecamp I visited the Hillcrest Olympic venue (not "Hillside" as I erroneously referred to it), and found a very eager public already catching Olympic fever. It foreshadowed for me how much the public is going to enjoy the Olympics and Paralympics next year. I think that Vancouver will strongly embrace the Games, and relish the opportunity to show off their city, province and country.

To realize the full potential of 2010 we must find new ways to connect Canada's bloggers and social media users to their counterparts from around the world.

Many thanks to Stewart and Bruce for recording the session, and allowing me to post it up on Vimeo to share.


Interesting discussion everyone. I wrote a business book entitled “Leverage Olympic Momentum” and published it in early 2006. I am also the editor of a blog that since 2004 has advised small and midsize business owners in Vancouver and Whistler what they can do to leverage Olympic momentum independently.

My media communications company works with local business owners and residents and teaches them to leverage Olympic momentum using various forms of the internet. Our clients run the gamut from holding multi million dollar Olympic contracts, to those that have nothing at all to offer VANOC. The latter, and a very large group, is interested in leveraging Olympic momentum independently by reaching around the world through websites, blogs, and recently twitter, and sharing with everyone interested what to expect when they arrive in Vancouver for 2010.

This large and rapidly growing group quietly communicates with athletes, their support teams, spectators, and sponsors, and invites them to seek out their businesses before, or when they arrive in Vancouver for the Games. Some even sponsor athletes. The idea is to establish relationships with people and prospects early, and the method is to use the 2010 Olympics to initiate the conversation.

The hardest, and most important thing for social media people in Vancouver to understand is that you have to compete with the Olympics. It is both a monopoly and an oligopoly, and Olympic organizations work hard to maintain control and keep competition subdued. “Local mainstream news media” are in fact Olympic partners and suppliers so don’t expect newspapers or television to help you understand the very complex marketing and commerce concepts of the Games.

Local news companies make a fortune “working” the Games and are well paid by the IOC to tell the Olympic side of the Olympics story. They will not shoot themselves in the foot and promote social media in a “timely” manner because it will only cut into their 2010 profits. Newspapers often reveal only half the 2010 story. They do eventually tell it all, but critical information is often so late in coming it doesn’t really help the people who need it the most. Timing is everything.

The premise behind releasing our book way back in 2006 was to give people in our Host region a heads up so they could prepare effectively, and to encourage them to use the internet (today we’ve defined it as social media) to reach around the world before anyone shows up in 2010.

Friendly competition is the best way to use social media to leverage Olympic momentum.

We encourage our clients to simply use their web presence to tell the truth about what is occurring in Vancouver in the ramp up to the Games, and to tell anyone coming here exactly what to expect regarding weather, opportunities, costs, crime, etc.

It’s no secret today that VANOC and the IOC operate in secrecy. We promote however that information should be set free if residents of our Host community actually expect to benefit and not just suffer through the serious inconvenience and downside of building the infrastructure and then struggling under the rapid increase of taxes to pay for 2010.

Our slogan is, “If you have to pay for it, you should benefit too,” and our modus operandi is social media. The key is transparency.

The best advice at this late date is to invite, and talk to as many people around the world as you can and tell them truthfully what to expect when they arrive here. At the very least prepare them for the rain and the hordes of homeless. They will thank you.

We walk the talk and launched a website that targets everyone with a 2010 Olympic interest - It is the first website of it’s kind because it lays out exactly what someone will experience when they arrive. For example, we have one section that tells people where to go, and another telling them what to AVOID.

Our business site, teaches business owners and anyone interested in volunteering what to expect, and shares insight regarding the “unwritten rules” and how to compete in a friendly way with VANOC and the IOC.

It’s now obvious to everyone living in Vancouver and Whistler that VANOC is struggling, which means they don’t have enough time or money to effectively help residents or small business in our region. If you want it done, and done right, you have to do it yourself, and social media is the perfect tool. Considering these trying economic times, social media is the only way to save the 2010 Olympics. The last four Olympic events were economic disasters for the Host regions, but Vancouver and Whistler don’t have to give in so easily.

Olympic organizations, their sponsors, and local news media won’t like that you are using social media to woo eyeballs and compete with them, but it’s a new era and an inevitable step in the evolution of the Olympic business model.

If Vancouver doesn’t effect this change, London will.

Great comment. Thanks, Maurice.

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