You might not often think about an ancient tradition like the Olympics Games in one sentence together with Twitter and Facebook, but that’s something that’s constantly on the mind of Alex Huot, the International Olympic Committee‘s (IOC) Head of Social Media, who will be speaking at The Next Web Conference this month.
Alex has been the Head of Social Media since January 2009, but has been a member of the Olympic communications team since 2000. His passion for technology started a lot earlier, when he got his first computer — a Commodore VIC-20 — at the age of 12.
Since taking on the social media role, he’s been focused on connecting with a younger audience, and in the lead up to the 2012 Games in London, Alex and his team have been busy preparing for a hectic 17 days.
Initiatives include creating an Athletes’ Hub where fans can connect directly with Olympic athletes, as well as the campaign, I Copy U, offering visitors the chance to win a trip to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Although the Olympics last just over 2 weeks, the Social Media team has a year-long challenge of engaging with fans, finding out what they want to see and hear, and making sure they get it. In the lead up to the games, we managed to catch up with Alex to find out what’s in store for the Olympics on Facebook, Twitter and beyond.
The Next Web: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be the Head of Social Media for the IOC?
Alex Huot (pictured right): I’ve worked in different areas including some startups in Switzerland, and then I got into communications here at the IOC, in 2008, and ran the website for a long time. The IOC felt that it wanted to connect with a younger audience. In 2009, Mark Adams, the Communications Director joined the team, and he created the position of Head of Social Media, and naturally with my experience in the digital space, I got onto that and began to build communities for the IOC, and engaging young people.
We launched a Facebook page at the end of January 2010, and in two weeks we picked up a million fans. Through Facebook insights, you can get a good feeling of the age, and we saw that well over 65% were under the age of 24.
TNW: So how has the landscape shifted, going from a more traditional website to social media?
AH: There are different ways of engaging. What I see clearly is that when you have a site like Twitter or Facebook with thousands of engineers, their platforms and features evolve quicker than a traditional website. So what’s happening now is how we integrate within these platforms. There are still mandates that a corporate website or portal can have that are different. So how it’s shifted is that we’re integrating and building new layers of engagement through applications for example. It’s a way to drive traffic as well. So I think they both still have their place.
TNW: Which platform gives you the best reach?
AH: Facebook is what went viral first. Our Twitter account went up to about 13,000 followers during the Vancouver Games. What we’re seeing right now is a massive growth on Twitter, on the head of London. The Twitter strategy has evolved in how we’re using it, where we begin to create different accounts.
So for example, we have the @Olympics account, which has picked up 10,000 followers in the past 24 hours, and it’s just exponential. It keeps growing.
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