Social Olympics: Does The Gold Medal Go To Facebook, Twitter or Google+?

Yesterday we looked at how online media is covering the London 2012 Olympics. We gave our virtual gold medal to the New York Times, for its sleek design and muscular content. Today we review the major social media sites: Facebook, Twitter and Google+. To continue the Olympics theme, we award each of the three a different colored medal. Which one gets the gold? Read on to find out...

Gold: Twitter

This may surprise you. After all, most of the media coverage about Twitter in regard to the Olympics has been negative. The company's partnership with the much maligned NBC didn't help, but it was the banning of a reporter that really got Twitter in hot water. And it wouldn't be a major sports event without at least one athlete posting an offensive tweet.

Nevertheless, Twitter came into its own over the course of the London Games as a way for athletes and fans alike to express themselves. The Twitter activity by and about Usain Bolt is a great example. The most popular athlete of this Olympics has actively tweeted to his 1.3 million followers throughout the Games.

Bolt has also attracted the most attention from tweeting fans. According to the official Twitter account, @usainbolt set "a new Olympic Games conversation record with over 80,000 TPM for his 200m victory." TPM = Tweets Per Minute. That prompted one Twitter wag to reply: "@twitter Too bad the East Coast of the US won't see it for another 5 hours. #NBCfail". You can't win 'em all...

How about the official accounts? They were active, although fairly vanilla. The official London 2012 Olympics Twitter account has 1.5 million followers and most of the tweets have been factual updates of results. The official Olympics organization account has 1.6 million followers and has posted a lot of photos.

Overall, while Twitter stumbled a couple of times in its biggest Olympics yet, what won us over was the vibrancy of the conversations on Twitter among Olympians and fans. It's been more fun than most of what we've seen on Facebook, with the possible exception of Kobe Bryant's Facebook Page...

Silver: Facebook

People magazine has a good summary of athletes who have "obsessively Facebooked about the Games." They include basketballer Kobe Bryant, hurdler Lolo Jones and gymnast Jordyn Wieber.

Kobe's Page is the most popular, helped by his enthusiastic and entertaining updates.

The official London 2012 Olympics Page has 1.5 million likes and has been updated frequently, with fun photos and an engaging style ("We think a World Record deserves a Like - how about you?"). The official Olympics organization Facebook Page looks a little dour by comparison. It has 3.6 million likes. While there has been no shortage of comments or likes on both Pages, and across the mammoth Facebook network in general, the real-time back and forth on Twitter has been more interesting.

Update: Evangelos Papathanassiou commented that Facebook's role as a traffic hub for media, sponsors and others should be mentioned. Also Instagram, owned by Facebook, was well used (for example by Usain Bolt, as seen above). Thanks Evangelos for the great comment!

Bronze: Google+

The Olympics organization and London Olympics both have official Pages on Google+, with 940,000 and 780,000 followers respectively. There's also an Olympics hub on Google.co.uk, which features live results and doodles.

As for fan activity on Google+, it has been solid. For example, Usain Bolt is trending right now and there is a ton of content to consume if you so desire. But as always, Google+ can't quite foot it with Twitter and Facebook. Few popular Olympians have an active Google+ Page. For once, Usain Bolt is nowhere to be seen.

There you have it, our medal winners in social media for the Olympics. Let us know whether you agree with our picks in the comments.