What The 2015 Pan Am Games Can Teach Us About Social Media

The 2015 Pan Am Games officially closed last Sunday in Toronto and although the city still has the Para Pan Am Games to look forward to, this occasion gave the city and the entire country a chance to reflect on the achievement of its athletes and the process of hosting a major multi-sport event.

The lessons were plentiful and the opinions of experts and the general public alike shifted slowly from the opening ceremonies to the closing ceremonies. At the end of the day, the event was deemed a success by a vast majority of the commentators. Here at Incline Marketing, we always like to learn from successful organizations and events, so after examining what the Pan Am Games did right, we came up with four lessons from the event that can be applied to building a successful social media strategy. Here they are:

Plan For The Worst And You’ll Get The Best

Negativity reigned supreme among a majority of the local media and among the public before the Games started. The traffic was going to be absolutely, insanely horrible, no one was going to show up to the events and the newly built venues would be white elephants for decades to come. The Pan Am organizers heard these dire prophecies and worked hard at creating strategies to combat them. In the end, everything worked out as close to perfect as they could have, thanks in large part to the preparation of the organizers and volunteers.

A lot of people like to spout worst-case scenarios about social media too. For example, people fear that it opens them up to too much criticism or that the money/time spent on social media efforts is a giant waste. However, if you can plan effectively, you can take much of the sting out of these nay-sayers. Draw up a plan to deal with negative comments or sudden crisis on your social media platforms. Have guidelines that you and other staff should follow when posting to the organization’s Twitter account, Facebook page, etc. Develop strategies to measure your return on investment and achieve your goals. Having these plans in place will ensure that you’re prepared for the worst, but will most likely achieve the best.

Exclusivity Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Part of the success of the 2015 Pan Am Games was its high level of accessibility. Tickets were relatively cheap and plentiful. Events were spread out across southern Ontario so people from different regions could take part. Open events, such as concerts, were held almost every day of the Games in popular spots. These are just some examples of how the organizers made the event inclusive and drew the attention of thousands of people that critics said would remain apathetic and disengaged.

There are many organizations that tout exclusivity as the ultimate reason for not only their success, but their very existence. In rare circumstances this may be true, but using wide-reaching exclusivity to draw an increased customer/membership base is generally an out-dated concept. When your organization makes content easily accessible through its social media channels, it is being inclusive. This inclusiveness gives people a sense of belonging, increases engagement and builds a community that people want to be part of. This is nothing but a win-win for your organization and its target audience.

Pride Is Powerful

Every single day throughout the course of the 2015 Games, Canadian athletes would say they performed at their very best because of the home crowd. When thousands of people are cheering you one and celebrating your every victory, no matter how big or small, it’s natural to want to work as hard as you can and give back to your supporters. The athletes were greeted by a wave of national pride and they rewarded Canadians with a record number of Pan Am medals.

Shining the spotlight on people’s accomplishments has a hugely positive effect on them outside of athletics too. Social media is a great vehicle for recognizing people in your community or a member/customer who has done something special. Highlighting their achievement in such a public way is an opportunity to show appreciation for the people who help make your organization a possibility. Just like support from fans, recognition in other industries is a two-way street. If your organization recognizes how hard you’ve worked to accomplishment something, you’re going to be more likely to renew membership, volunteer on a committee, subscribe to a newsletter or attend their next event.

Engagement Begets Engagement

By the time of 2015 Pan Am Games were winding down last week, the conversation was not about if the event was a success (there was no doubt it was), but if Toronto should host more international sporting competitions. People wrote about bringing the Track and Field World Championship or the FIBA World Championships to the city. And of course, the biggest clamour was for another bid on the Summer Olympics. This signalled a huge shift from the prevailing notion at the start of Games that Toronto was just too darn apathetic for a major multi-sport event to take off. But because the Pan Am organizers did such a good job at engaging the citizens of the city, Torontonians are wondering where they can get more.

Social media has these same addictive characteristics. The name of the game for a multi-platform strategy is engagement. The purpose of Twitter or Facebook or Instagram is to connect with your organization’s target audience and get them engaged and invested in the organization’s efforts, both online and offline. When engagement is fostered through social media, it becomes easier for your audience to see opportunities to get involved in other areas. That may be volunteering or attending events or simply referring your organization to their friend. The point is, engagement snowballs; when you make it easy to connect with your organization online, you open up your audience’s eyes to possibilities that exist in all areas.

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