If these were the ‘Happy and Glorious’ Games, they were also the Facebook Games and the Twitter Games. (They were also the Troll Games, but that’s another story.) The Olympians were running, jumping, throwing and swinging rackets all over social media like never before, and tennis more than held its own. Never before have so many people clicked ‘like’ next to a picture of Andy Murray.
The singles gold medallists – Serena Williams and Murray – did better than many would have expected. So this was a good Games for tennis if you take the Oscar Wilde rule, adapted for the 2012 Games, that the the only thing that’s worse than being tweeted about is not being tweeted about. On Facebook, Murray took silver for the most talked-about event of the Games, for beating Roger Federer in the final. There was no disgrace in finishing behind Usain Bolt’s victory in the 100 metres. On the list of the most talked-about Olympians, Murray was seventh and Serena was tenth. Only two female athletes finished above Serena in those rankings – the American gymnast Gabby Douglas and British athlete Jessica Ennis. On Twitter, Murray was one of ten athletes who were the subject of more than one million tweets each. And, in the category of the most tweeted-about moment, he took an impressive bronze behind Bolt’s two individual victories.
When Murray was walloping Federer, he was not only winning the biggest prize of his life; he was also generating a rat-a-tat 57,000 tweets a minute. Though the match attracted a peak audience of 10.7 million on BBC television, there were other moments which had more viewers, and which didn’t attract so much comment. Doubtless it helped that Murray was playing Federer, and also that the Briton’s public image has changed this summer.
So where does this leave Murray and Williams? Murray has probably never felt more popular. He has around three quarters of a million fans on Facebook, and 1.1 million followers on Twitter. For all the glory of the Games, Serena looks vulnerable in the Twitter rankings, as though she is the most popular tennis player with three million followers, it would be no surprise if Rafa Nadal caught her soon. He’s not far behind on 2.8 million. Nadal could also soon become the most popular tennis player on Facebook; with his 11.1 million ‘likes’ he trails only Federer on 11.3 million.
What do social media numbers matter? Well, according to someone at a clothing manufacturer with lots of endorsement dollars to spend, more than world rankings.