Every other year I get completely caught up in the Olympics, and although I’m a huge sports fan, I really don’t have much knowledge of most of the sports involved. But still, there I sit for roughly two weeks, transfixed on short track speed skating , snowboard cross , and curling (to name a few), yelling at the television as if I have a personal connection to each sport and to each athlete.
During a particularly tense moment in the men’s freestyle moguls , I started thinking about why people feel so connected to The Games. I can watch and enjoy just about any sport, but what makes the Olympics different are the stories behind many of the athletes. The stories that give us a personal connection to the athletes, what they’re trying to accomplish, and the road they had to take to get to get where they are.
It’s the same type of personal connection that draws people to social media. Think about the Twitter feeds or Flickr accounts that you enjoy most. Most likely they are the ones that surprise you with a couple posts or photos that let you know a little more about the user’s personality. They provide something that connects you to them beyond being just “a good source for industry information” or “the coffee shop that gives out coupons from time-to-time.” Successful social media content is appealing not because the owner calculates what people want to hear, but because it’s real. Great content has the ability to, for instance, make an average sports fan become inexplicably invested in the outcome of a sport he’s never actually watched.
As my eyes got a little misty when Canadian Alexandre Bilodeau hugged his brother (who has Cerebral paulsy and who Bilodeau called his inspiration) and became the first from his country to win a gold medal on Canadian soil, and later as the U.S. National Anthem played for Hannah Kearney (who was favored to win in ’06, but failed to make it out of the qualification round in Torino), it didn’t seem strange at all that I was up an hour later than usual and checking the TV listings for what was in store the following evening. Its amazing how good content and personal connections can move people to take action on any number of levels.