Go for gold: Tap into the social media conversation

Over the past decade, social media has exploded onto the scene and has been growing exponentially. The number of available platforms increase every month and the combined amount of users is sitting in the billions.

Social media plays an integral role in how we receive, engage and ultimately create information. Just take Twitter for example. I delved deeper into the recent Rio Olympics, and the hashtag #Rio2016 alone generated over 27 million posts with a total 100 billion potential impressions. This only increased during the Paralympics.

To put this in context, there were over 1.6 million tweets a day using #Rio2016. Comparing this number to the volume of social conversation four years earlier during the London Olympics, I found that the number of posts have quadrupled and the number of impressions increased nearly 600%.

Looking at the sheer volume of conversation that the Olympics alone generated, it’s easy to see why it’s beneficial for brands to tap into the zeitgeist to get their stories heard. So how did brands tap into the conversation this year?

Brands that sponsor an event have “first dibs”. You only need to look at Coca-Cola or Samsung to see how they geared up for the so-called “social Olympics”. Coca-Cola’s campaign was aimed at sharing human stories by asking people to share real time moments that they considered to be a #ThatsGold moment. Athletes and teams posted videos of “what gold feels like”. The brand was able to evoke the right emotions and feelings that resulted in millions of engagements.

But what can brands contribute without sponsorship? Newly introduced restrictions that came down from the Olympic Committee made this difficult: “Do not create social media posts that are Olympic themed, that feature Olympic trademarks, that contain Games imagery or congratulate Olympic performance unless you are an official sponsor as specified in the Social Media Section.” But fear not, there were some brands that managed to get it right.

Steri Stumpiedecided to get creative in a smart and funny way. They created a Facebook post congratulating the South Africa athlete, Wayde van Niekerk, on his 400m gold win at the Olympics without breaking the very tight social media restrictions.steri-stumpie

Whether it’s the Olympics, the Soccer World Cup or the Video Music Awards, there are always opportunities to jump into the social media conversation and create talkability without having to spend hundreds of thousands of rands on paid media.

Nando’s, South Africa’s all-time favourite cheeky brand, is the ultimate example of how a brand can join a trending conversation on social media successfully.


The most important thing about embarking on this strategy is to be authentic and unique. There’s nothing more cringeworthy than another bandwagon tweet when other brands are already doing it, and doing it better during stock standard events such as Women’s Month and Valentine’s Day.

One of my favourite examples is Oreo’s “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet when the power went out during the US’s Superbowl event a few years ago. The irony of the success of this tweet is the huge budgets that brands blow on having their ad shown in this time slot. During the 40-minute blackout, Oreo tweeted this:


Feeling brave? Be confident in the voice of your brand in order to be dynamic and daring enough to generate on-the-fly content that leverages the existing hype.

Written By: Nikiwe Nyembe, Account Executive, ContentWorks