Live From PyeongChang: NBC Olympics Social Team Does Its Part To Drive Ratings, Interest
Besides the competition, the team also focuses on the fun
With each successive Olympic Games, NBC Olympics’ social-media strategy becomes more refined, mature, and expansive. Lyndsay Signor, senior director, consumer engagement, is at her sixth Games and, once again, is steering a team of more than 20 focused on ensuring that moments of Olympic glory, the emotions the Games bring out in athletes and fans, and even the humor and light side are front and center on social-media platforms around the globe.
“We want the heartfelt moment like Shaun White getting emotional after his win, but we also want things like putting the screaming goat head on a ski jumper,” says Signor. “We’re staffed better than ever, and we’re getting a lot of positive feedback, which is nice to hear.”
Like much of NBC’s Olympic efforts, the social-media team is both onsite in PyeongChang and at home in Stamford, CT, with upwards of 50 people at any point touching a piece of social content (that includes members of the Highlights Factory team, which identifies social-worthy clips in the highlights system, and 16 Buzzfeed staffers working as a production arm to get content delivered to Snapchat).
“The 16 Buzzfeeders work as a production-content arm for us, and they are the best at Snapchat Publisher stories,” says Signor. “We’ve been happy with their performance as they get how to reach that audience.”
The core NBC Olympics social-publishing team comprises a team of seven in PyeongChang and 15 in Stamford as well as interns.
“We’re staffed 24 hours a day,” she points out, “and, for a good chunk between noon and the start of primetime [on the East Coast], everyone is working.”
Signor says the team has a few key goals that underpin its philosophy. First, to be a news and information source for all things Olympics, thanks to researchers and content producers who focus on each sport. Second, to drive people to tune in and watch the Olympics live or on a VOD platform. And, third, to have fun and make the Olympics fun for viewers.
Helping in those efforts for fun content is a new social-video studio that has a green screen and a smart TV. The goal is to create an environment where athletes can be brought in and see video clips from family and friends, tweets, other social reaction from fans, and more.
“We showed reaction from fans and celebrities to Shaun White’s gold-medal run, like Leslie Jones, and we have worked with a few folks to pull up family messages from home, like if there is a grandmother that couldn’t make the trip and we have smart monitor, so we can pull up tweets,” she says. “It gives us a stage and space to produce with the athletes.”
Also making a return is the NBC Olympics equivalent of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” which involves in-car interviews with athletes and NBC talent being transported around PyeongChang. For the PyeongChang Games, NBC has partnered with Uber: when a rider begins a trip, the Uber app will feature a link to an NBC Olympics site that offers access to the interviews, highlights, and content from NBC Olympics’ broadcast team. As part of the series, NBC Olympics will produce exclusive “in-car” interviews for Uber riders. These interviews will feature U.S. athletes and broadcast announcers as they are in transit to and from competition venues, providing a sense of anticipation leading up to an important event or a reaction to a performance or medal win.
For Rio 2016, the social team made use of Facebook Live, but, given the time difference between PyeongChang and the U.S., it made more sense to go with VOD clips, and then the Uber partnership is a natural fit.
The NBC Olympics social-media team is also partnering with Musical.ly, a Chinese social-network app for video creation, messaging, and live broadcasting that found its place once Vine came to an end.
“Musical.ly is an app that has a super-young demo and has a lot of GIFs and music,” says Signor. “We have two Musical.ly Musers, and it is another platform for super-young folks, so we can see what the interest in the Olympics is for that demo.”
The NBC Olympics social-media team relies on Dropbox and some internal file-transfer mechanisms to move content around and uses Slack to communicate with each other; Spredfast is used for publishing content more easily. Each member of the team has very specific roles and responsibilities: while some are posting around primetime, others, for example, will be looking for fun moments on those feeds. And it’s never easy to tell what will resonate with social-media users.
“We had a great moment with a walkie-talkie falling down an alpine hill and someone trying to catch it, and it was our most viewed Facebook video until yesterday,” says Signor. That clip came out of the Highlights Factory, where the team that is looking for highlight clips was briefed to look for everything from people crying to a weird guy dancing and even a rogue walkie-talkie.
While focusing on the competition and the fun, the NBC Olympics social-media team has also played a key role in disseminating news and information. In an Olympics that had a few days where events were cancelled, that role has been an important one. And then there are celebrities who can help amplify a message or create their own buzz.
“Leslie Jones has been wonderful, and Mr. T has also emerged as a frequent tweeter and Olympics fan,” says Signor. “The Rock has also been tweeting, and more celebrities will emerge. Four days from now, there might be celebrities who get into women’s hockey, and it’s fun to watch and gives our team a boost.”