This week, we were asked to write about social media crisis reported in mainstream media within the previous six months and to identify three ways we would have tried to alleviate the issue.
I figured this was a great time to write about the recent Olympics in Sochi, Russia and the infamous #SochiProblems trend that appeared on Twitter just days before the Olympics were set to take place and continued to trend throughout the duration of the Olympic games.
Upon their arrival in Russia, a group of North American journalists were greeted by less than optimal conditions in Sochi. Many journalists described the conditions as arriving in a city that was still under construction. Many hotel rooms had no running water (and once the water was running, it had a very strong smell to it and a brown tinge), the electrical wires were still exposed, and washrooms had no walls dividing the toilets from one another, creating a “community bathroom” of sorts. As a result of their disgust, and to bring a little bit of humour to the situation, journalists opened a Twitter account with the handle @SochiProblems. Athletes and spectators in Sochi would send photos to the Twitter account with the hashtag #SochiProblems with photos of problems that they found in the city throughout the games. The owners of the Twitter account would then re-Tweet the photos with captions written in a way that it was mimicking a Russian person speaking broken English.
Some say a picture is worth a thousand words… but an entire Twitter account and hashtag dedicated to one campaign generated far more than a thousand words. Here is a sample of some of the photos that resulted from the #SochiProblems trend.
So how would I have solved the problem on social media channels?
Set the Record Straight with your Own Photos
I would go through the Olympic village with my own camera and I would take photos of the accommodations in a different light. I would include photos of well-kept hotel rooms and tweet them in response to negative Tweets from journalists, spectators and athletes. I would also respond to photos and tweets posted by unhappy hotel guests and offer them a phone number for a customer service line, in an attempt to resolve the problem and provide customers with a solution. I would also try to resolve the problem by speaking with the Hotel companies and arrange for refunds to be given to customers that truly did face unsanitary or unsafe conditions in their hotel rooms.
Encourage Spectators to Post Positive Photos for a Chance to Win a Contest
I would encourage Olympic spectators to post positive photos and videos of their experience at Sochi with the hashtag #SochiProud. I would encourage these spectators to post positive visuals with an incentive of a chance to win tickets to a special event of their choice or to the closing ceremonies. By reaching out to the spectators that were enjoying their experience at Sochi, and by offering these spectators an incentive for posting positive photos, I would be able to boost the #SochiProud trend, thus drowning out the #SochiProblems trend and displaying Sochi in a positive light. Spectators would be invited to enter the contest by posting on any form of social media of their choice with the hashtag attached.
Bringing the issue into context:
Proving that host countries rarely do a flawless job at presenting their country to the world….
I would collect photos from various previous Olympic games to show that many other countries were also ill-prepared for the Olympic games in their cities. I would create a video with these examples from past Olympic games and post it on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook in an attempt of moving the conversation away from Sochi and on to the Olympics as a whole. Radar Online has some great examples of “The Biggest Olympic Blunders”. One of the blunders include: mistakenly displaying South Korea’s flag in advance of a soccer game between the North Koreans and the Colombians at the London 2012 Olympics. Other examples that could be included are the 1988 Seoul Olympics opening ceremonies. The organizers planned to release a flock of doves into the stadium during the ceremonies, however, when the cauldron was lit, the birds were burnt to a crisp and died on international television while the entire world was watching.