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Olympics shine spotlight on social networks

Fans and athletes expected to light up Facebook, Twitter and Google+ as they update and cheer during Summer Games

July 27, 2012 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - As Olympic athletes take to a global stage in London this week, participants, coaches and fans are expected to take to their favorite social networks in record numbers.

Whenever something big happens -- tornadoes, political unrest, the World Cup -- people turn to sites like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter to voice protest, share their excitement and connect with their friends.

And with more people than ever using social networks, the 2012 London Olympics are expected to light up the major social networks over the next few weeks.

The athletes and contests in these games are expected to be pinned, liked, tweeted, plussed and uploaded more than in any other Olympic Games.

"If there's intrigue or when there are big moments, sure, you'll see some stupendous traffic," said Brad Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis. "But I don't expect to see these sites explode under the weight of the traffic. They are very versed at scaling for extra load."

And that's the message coming from Google. A spokeswoman told Computerworld that Google was not concerned about the weight of the increased traffic caused by the Olympics overcoming either their search engine or their social network, Google+. Actually, increased traffic has already begun.

The Google+ page for NBC Olympics already is in more than 1.3 million circles, the Google spokeswoman noted. And searches for the word "Olympics" on Google are two and a half times greater leading into the Games than they were before the last Olympics.

"Google's data centers are designed to handle massive amounts of data every day, so we don't expect to see much of an impact due to increased traffic during the Olympics," the spokeswoman said.

At Twitter, which has seen some of its greatest traffic spikes connected to sporting events, the company is already seeing increased traffic related to the Olympic Games. A representative said Twitter was seeing 100 times more tweets about the Games than they did in the run-up to the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

Twitter is taking a more active role than usual with this year's Olympic Games.

The site has teamed up with NBC Olympics, which is an arm of the NBC Sports Group, to aggregate the best of all the tweets from Olympic athletes, coaches, family members, journalists and commentators on a dedicated Olympics page.

Twitter is trying to highlight the best of its Olympics-related content and help people tell great stories about their experiences, the representative said.

Current Analysis' Shimmin said it's smart for NBC, which is airing the Olympic games this summer, to reach out to social networks like Twitter and Google+.

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