While NBC copped flak and a #fail fanpage and a twitter bashtag for its Olympic TV coverage it was Australia’s Channel 9 which took gold for the social media #fail of the event. From the Opening Ceremony to Closing Ceremony Channel 9 was lambasted in the media and on its Facebook Page for its #London2012 coverage, not to mention the $20-$30 million financial loss it will book on its “investment” in the Olympics.

While there was no shortage of bruising criticism one of the most telling indicators was the 180,000+ Likes received by one very polite and well-balanced Facebook post requesting Channel 9 to “re think your approach to covering London 2012″. Channel9 Olympics Share of Mentions social mediaTHAT is a massive number of Likes – in fact 3 TIMES the number of fans of the official Channel 9 Facebook Page and almost half of that of the The Voice Australia which has been the most successful TV series in Australia this year.

We researched in social media how Channel 9′s coverage of the Olympics compared to that of the BBC and NBC. Unfortunately Channel 9 ranked the worst. In the period 27th July to 9th August there was an average 32820 daily results* for twitter which mentioned these networks and the Olympics (and Twitter accounted for 96.6% of all social mentions), while overall for the period Channel 9 only accounted for about 10,000 mentions.

It’s when we compare sentiment we see how Channel 9 has easily taken the gold for #fail. Across all media it scored nearly 20% negative comments. Just looking at Twitter alone, the sentiment ranking was the same as for all media, with Channel 9 leading the negatives at 16.3% – worse than the NBC and about 4 times that of the BBC.

Channel9 Compare Sentiment Olympics BBC NBC

Channel 9 on Facebook 33% Negative

The overall ranking is poor enough, but when we look specifically at Facebook for Channel 9 it is not a pretty sight – a MASSIVE 33% NEGATIVE sentiment. That’s 4 1/2 times the Positive sentiment. To be fair, NBC had 36% negative comments, and the BBC 18% – satisfying the public’s thirst for the Olympics is obviously a real challenge.

Channel9 Olympics Sentiment Facebook

So comparatively and absolutely this was not a social media success story for Channel 9 and their Olympic programming.

Will they learn anything, and what could they learn?

Well we’ve noticed a few things which lead us to believe that Channel 9 outsources its Facebook page management to an agency. We could be wrong, but the symptoms are there, and that’s something to fix. Some of the problems Channel 9 experienced help explain why we are not fans of the outsourced approach (and if Channel 9 is not outsourced then they need to fix these things anyway): Channel9 Facebook Page Disclaimer

  1. Firstly there is the disclaimer on their Facebook Page which says they “do not guarantee any member a response on this page”. That’s an odd way to try to encourage engagement – you would think it would be phrased in the positive instead of being a legal statement;
  2. Secondly there appears to be well-founded evidence of Channel 9 deleting negative Olympic comments from it’s Page;
  3. Thirdly, that it took Channel 9 two days to respond to the critical post which eventually attracted nearly 200,000 likes.

Those symptoms add up to an outsourcing agreement where the outsourcer may well realise the flaws in the approach but would rather keep quiet for the sake of gaining the contract (or an internal approach which hasn’t been well thought through). In either case the answer, besides rethinking the disclaimer and the approach to deleting posts, is to practise. Practise practise practise what could go wrong, and also how to handle the volume of such an event.

This is just practising crisis management ahead of time, which is part of social media governance and risk management. A big event may well require an outsourced approach to support the peak loads, but that process has to be stress tested and the alternative scenarios played out and the escalation process to the client made as smooth as a baby’s bottom and as fast as Usain Bolt.

At least be a little bit edgy

Channel 9 is apparently well pleased with their Olympics, according to Victoria Buchnan, their Director of Communications and Public Relations. Let’s hope that’s not really the case. You’d like them to be just a little bit edgy about the loss of $30m and the 33% negative sentiment on Facebook – at least edgy enough to want to review and do better next time in social.

WalterA My Social Presence http://xeeme.com/walter

Read the Storify version of this post.

Read Staggering Social Media Statistics from the Olympics – Infographic via @jeffbullas

* The results were for the period 27th July to 9th August inclusive and did not include Facebook mentions for the BBC and NBC but did include Facebook mentions for Channel 9.