The Sochi Winter Olympics is quickly becoming a game dominated by controversy. Allegations of corruption were thrown around even before the game. Russian officials managed to keep the information flow on official governmental activities to a minimum, but there is one medium they are unable to control. Not even Vladimir Putin can stop Twitter.
The trouble started when journalists started arriving a few weeks before the games. They arrived to their hotels to find poor conditions, unsafe drinking water, and even some cases where there rooms weren’t even ready. They quickly began tweeting their experiences, adding the hashtag #SochiProblems which eventually spawned a twitter account @SochiProblems. The account currently has over 300,00 followers, which is 50,000 more than the official Sochi Olympics Twitter account. In addition, the #CheersToSochi has been trending over the past week. The hashtag was started by McDonalds in an effort to show support for US athletes traveling to the Olympics. However, it was soon hijacked by opponents of Russia’s strict anti-gay propaganda laws. The backlash also brought to light the criticisms that big Olympic sponsors like McDonalds were hesitant to take a stand against the discriminatory policies.
All of these cases illustrate a point that must now be recognized as verifiable fact and not simply a passing trend. Social media is here to stay, and it is becoming increasingly powerful and influential, especially when it comes to world politics. Building networks and the spread of information is easier on Twitter, and organizations and world leaders are understanding that more and more. As a generation of PR professionals who grew up on social media and the internet, we students have a unique opportunity. Our understanding of the platforms is intuitive, and we can and should use that to our advantage in our future careers. We can be those individuals spreading change and making the world a better place. Granted, Twitter isn’t where it all happens, but it is becoming the one of the main places where the conversation gets started.