As a beginner when it comes to using social media for reporting, and an avid olympic fan myself, the story of Andrea Kay comes as great inspiration. This self described "BC Girl" set out on a mission exactly 311 days ago - to blog daily about the exciting changes occuring in Vancouver in the 210 days leading up to The Games.
Since then, her popular http://www.vanfan2010.ca/ has taken the internet by storm, attracting about 26,000 hits per week, and she continues to faithfully blog each day, adding to her growing legion of fans.
After hearing her story on Global TV, I took an immediate trip to Andrea's blog, and was definitely impressed by the quality and quantity of the entries - detailing everything from coins and pins, to freebies and mascots, to breaking news stories and the spirit of olympism.
Through a chain of friendly e-mails, Andrea answered some questions for me about her experiences blogging about The Games. The optimism and cheer that earned her thousands of fans, showing clearly in each of her answers.
1. What excites you about The Olympic Games? Why blog about them?
The Olympic and Paralympic Games bring the world together to celebrate sport but it has the added benefit of allowing us to all look past our differences and celebrate culture and differences as well. I started blogging so that I would be involved in Vancouver 2010 every day. It would be very easy to miss it all, just through indifference, by having to write I couldn't miss a thing.
2. What do you love about Vancouver? Why is it the perfect place to host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games?
Vancouver is laid back, beautiful, friendly and welcoming. We have the ocean, forests and mountains. We really are Sea to Sky country and there aren't many cities in the world that can say the same.
3. Why is it important to you to be a part of The Games?
Vancouver 2010 is a once in a lifetime experience. There is almost no chance that an event like this will be held in my hometown again in my lifetime. I had to be involved!
4. What advantages does blogging have over traditional media?
For me the biggest advantage is that I am allowed to have a lot more freedom of expression and opinion. I still believe in the traditional roles of journalists, particularly in print, but also in television and radio. I believe journalists are supposed to present facts, not opinions. Unfortunately it is rare to find this nowadays, and I am constantly disappointed by it.
With blogging I'm honest and upfront about my bias. I am presenting my opinions but that is clear and I think that is very important.
5. What differences (if any) do you see in the use of social media for reporting on these games as opposed to past games?
Nearly everyone has constant access to the internet now. Social media means that photos, recordings and stories are shared in real time, instead of delayed as is regularly seen in mainstream media. With nearly everyone reporting very little is missed. I imagine this will continue to accelerate with the London 2012 games.
6. What kind of legacy do you think will be left after Vancouver 2010? What kind of legacy are you hoping to achieve with your blog?
VANOC has ensured that we have infrastructure and cultural legacies that will remain after the Games, and I believe that the Canada Line is a truly significant part of that.
For myself, I'm not sure I'm trying to achieve a 'legacy' with my blog. It really has a limited shelf-life and will likely fade to nothing within a month or so of the closing of the Paralympic Games. What I gain however is a body of work behind me that I hope to use as a launching pad into similar writing in the future. Possibly with future Olympics or if not, then some new writing adventure of my own.
7. Lastly, I was wondering if you had any tips on using social media in general - how do you get people to notice, read, and follow your blog? In your experience, what makes a blog effective or ineffective?
Be upfront about what you're writing. You will gain a following of like-minded people, but only if you are clear about what you're writing about. And be patient. It takes time to build a name for yourself, it does not happen overnight, there is no magic formula. Take advantage of all the different tools available, such as Twitter and Facebook to reach people you otherwise wouldn't necessarily reach. But really, time is the biggest thing. My first few weeks I was getting fewer than 100 hits per week, now I'm up around 26,000. It takes time and dedication.