How Simone Biles Beat Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt to Win Twitter Gold at the Olympics

Team USA gymnast prevailed in Rio — and on social media

The Wrap has partnered with Canvs, a language analytics company that measures emotions around content, for a weekly look at the stars that have TV viewers the most worked up. In this special final look at the Olympics, the data below covers August 5-21 — from the Opening Ceremony through the Closing Ceremony.

Today, a final Top 10 list of Olympic athlete social media MVPs, based on viewers who made a point of using the athletes’ official Twitter handles in tweets that contained a specific Emotional Reaction (ER), per Canvs. Simone Biles’ Twitter handle, for instance, was mentioned in 3.7 percent of all ERs across the full run of the Games. (To put that in perspective, consider that more than 11,000 athletes competed in Rio.)

In Biles’ case, that 3.7 percent of all ERs translates to 295,102 — which is more ERs than some entire seasons of TV shows generate. Overall, the Olympics prompted 8,052,514 Emotional Reactions, measured by Canvs, out of 30,833,463 Olympic-related tweets captured by Canvs partner Nielsen.

What do you do with that kind of viewer passion? In the case of Biles, she’s undeniably now a sports superstar. And Michael Phelps, already world famous, has crossed over into legend.

But it remains to be seen what becomes of the long-term social media profile of some of the Olympic champs who burned so brightly during the Games. Gymnast Madison Kocian, for instance, was name-checked in 46,268 of all Olympic ERs — but her baseline Twitter fanbase, at 130,122 followers as of this writing, is relatively modest.

And even Biles, with 736,164 followers, falls well below the million-plus-follower baseline that has become common for many of TV’s bigger stars.

One note: Michael Phelps, with 2.1 million followers, and Usain Bolt, with 4.4 million, are way ahead of the pack.

Our full Top 10 list:

  1. Simon Biles: @Simone_Biles (3.7 percent)
  2. Michael Phelps: @MichaelPhelps (2.3 percent)
  3. Aly Raisman: @Aly_Raisman (2.3 percent)
  4. Laurie Hernandez: @lzhernandez02 (1.3 percent)
  5. Simone Manuel: @simone_manuel (1.3 percent)
  6. Katie Ledecky: @katieledecky (0.9 percent)
  7. Gabrielle Douglas: @gabrielledoug (0.7 percent)
  8. Usain Bolt: @usainbolt (0.6 percent)
  9.  Madison Kocian: @MadisonKocian (0.6 percent)
  10. Kerri Walsh Jennings: @kerrileewalsh (0.5 percent)


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