The Summer Olympics come but once every four years, and social media has evolved fast since 2008’s games. Facebook had only just cracked 200 million active users, overtaking MySpace for the first time. Twitter was also really beginning to grow with six million users, and many of us often spent hours staring at the infamous ‘Fail Whale’ wondering how the heck this service was going to make money. YouTube, though well established, had only just begun to make a name for itself as a source of Olympic coverage as people who had never used the service began passing links to the outstanding opening ceremony at Beijing.

And now, in 2012, most of these services have matured. Social media is the number one activity on the internet, and the International Olympic Committee has decided to release (some very strict) guidelines on social media to its athletes. But despite the muzzle, there are still a few great ways for you to get your Olympic fix, even from your work desk.

Make use of that Google+ Account you signed up for

Now that Google+ account you were dying to get but have sadly neglected after absolutely no one made the transition from Facebook can get some much needed love. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) announced that they’ll be utilizing the Google’s native social media service and fans of Google+ are ecstatic that they haven’t been overlooked. Of course they’re also running coverage on Facebook but the Google+ feed has shown a much more aggregated approach to its coverage of the pre-game festivities, at least so far. Compare the two pages and you’ll see blurbs from major news outlets filling up the Google+ page, while Facebook is relegated to a few pictures posted by the IOC. Of course we’ll be following both, but if you really want to stay on top of things it looks like Google+ may be the go-to outlet for updates.

Check out the IOC Hub

The IOC has accomplished something wonderful for us Olympic fans – it’s centralized its social media campaign. The IOC hub lists the twitter feeds of thousands of athletes, offers its own coverage, and even has a cute little community with rewards and tiers for those who want to try and connect a bit more closely to the action. If that doesn’t suit you, you can always just sit back and let the news updates/tweets roll in after merging your account with the Hub. The whole idea behind the Hub is actually quite astonishing, as putting all that information into one place is a fairly behemoth undertaking, but it seems to be working, and we’re all the happier for it.

You can still follow your favorite athletes on Twitter

Don’t let that IOC muzzle scare you away – many analysts are guessing that the IOC won’t be chasing down athletes who post pictures of themselves warming up or tweet about their joys and disappointments on the road to Olympic gold. Really, they’re just trying to make sure that an athlete sponsored by Coca-Cola doesn’t tweet about how much they enjoy Pepsi. The involvement of advertising dollars sort of sullies the experience, but at least the tweets won’t have to pass an IOC committee before being sent out. It is still a great idea to follow the athletes, if for nothing else to connect that much more closely to the men and women representing your country. And how else would you know that Michael Phelps isn’t a fan of the new Team USA swim caps?

At the end of the day, social media is about enjoying yourself online. It allows you to connect with other people – people you may never have had a chance to connect through any other medium. And while we’d never recommend loafing on the job so you can scan pages of tweets and status updates, following all of these wonderful outlets is a great way to stay up to date while at work.

Just remember to go back and look for what you missed once you get home!