How a man on a wire took over Twitter

Imagine you are about to be suspended 1,500 feet above the ground, balanced on a narrow wire stretching across a 1,400 foot-wide gorge  – with no safety harness or net to catch you if you fall.

It might not be your first inclination to tweet about facing imminent possible death, but that’s just what Nik Wallenda did on June 23.

And unlike when he was over the Grand Canyon, he was not alone. Over a million Tweets were sent about the death-defying walk – which not only dominated Sunday night viewing across the US, but – fueled by Tweets – became the most talked-about event across the country that night.

But this was just the latest in a comprehensive media strategy by the Discovery Channel (@Discovery) leading up to Wallenda’s historic walk.

Over a million Tweets were sent about the death-defying walk

@Discovery didn’t just tweet during the walk but also in the weeks prior, posting pictures, videos, and behind the scenes facts to get audiences engaged before the feat even began. The Twitter activity drove to Discovery’s pre-show, where Tweets from celebrities and fans greeted Wallenda as he prepared for his daring stunt. Viewers could catch the multi-cam experience in the run up to the event, too. 

From its hosts on the night, @NBCNews anchors Willie Geist (@WillieGeist) and Natalie Morales (@nataliemorales), to Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen), Discovery made sure that all of its big names were spreading the word on Twitter. The network also tapped some of its other talent, including the cast from the (potentially unfortunately named for this event) @DeadliestCatch cast.

Discovery followed a simple hashtag strategy. In the weeks before the event, they worked with AOL.com to create user-generated excitement as fans were encouraged to submit photos of their own breathtaking moments, with the hashtag #AweYeah. But in the days before the event, they switched to the simple hashtag #Skywire, which remained consistent throughout the event and concentrated the conversation.

And even after the walk was over, @Discovery followed up with links to a video rerun of the whole thing.

ESPN’s Twitter-savvy Darren Rovell – like many others – discovered that the dramatic event was taking place on Twitter as much as in the Grand Canyon.

He instantly posted this poll to see how many others first heard of Nik Wallenda’s walk on Twitter.

1,100 responses later showed that over 60% of viewers who responded to the poll tuned in after reading about it on Twitter.