June 25, 2013

Grand Canyon Daredevil Draws 700,000 Tweets

Sunday evening was full of stressful headlines. 40,000 are stranded in India after flooding. Western civilization is scouring the earth for the whereabouts of Edward Snowden. And Nelson Mandella is in critical condition. But Sunday night, for a few hours at least, all of the attention was hovering 1,500 feet above sea level as 34-year-old daredevil Nik Wallenda became the first person to successfully walk across the Grand Canyon.

To give you a clearer perspective of the implications of Nik’s stunt, the Grand Canyon is taller than the Empire State Building.

The reasons as to why the world is so captivated by Nik’s accomplishment are endless. It has a little bit to do with how much he had to lose (he is a husband and a father). And it has a little bit to do with his history of success, coupled with those in his family who have attempted such stunts in the past and failed—like his grandfather, who died in 1978 at the age of 73 when he fell to his demise while walking between the towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel. 

Nik, however, downplays his moniker as a daredevil.

"I think because of the association people have with the word daredevil as someone reckless and crazy in the stunts they do,” Wallenda said during an interview . “I've trained for my walks all my life in order to develop the skill necessary to perform them. Each walk is engineered to the highest safety standards. I train for potential extreme conditions. Obviously there is still risk in what I do, no doubt, but I would call it a very calculated risk."

Reasons aside, the fact remains clear that this event, which was broadcast live in the U.S. and aired to 223 different countries, produced nearly 40,000 tweets per minute, and 700,000 tweets in total.

But what businesses should be paying the most attention to is the fact that this led to 1.5 million streams in total on Discovery.com. And while you can scratch your heads wondering why we like this sort of slightly sick entertainment so much, the fact remains clear that when something happens on Twitter, it remains to be the quickest trend setting application. With 500 million users and over 170 billion tweets sent thus far, as well as 200 million active monthly users, Twitter has captured the attention of many. It is clear that the world pays attention to Twitter first and worldly events second.

As ESPN’s Darren Rovell explained in his tweet, this event was practically made for Twitter. It is the type of event that reaches you wherever you might be—in the supermarket, in an airport or en route to an important meeting. When you check your news feed and see something like a middle aged man about to put his life on the line for your viewing pleasure, you generally find time to tune in—no matter what you are doing.

“There was something so Twitter about #skywire,” tweeted Rovell. “Bet most didn’t even know it was on tonight. Drove tune in.”

Even professional athletes and celebrities were taking the time to give Wallenda his proper due.

“#skywire crazzzzzy!!!” tweeted Mike Trout of the Angels. And according to actor Ryan Phillippe, it was the scariest thing he has ever watched. It is worth thinking about the lengths that Nik Wallenda had to go to gain the attention of such celebrities. And if it were not for Twitter, the magnitude of Wallenda’s event would have been dramatically reduced. But Twitter makes an event of even the smallest stories, and blows something like this up into news that generates more tweets than a standoff between the United States and Russia.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

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