Nik Wallenda, The Discovery Channel & the Hashtag #Skywire Owned Twitter on Sunday

On Sunday June 23rd, a man named Nik Wallenda walked across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. The event was broadcast live on The Discovery Channel. After a long, slow walk across 1,400 feet of tightrope over 1,500 feet of open air, Wallenda successfully stepped onto solid ground on the other side of the canyon. However, this daring feat wasn’t the only incredible thing that happened on Sunday.

During the pre-show, The Discovery Channel displayed the hashtag “#skywire” on screen to encourage viewers to Tweet about the event and follow its progression via social media. The results were astounding. In total, “#skywire” was Tweeted 700,000 times. At one point, “#skywire” was being Tweeted at a rate of about 40,000 times per minute. The Discovery Channel implemented social media incredibly effectively, showing a number of live Tweets on screen from fans, followers, and even celebrities. This sensational event was not only generating a ton of traffic to The Discovery Channel, but also creating a huge buzz on social media.

As viewers watched the pre-show, they Tweeted to their friends about their anxiety in anticipation of Nik Wallenda’s stunt. Additionally, people on Twitter who were not watching the live broadcast of the event were reading about it on social media and being driven to their televisions to see the outcome of Wallenda’s tightrope attempt. By simultaneously reaching and engaging with both viewers and non-viewers, The Discovery Channel broadened the exposure of the event to a much larger audience. Social media was The Discovery Channel’s key to reaching their target audience as well as outliers from that group. Much like Nik Wallenda’s tightrope connecting one side of the Grand Canyon to the other, social media connected The Discovery Channel’s typical viewers with atypical ones. I believe we can count on seeing more and more of this collusion between television and mobile-based social networks.

According to a survey conducted by Nielsen and Yahoo,

“86% of people watching TV are doing so while using a mobile device” (source:

An overwhelming majority of TV viewers are texting their friends, browsing webpages, using apps, or interacting on social networks while watching TV. Instead of attempting to draw these people away from their phones and tablets to focus their attention on the television screen, The Discovery Channel decided to make their program available and relevant in the places where people’s attention was already focused. By bringing their content to the consumer, rather than trying to bring the consumer to their content, The Discovery Channel drastically expanded their viewership on Sunday night.

This is a prime example of the shift in perspective that companies and brands must adopt to be successful in today’s state of business. Bring your content to your target consumer, adapt it into the language most easily digested by that consumer, and enable them to engage with the content and share their feedback. If you want someone to try your chili, you have to put the bowl in front of them and give them a spoon.

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