Monday, 6 August 2012

Out of this World Live Tweeting

Whilst the world was still catching its breath after the spectacular Olympics weekend, reports today confirm NASA has successfully landed their Curiosity Rover on Mars.

In a mission which is expected to last 98 weeks, the Curiosity Rover will explore the Gale Crater- an area believed to have been filled with water billions of years ago. Heightening interest in the Curiosity Rover, NASA have once again involved Twitter to help document the mission, posting updates and photos. Whilst this idea has been used for both previous Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) neither appeared to generate the interest quite like Curiosity has done. With the Curiosity account already showing nearly 500,000 followers, not to mention the numerous retweets, NASA finally seem to have cracked the social media game.

So what has changed for NASA this time around? The first obvious reason is the significant rise in people using Twitter. Since the last two Rover missions Twitter has exploded in popularity. Due to this surge the general understanding and interest in the site has also grown. With this, I would also suggest that NASA has gained a greater insight into how to use the site. Their live-tweets documenting the landing of Curiosity really do generate a level of excitement. Following the successful landing, Curiosity then went on to post three consecutive pictures including the line ‘it was one small step… now it’s six big wheels’. Partly down to the live landing hype was Flight Director Bobak Ferdowsi, who witnessed a drastic rise in his follower count from 200 to 11,000 during the pre-landing stages. Ferdowsi helped give an insight into NASA by instagramming his view of the control room.

In a mission reported to have cost around $2.5 billion ($7 for every American), there has certainly been more hype this time around. NASA seems to have harnessed this through the Curiosity Twitter account and the live-tweeting during the landing process. Those that did follow the landing arguably felt more a part of the event and could witness clear evidence, both with the photos and UStream feed.

Live-tweeting has undoubtedly seen a major rise in the last year or so. The Twitter site promotes this activity as a way to ‘turbocharge your engagement’ and posits numerous success stories. For example, Lea Michele (@msleamichele) used live-tweeting whilst at the Emmys in September in 2011 resulting in a 3.5X increase in daily mentions and a 2X increase in daily followers, and The Rock (@TheRock) participated in a live Q&A using the hashtag #RockTalk which saw a 13X increase in daily mentions and a 3X increase in daily followers. The results from these live-tweet campaigns are impressive and NASA seems to have reflected this with the Curiosity landing.

The beauty of live-tweeting is not only the buzz which is generates but also the fact that it has the ability to be applied to anything. In recent times we have seen live-tweet feeds from such events as a brain surgery, the Leveson inquiry, amongst other court cases, and, perhaps most strangely, a public break-up documented by comedienne Janey Godley. The former of these boasted an audience of 14 million people and was the hospital’s second journey into the live-tweeting realm. These range of events highlight that live-tweets can be both educational and for entertainment purposes. Not only does it promote a person, place or an event, it truly engages the audience who can have their voice heard.

You have to wonder though whether live-tweeting can detract from the event itself. With people so keen to voice their opinions are they fully concentrating on the event at hand? Whatever the case, live-tweeting is certain to be seen more and more in forthcoming events. 

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