If you’re like me then you saw the hashtag #SkyscraperLive over the weekend and assumed that Demi Lovato was giving a live performance. (I’m sorry if you’re like me, that must be hard for you. Do you want to talk about it?) However, if you’re like most people then you either didn’t see it at all or totally didn’t care. That’s a big disappointment for Discovery who promoted the hashtag in support of a special event. That event was a death defying tightrope walk by aerialist Nik Wallenda between Chicago’s Marina West Tower and the Leo Burnett building.
Discovery was hoping to turn the stunt into a landmark social media event, akin to Felix Baumgartners amazing sub-orbital skydive for Red Bull, or even cinematic masterpiece Sharknado 2. You might think that the promise of a world famous stunt man, or really anyone at all, potentially plummeting to their death in downtown Chicago would make some waves on the interwebs; but sadly that was not to be. Despite being Discovery’s most watched event of 2014, the whole thing pulled in only a little over 68,000 tweets in total. Even if you count that additional 21,000 tweets about “Skyscrapper,” because Americans can’t spell, that’s still a far cry from the 581,000 scored by Tara Reid’s latest starring role.
Networks are increasingly looking to social media to draw audience’s attention back to television, hence the recent flood of special live events with promoted hashtags. Still, there’s no clear evidence that interest on social media is connected to more eyes on screens. Networks are chasing retweets more aggressively than bloggers, despite the fact that some of their most successful programs seem to get along just fine without them. Discovery’s Wallenda stunt proves taming the unpredictable social beast can be tricky. Despite including many of the same ingredients as previous social hits, #SkyscraperLive didn’t make a dent on social media charts even as the event climbed in the traditional ratings. The whole affair begs the question, if a show scores in the ratings, but no one tweets about it, did it even happen?