Secret for Social Media Success = Leap off the Edge of Space
Posted: Tuesday 16 October, 2012
When 43-year-old Felix Baumgartner jumped from a capsule at an altitude of 128,100 feet (24 miles!) on Sunday, he shattered records and caused people around the world to react in a groundswell of unbridled admiration and amazement.
Now, two days later, we can collect our thoughts and try to figure out what it all means. Some wonder: Is this incredible feat a scientific leap for mankind or the highest possible achievement in extreme sports? Meanwhile, the more cynical among us are starting to insinuate that Baumgartner's jump is actually just the ultimate PR stunt or merely a brilliant marketing campaign.
Certainly, he broke some impressive records*, namely the highest jump from a platform, the longest freefall by distance (119,846 feet), and the top vertical speed of 833.9 mph (Mach 1.24). He also became the first human to break the sound barrier with only his mortal body.
However, there is another side to this inspirational story – the marketing behind the madness. There is little avoiding the fact that this event was brought to us by Red Bull. Although we don't know the full extent of the financial investment the brand made to sponsor and promote Baumgartner's mission, it certainly made full use of free publicity and amplified every moment across social media channels. The live stream of the jump was hosted on Red Bull's YouTube channel and further shared through posts on the brand's official Facebook page and on the official Stratos page, not to mention through several Twitter handles.
It spread like wildfire. Just on my own newsfeed, I saw 16 posts sharing images, links to the video, and commentary from people in New Mexico, New York, Sweden, Germany, and the UK. These posts earned around 337k likes, 6k comments, and 40k shares. This is more impressive when you consider that I don't have friends who are into extreme sports, nor do I follow Red Bull or any related brands.
But it is even more impressive to look at the response on the Facebook pages for Red Bull and the Stratos project themselves. Posts about the jump on the official Red Bull page earned more than one million interactions in the form of likes, comments, and shares. A single post announcing that Baumgartner had landed safely received more than 520K likes, 15k comments, and 69k shares. Not too shabby, even considering that the Red Bull page has 32 million fans. More interestingly, the Red Bull Stratos page now has approximately 709k likes and 287k people talking about it, a pretty remarkable ratio. During the day of the mission, the eight posts on the page earned more than 777k total interactions (approx. 676k likes, 33k comments, and 69k shares). The post declaring Baumgartner's safe landing was liked by nearly half a million people and shared about 51k times.
Yesterday, YouTube announced that the video of Baumgartner's freefall broke the record for the "live stream with the most concurrent views ever" on the platform. Before he even launched himself into nothingness, 7.1 million viewers were already watching and waiting with baited breath. This number rose to a staggering 8 million simultaneous viewers.
Those who want to avoid the commercial implications of the feat argue that it has generated important information for the development of parachutes, emergency procedures for air and space travel, and bolstered interest in space exploration.
Or perhaps its real value lies in our sheer inability to truly comprehend exactly what it takes to defy the limits of what we think is possible – the elusive, mysterious edge that makes life so enthralling. As the Austrian daredevil says: "Sometimes you have to be up really high to see how small you are".
*these are the initially reported figures – awaiting official confirmation from the applicable authorities