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What can the Daytona 500, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Brad Keselowski teach us about Twitter?

NASCAR ran the 54th Annual Daytona 500 on Monday, February 27. On lap 160 of 200, this happened:

Wrecks happen in auto racing, and you may be watching for the wrecks. But these accidents usually occur between race cars and walls, not safety vehicles. And while they create viral video fodder for YouTube and local television newscasts, they do not usually create social media sensations. Until Brad Keselowski stowed his phone in his car. Six minutes into the red flag, @keselowski tweeted:

What can we learn about Twitter from all of this?

1. When the unexpected happens, it’s human nature to talk about it.

Conversation about the Daytona 500 dominated Twitter as the cars sat on the track, not racing. Race leader Dave Blaney and accident victim Juan Pablo Montoya trended top 10 worldwide on Twitter during the red flag delay and #Daytona500 trended top three worldwide as the race ended around 1 a.m. EST. 2. Be there and say something interesting. If you were stopped from your 500-mile, 190 m.p.h. commute in a two-hour traffic jam, what would you do?  Fellow NASCAR drivers flocked to Brad Keselowski, huddling around his Twitter-feeding phone. The New York Times reported that during the delay he gained over 120,000 followers, going from 71,174 to 192,729, responding to tweets like this:


…and this:

He now has 223,372 followers, media attention, and a thumbs up from NASCAR.

3. Seize your opportunities.

Brad did, but some other players did not. Tide came to the rescue. Safety workers sprinkled the detergent on the jet-fuel soaked pavement, scrubbing the  accident site clean. Even for a sponsor-laden event, what a product placement. “Tide gets jet fuel out of your way.” Who knew?

But @tide remained silent until the next morning. Opportunity missed, said Mack Collier:

“Nothing strange can happen on television without our first thought being ‘I wonder what Twitter’s saying about this,'” said Barry Petchesky of Deadspin. The Great Dryer Fire of 2012 reminds us that even when it seems banal, Twitter has value. It gives us a platform to share what is happening right now with a BCC to the world. Sometimes the world is listening.


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