Like everyone in America, I was astounded to learn that on Wednesday, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 from New York's JFK airport heading to Charlotte crashed into the Hudson river shortly after take-off. Miraculously, all 155 passengers and crew members on board were not seriously injured and everyone made it off the plane thanks to the quick thinking and training of Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III . The NTSB is investigating whether a "double bird strike" caused both of the jet's engines to fail.
Four days after this event, the blogosphere and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have been a-buzz with much deserved praise and appreciation for Captain Sully and his crew. But how engaged are people with this story?
According to social media provider Virtue, which was interviewed by MediaPost's Marketing News Daily, a Facebook fan page they created to honor Capt. Sully was growing at a rate of 215 people a minute at its height on Saturday afternoon. Virtue created the fan page at 10 p.m. on Thursday evening - one day after the controlled crash. By 8pm there were 18,000 fans and 1,800 wall posts. By Sunday afternoon, there were more than 300,000 fans and 14,000 wall posts. At my last check this morning, the Facebook page had grown to 365,979 fans and has 16,501 wall posts.
Twitter's own search function indicates increased conversation and discussion surrounding Capt. Sully, the crew and survivors of the crash.
A quick perusal of the Twitter trend site Twist this morning (I have no idea how accurate it is as an aggregation tool) reveals that "hot words" on Twitter for the last four days revolve around the event. Twist shows that the use of the words "U.S. Air," "Hudson," and "Crash" have all risen significantly over the last four days. In fact the word "plane" has been on Twist's hot list since Thursday at 3pm (one day after the crash) indicating that a great deal of people were discussing the event on Twitter (along with the usual build of people twittering that they were getting on/off planes to their travel destinations). Twist indicates that the word "plane" has been used in 7.89% of all Tweets between Thursday morning and Thursday afternoon.
Whether or not that statistic is significant is up for debate. What it does reveal is that this astounding story has captured people's attention and praise for the heroic crew. In their interview with MediaPost, Virtue notes that their social media index shows that U.S. Air's scores were up 171 percent on Thursday from its December average, with three-day average increase of 135 percent. Without knowing the methodology used to determine these statistics, there is enough apparent evidence to know that people are grateful for the safe landing and quick thinking of U.S. Airway's Flight 1549's crew and grateful to discuss and share knowledge in virtual real time.