12-12-12 was a day tailor-made for social media. Here are some notes on the day from the serious to the ridiculous:
12-12-12, THE DATE: Millions of people spent the days talking about the rare confluence of numbers (won't happen again till 01/01/01 in 2101), starting with 12:12:12 a.m. local time, on Facebook and Twitter and continued around the world, hitting a peak at 12:12:12 pm local time. I, too, gave into the hype and posted a screen grab of the official US atomic clock at Time.gov turning 12:12:12 pm.
There were, of course, thousands of others making fun of all the 12-12-12 obsessed. Among them, Frank Conniff (@FrankConniff), who tweeted: "Did you know that today is 12-12-12? Amazing! This is the only chance I'll ever have to share this incredibly dull fact!"
Here's a collection by BuzzFeed of how various corporations from McDonald's to UPS handled 12-12-12.
No one took the 12:12:12 idea more seriously than India-based entrepreneur Sharik Currimbhoy, who donated $12.12 million to his alma mater and my employer, Columbia University. The press release said, "The gift is timed to coincide with the auspicious moment of 12:12 p.m. on Wednesday, December 12, 2012--12:12 on 12-12-12."
RIP, RAVI SHANKAR: The first unusual thing I noticed after the date business was the fact that the name Ravi Shankar was trending worldwide. You wouldn't expect the passing of a 92-year-old sitar player from India to be that widely noted, but it certainly was. I tweeted a screen grab of the trending chart, saying: "Nice to see Ravi Shankar trending, thx in part to tweets from folks as different as @MarioBatali & @CoryBooker."
Shankar became famous in the U.S. because of his work with the Beatles (though Slate's Geeta Dayal - @GeetaDayal - reminds us "Ravi Shankar wasn't just the Indian guy who hung out with the Beatles." The fact that he was the father of superstar Norah Jones (@NorahJones) and her half-sister, sitarist Anoushka Shankar (@ShankarAnoushka), who was nominated for a Grammy this week, played a role in younger folks' interest.
12-12-12, THE CONCERT: The day ended with an all-star benefit concert along the lines of what's been done for the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the Asian tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the Haiti earthquake in 2010. The "12-12-12" concert, for Superstorm Sandy relief in New York and New Jersey, had a lot of hype built into it, starting with its memorable date, the brand-name performers, and the fact that it was being broadcast live on 37 networks in the U.S. and more than 100 overseas and streamed live on many major sites. (The night's quasi emcee, Billy Crystal, promised an audience of 2 billion.) There were also many celebrities staffing the phone banks and bringing attention to the festivities.
The concert was held at Madison Square Garden, which was also the site, in 1971, of the first of these massive benefit concerts, created, of all people, by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison. The Concert of Bangladesh (here's the Wikipedia entry and here are several video excerpts) has quite the legacy. It inspired Bob Geldof's 1995 Live Aid concert and continues to have an impact as proceeds from the concert album and DVD benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF, which has programs in Bangladesh today.
Alas, no mention of the 1971 concert or Shankar's passing was made at the 12-12-12 concert, though that would have been timely and the right thing to do (below a quick video remembering Shankar and Harrison by video news newcomer Now This News). Eric Clapton was the only star at both concerts.
Social media was baked into many parts of the evening. The #121212concert hashtag was constantly plugged on the air (see my earlier post on the right way and wrong way to do hashtags on TV). Many of the celebrities used their Twitter accounts to promote the concert before and during the gathering. Examples: Here's Cold Play (@ColdPlay), tweeting about lead singer Chris Martin's performance: "Don't forget, Chris plays at tomorrow's @121212Concert for Hurricane Sandy victims. Live stream info: http://bit.ly/121212Watch #121212Concert." Here's Alicia Keys (@AliciaKeys), who tweeted an Instagram of herself at the piano: "Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, and ME?! WTF?! ;-) #121212Concert."
The 121212concert.org site has prominent links to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+ and GetGlue (a mobile-based social network that let's users check-in to TV shows, films, concerts, etc). There were electronic signs around the stage promoting highlighted tweets, encouraging those in the audience to tweet, too.
The site also highlighted tweets from such high-profile accounts as @MickJagger, @GQMagazine, @NYRangers and @KimKardashian. Into that mix, somehow, one of my tweets sneaked in, as you can see from the screenshot at the top of this post: "Almost entire cast of Sopranos is working the phone bank right now, so some of you may want to call 1-855-465-4357 & donate #121212concert." (This generated 63 retweets and 20 favorites as I write this.)
Some of my other tweets got more than 10 retweets:
At 9:16 p.m. ET, I tweeted this: #121212concert hasn't had any women or people of color sing yet - 105 minutes and counting. Great acts so far, but... [It was almost 180 before Alicia Keys took the stage. In a sign of the times, she kept telling the audience to "put your cellphones in the air" as she sang her hit "No One."]
At 10:06 p.m., I tweeted this: #121212concert needs on-screen listings of who's who & what they're performing. My kids don't know the old stuff and I don't know the new.
At 12:23 a.m., I tweeted this: "I know that you really wanted @OneDirection, but it's way past their bedtime" - Chris Martin of @ColdPlay apologizing at #121212concert [Martin had a great line, reflecting on being the youngest on the show (he wasn't, Keys was). He said if everyone donated the average age of the performers, "we'd raise billions."]
Rapper Kanye West (@KanyeWest) trended during his performance, though it wasn't necessarily for his music. He was wearing something that looked like a cross between a kilt and skirt, and, sure enough, people were talking about #kanyeskilt.
The six-hour concert ended withPaul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) performing with a variety of musicians, including a rare appearance by the remaining members of Nirvana, which set Twitter abuzz.
The fundraising, through the Robin Hood Foundation, carries on and you can still donate at 121212concert.org.
Did you catch the concert on TV, the Web, or just via glancing blows on social media? Share your thoughts in the comments below, please.