Matter Chatter

Tweeting for Public Awareness: As Obvious as a Giant Yellow Bird

There was a lot of chirping and feathers ruffled recently when presidential candidate Mitt Romney mentioned Big Bird during the first Presidential debate. During the deficit-cutting discussion, Romney stated he would cut federal funding to PBS even after admitting “I love Big Bird.” And that’s when Twitter took over.

Someone on PBS’s social team was certainly paying attention that evening. One report claimed there were 17,000 tweets per minute for “Big Bird” and 10,000 Tweets per minute for “PBS” at that point in the debate – and PBS saw its window to make this social media trend work in its favor.

PBS bought the phrase “Big Bird” on Twitter. With this ad buy, anyone who searched for “Big Bird” on Twitter saw an ad for PBS which said “PBS is trusted, valued and essential.” The ad directed people to, which had statistics about the network and its public service initiatives and how much it actually costs taxpayers per year.

What’s the point here? One comment led to an uproar on Twitter and through social media platforms. It was a shrewd PR move to get that ad buy and direct traffic to its own site. With satiric Twitter accounts, tweets and memes floating around, PBS saw an opportunity to educate the public about its programs and remind people about its role in public service programming. The public’s attention was already turned to one of the most famous birds in the country and PBS leveraged social media to increase awareness without issuing any decisive statements.

Big Bird even made an appearance on Saturday Night Live. And while it was seven hours past his bedtime (he is only six years old, you know), Big Bird chose not to “ruffle any feathers” himself by commenting on Romney’s statement.

But really, who’s going to forget about an eight-foot tall talking yellow bird on a show that capitalizes on political blunders?