Last spring, National Geographic launched "One Strange Rock," a 10-part cinematic series that explores the fragility and wonder of Earth—one of the most peculiar and unique places in the universe.
Hosted by actor Will Smith with direction from award-winning filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, "One Strange Rock" is a show about our home planet told from the perspective of astronauts—the only people to have seen our planet from above.
National Geographic's goal was to market the groundbreaking new series to consumers as a thrilling, unprecedented cinematic event. To drive conversation, and ultimately tune-in, for "One Strange Rock," Nat Geo wanted to seed exciting social media content that would play off the series theme of Earth as seen through the eyes of astronauts.
Will Smith called the International Space Station in the first-ever Instagram Live video from space. The actor and host of Nat Geo's "One Strange Rock" had a 20-minute conversation with NASA astronaut Drew Feustel to discuss what life is like in orbit.
Smith's questions for the astronaut, many of which were provided by Nat Geo Instagram followers, tackled subjects including the effects of weightlessness on the human body, and the "Overview Effect" that many astronauts experience when seeing Earth from space. Smith also had some questions that all viewers could immediately relate to such as: How do astronauts shower in space? What about poop? What does space smell like?
Instagram was strategically chosen over Snapchat, Facebook, Twitch or Periscope for a number of reasons. There's the fact that Instagram is a popular destination for National Geographic viewers, with the account boasting more than 97 million followers. Will Smith also recently joined the social network and has developed a huge following. And then there's the recent rise in the popularity of Instagram Live.
It seemed to be the best place to reach both Nat Geo and Will Smith's audiences.
Will Smith's call to the International Space Station was one of the most engaged with and watched Instagram Live streams of 2018.
More than 1.5 viewers tuned in on Instagram and 1.1 million watched it later via Will Smith's YouTube channel.