Hot on Santa's Trail: NORAD
Annual Santa watch is growing, depending more on social media
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 25, 2014 5:40 AM CST
Volunteers take calls from kids asking where Santa is during the annual NORAD Tracks Santa Operation, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014.   (Brennan Linsley)
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(Newser) – Volunteers at the North American Aerospace Defense Command are monitoring Santa Claus as he makes his storybook Christmas Eve flight. So far, NORAD says it used the heat signature from Rudolph's nose to "track" St. Nick over spots ranging from Australia to South America and on to the United States. Technology and social media have become an important part of the US and Canadian military tradition, and NORAD Tracks Santa has already attracted around 1.6 million Facebook "likes." The volunteers yesterday were answering phone calls and emails from children and posting updates on Facebook, Twitter, and its website. The 59-year-old program now has a control center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, and it generates enough statistics to fill a sleigh:

  • Latest movements: NORAD says it has most recently spotted Santa over San Antonio, and that he's delivered more than 6 billion gifts so far.
  • So far this year: NORAD Tracks Santa had around 1.6 million Facebook likes as of last night. Twitter followers stood at around 159,000.
  • Last year: Volunteers took 117,000 phone calls and answered 9,600 emails. Another 800 inquiries came in via OnStar.
  • Growing fast: Visits to the website, which was launched in 1997, peaked at 22.3 million in 2012 before dropping to about 19.6 million last year.
  • Phone calls: Calls rose from about 74,000 in 2009 to more than 117,000 in 2013.
  • Social media: Facebook "likes" grew from 1 million in 2011 to 1.45 million last year; Twitter followers were up from 101,000 to more than 146,000.
  • New for 2014: The website has an animated elf named Radar. "Radar" was the favorite in a vote on Facebook, beating out "DARON," which is NORAD spelled backward, and "Echo L. Foxtrot," which uses the military phonetic alphabet to spell out "elf." NORAD Tracks Santa also has a new mobile version of its website for smartphones.