My Big Idea: What NASA Has To Teach Earthling Social Media


I have a dream job. I'm the press secretary at NASA, where we have a very concise mission – we reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.

Doing press for one of the most internationally – perhaps intergalactically – well-known brand institutions isn't without its challenges. 

Media convergence and newsroom staff reductions mean fewer reporters cover space, and media consumers can select more niche outlets to get their news.  

When the going gets tough, the tough get innovative. Or as Hank Green puts it, increase the awesome. And that's exactly what the NASA Newsroom team has done. 

I could list dozens of examples here, but it turns out space is finite in some circumstances. Instead, allow me to focus on how NASA's social media outreach is a key way the agency is reaching the public. Over 8 million people follow @NASA on twitter (and that's just the flagship account – we have hundreds of accounts for our missions, programs and even astronauts tweeting from Earth and space).  

Direct engagement with followers is essential. NASA Socials bring together NASA followers from all walks of life (and platforms) for once-in-a-lifetime experiences to view launches, see NASA missions in the development phases and interact directly with NASA experts. NASA allows its followers to come, see our work, and let individuals "report" back to their followers using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, personal blogs, and more. We allow our followers to see what we're doing for themselves, and report out in their own words and own media. NASA has proven that this type of behind-the-scenes access is an awesome way to connect with fans, future fans, the critics and the uninformed. 

But you don't have to take my word for it. In May, J.D. Power gave NASA top marks for servicing and marketing engagement in its 2014 Social Media Benchmark Study, saying, "Among the government agencies included in the study, only the National Aeronautics and Space Administration performs particularly well in both types of social interactions.” NASA earned back-to-back Shorty Awards for use of social media. 

So what can Earth-bound brands learn from the NASA experience? 

Take risks. Allowing social media followers to tweet about their experiences – good and bad- at your facilities could be risky, but one worth taking when they better understand what you do, and share that story with their local communities. 

Be personal. By allowing employees to tweet about their daily lives at NASA, we demonstrate that NASA isn't a monolithic, government bureaucracy, but truly is a vibrant organizations staffed by deeply committed individuals who are leading NASA's exploration efforts. 

Have fun. From Astronaut Chris Cassidy posting video of shaving his head in space, to allowing a group of interns do a Gangnam Style parody (that actually did a great job of explaining what NASA is working on), seizing on social trends to tell your story can be effective. 

Four Awesome Ways to Connect with NASA

Earth is changing, and NASA's Earth observation missions are helping us better understand the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events. The Images of Change app delivers incredible images of our changing Earth. 

Go interplanetary with your weather report with the Curiosity Rover's Environmental Monitoring Station. 

Follow what the crew on board the International Space Station are doing at this very minute with http://spacestationlive.nasa.gov/timeline/. 

See space for yourself. NASA's High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment aboard the International Space Station allows you to see what's happening in space at this very moment. You can even access this from your phone! Living in the future is rad!

By Lauren Worley

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