NASA: Three Social Media lessons from Space

As a 12 year old, I was obsessed with space to the point where I was convinced I was going to become an astronaut and figure out a way we could experience the Great Red Spot on Jupiter (it’s this huge storm that’s been raging there for the past 300 years or so!). One lesson in Year 11 physics squashed any of these aspirations.

But, to this day, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and anything remotely space related fascinates me and now, as a strategist, NASA’s online presence is something short of remarkable. How is it that such a decentralised government agency has almost 10 million followers across all its social platforms without any social budget?

To give you a scale of how active they are on social, take a look at the below. This screenshot does not capture the profiles of over a 150 astronauts, centers and facilities. With more than 500 accounts spread across 10 social media platforms, NASA has one of the most engaged and loyal fan bases. So, what can we learn from them?

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Content that speaks from the heart

There is a person behind every research piece. What NASA does brilliantly is capture the passion and the expertise that each scientist brings to the table and create a story around their discoveries. Take for example the Curiosity Rover (the cute little guy who is currently exploring Mars) Seen as NASA’s ‘flagship’ product, it has its own voice through its own Facebook, Twitter & Foursquare account. So successful is Curiosity Rover’s social presence, it won four Webby awards.

 

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Key takeout:

Consider what’s the best way to tell your product or service’s story. A story means a voice and a persona –it’s totally worth it!

Content out of this world that relates to home

NASA is brilliant at creating topical content that is in line with what is going on with the rest of the world. However, they go beyond simply jumping on the #topicalcontenthashtags. A lot of their posts focus on creating an ongoing conversation with their audience. This involves extensive retweeting on Twitter and responding to generic inquires across all their platforms.

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Key takeout:

Simply engaging in topical content isn’t enough. Test and learn ways to customise this trend for your brand and create an ongoing conversation with your audience.

 Making the best use of each platform

As I write this post, NASA is live streaming one of its Spacecraft’s Flight test on its Youtube channel. Whether it’s integrating short 30 second videos on Instagram or using Google Hangouts or posting the first ever Vine from Space, NASA tailors content specifically for each platform. More often, content from each platform becomes news worthy. The best example to illustrate this is when Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut covered David Bowies’s ‘Space Oddity.’ Fitting song given where Hadfield was (a good 15,000 kms above Earth)

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Key takeout:
Creating great content is never enough. Consider where it sits for your audience.

NASA and its earthly connections

In a 2003 study conducted for the Houston Chronicle regarding the American public’s opinions about NASA, for those in the 18-24 age bracket, there was a 70% approval rating. In contrast, was the 57.9% rating by those over 65. This study revealed that a young, digital native audience demanded more of what NASA had to offer- 66% of this audience were interested in another mission to the Moon and almost 60% thought that it was important to land humans on Mars. The sort of content that NASA produces leaves this audience wanting more. With the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at the agency’s facilities and events and chat with astronauts and scientists, there is a ‘pull’ factor to NASA’s products.

Key take out:

Know. Your. Audience

So in a nutshell, the key take outs are:

  • Even the most technologically complex piece can become an interesting source of content- if you tell the story correctly
  • As the most of us don’t have access to out of the world imagery, share info that is only worth your audience’s time and interest
  • A social network is next to nothing without a conversation flowing back and forth between the brand and its followers.

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