Few organizations are as impressive as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA sends deep-space probes to study the solar system, launches hundreds of satellites that monitor the earth, takes people to the moon and back … and impresses the hell out of me with its social media presence.
As a lover of all things weird and sci-fi, I’ve been a devoted NASA follower as far back as I can remember. To this day, my NASA shirt fits more like a second skin. I study the galaxies, look for constellations and over-caffeinate so I can stay up too late and watch a comet pass by. (We all have our things.)
As a marketer, I find NASA’s use of social media brilliant, bold and innovative — like the program itself. NASA has used these platforms to become one of the top, most recognizable social media brands in the world.
NASA is incredibly clever when developing strategies for a social media presence. We’ve talked about NASA’s social media prowess in the past. Twitter is arguably one of its best tools. From the Phoenix lander tweeting from space to the Curiosity rover taking selfies on Mars, NASA created a voice where it previously had none.
What caught my eye was the charismatic tone on all of NASA’s Twitter accounts. The personification of these spacecraft and probes made me care about each mission. These weren’t just machines in space. They had personalities. I wanted them to come home safely, just as much as I did every astronaut who braved a mission into the final frontier.
The Curiosity Rover takes a selfie.
NASA used Twitter to create identities for its missions, making its already awe-inspiring content irresistible to users across the platform. People gobbled it up faster than the New Horizons spacecraft traveled past Pluto (which was 31,000 mph — a fact the spacecraft tweeted “personally”). This social media strategy became the backbone for all of NASA’s Twitter accounts.
NASA also communicated in ways I understood. I wasn’t reading tweets about arc seconds and burst and transient source experiments. I was reading about spacewalks and sample collections. NASA made its content creative and clear for everyone to understand — all in 140 characters or less.
And that’s when NASA found its greatest allies: you and me. By appealing to our sentiments and creating a bond between us and its missions, it created one of the strongest social media followings around. When we care about issues, people and places, we share content. We — the faithful followers — actively retweet, favorite and respond to NASA’s activity, creating awareness for its causes in real time. Out of this world.
NASA’s social media success didn’t go unnoticed. The space agency was honored for using Twitter during the Phoenix mission to engage those of us stranded on Earth. Through mission updates, Q&As and stunning visuals, NASA told the world stories from the unique vantage point of space.
If that wasn’t enough, NASA launched the first “Tweetup” — an informal meeting of Twitter users — so Phoenix followers could mingle with NASA staff. People from all around the world applied, and all 130 slots were filled within one hour. The Tweetups are now called NASA Socials and are heavily attended, hosting anywhere from 20 to 200 people.
And this is just one — ONE — platform NASA uses. It also teamed up with Instagram to debut the first and best photo of the “planet” we all once loved (gone but not forgotten, Pluto); reddit hosted an AMA session with scientists on the New Horizons team. NASA has explored every platform to help users expand their minds and experience the stars.
Pluto, the dwarf planet, and Mission Juno.
In A Galaxy Far, Far Away
Well, that’s a bit dramatic. I don’t think we’ll have to look that far to see what delicious social media bite NASA serves us next. NASA has carved a niche in the black hole we call the social networks. (See that space joke there? No? I’ll move on.) It has also managed to become one of the most respected brands in social media — with no social media budget to work with. (You read that correctly.)
So what will be NASA’s next social media endeavor? Snapchat from Juno, now that the mission has entered Jupiter’s orbit? No matter what, it’s clear from NASA’s minuscule budget that it doesn’t need much to create an out-of-this-world experience for users.
Businesses, take note: creativity is free. You don’t need an extraterrestrial budget to make magic happen via social media. With the application of good ideas, your business can be just as effective.
P.S. If you’re interested in searching through all of NASA’s social media platforms, you can find them here. But I hope you have some time to spare — there are 480 accounts spread across 10 different social media platforms.