What Does Social Media Do For You? The Case of An “Out Of This World” Strategy

If you're just joining us, our most recent posts have highlighted just a few companies for their innovative and transformational approaches to social media in all its forms. We've covered Dove's changing of the social media conversation surrounding beauty, as well as JetBlue's daisy-chain of human kindness with their “fly it forward” campaign. While each of those campaigns were innovative on their own, it may perfect make sense to you why these companies found success on social media. After all, both of them have their own brand story and personality to share with consumers.

However, one organization's social media strategy proved that even the most white-collar, scientific organizations can gain big benefits from social media

NASA: From Geek to Social Media Guru

No one really saw NASA's social media explosion coming. These brilliant minds successfully guided a man to the moon, propelled rockets into deep space, and held some of the highest knowledge on topics like warp travel and black holes. They were the serious group of people who actually were doing rocket science, not an organization that spent their time on tweets and Vines. So how did it all change? 

A robot. 

In early 2008, NASA had just landed the Phoenix Rover on the surface of Mars. Instead of simply relaying statistics and facts about what the rover had found, NASA's head of communications, Veronica McGregor, decided to make a change. She began relaying playful, lovable, first-person tweets to millions of followers back on Earth. She brought the rover to life! For the first time in a long time, real-life robots were astonishingly human.

Since then, NASA's presence on social media exploded. However, its rise should be a surprise to no one. Posting images of nebulas and new galaxies has given NASA a reputation for content that’s not just enthralling but greatly informative as well. Through a perfect amalgamation of interstellar images, complex universal phenomenon, and down-home, earthly representations of both its astronauts and its organization, NASA has created an avid following that spans all ages. 

Power Your Product with Voice

The most exciting aspect of NASA's social media strategy is its relatability. For an organization that exists in such a complex industry, you'd think it would be hard to tweet to a general audience. However, NASA has found the key. 

So how do you make a Mars Lander roaming across the surface of a mysterious planet a billion miles away relatable? Have it take a selfie!

Last October, while trekking across the surface of Mars, Curiosity paused to take in the view and snap a selfie. The picture was immediately tweeted via @MarsCuriosty, an account made specifically for the robot, with the following tagline,

“No shame in my #selfie game. These pics help my team see the state of hardware over time.”

The space missions became fun. NASA abandoned complex lingo and esoteric language, and embraced commonality using pop culture jargon. It was playful, engaging and sincere. It was a concentrated effort to engage its audience, and its was appreciated. 

Place Your Content on the Perfect Channel

NASA currently operates more than 500 unique social media accounts including a Twitter that recently peaked at more than 15 million followers. However, like Dove and JetBlue, the team realizes it's not a numbers game. Think about it: Would you rather read about a majestic sunrise filmed from the surface of Mars or pull up an Instagram photo of the exact same phenomenon? Even better, think of how amazing it would be watching a Vine of it on your commute to work or while drinking your morning coffee?

NASA has mastered the art of creating social media accounts that interact perfectly with specific platforms and channels. Some of its most effective campaigns can be found on Google+, an often underutilized social media channel. However, Google+ offers NASA unrivaled connection and interaction with some of most active participants. Rick Mulready, consultant and blogger, explains in an article in Entrepreneur

NASA leans on Google+ as an effective channel to communicate and engage with its audience. They also use Google Hangouts to hold live question-and-answer sessions and informational meet-ups for their followers.”

There's no better way to engage an audience than to directly interact with them, and there's no better way to build rapport than to show our audience we care about their individual questions and concerns. Whether they're hosting Q&A sessions, streaming the launch of a new product, or providing customer support, NASA's control across a variety of platform is flawless. 

Relaying Reality

NASA sets itself apart by bringing its audience inside. Whether that's inside a lab in Florida or on the lens of a telescope floating 10 billion miles away from Earth, brand advocates are given real, behind-the-scenes glimpses into the inner workings of NASA. Through this personable and open outreach, NASA has created a legion of followers and brand advocates committed to “making space cool again.”

Al Eidson is the owner of Eidson & Partners, a business and marketing strategy consultancy, and a founder of SparkLabKC, an early-stage startup accelerator program in Kansas City. He's an expert in taking products to market and has launched more than 220 new products and ventures through his career. He's also proud of killing off a great many problematic products before they hit the market. His vision involves meaningful and lasting products through innovation. 

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