If you don’t frequent the Internet, you might have missed NASA’s daring venture into social media in an effort to increase public engagement. NASA has been in the works to try to help the public become more familiar with what happens behind the scenes by being more than just a space shuttle program, but also a big part of the community. Their strategic use of social media involves astronaut outreach, external research and STEM support, pop culture tie-ins, and media production to better educate and more interactively engage the public and its imagination.
The revised approach to their brand doesn’t necessarily change what they have been doing, but evolves the brand to support more modern day sharing. By sharing events such as the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 and keeping the public connected with astronauts, NASA rallies excitement for the “victories” that happen at their program. Even the astronauts take social media sharing seriously. They say that leveraging social media makes the astronauts more relatable, and it’s fun!
NASA is doing more than just racking up millions of followers; they are doing what every brand should do on social media, which is building a narrative. By focusing on certain experiments like the Orion Aircraft, their followers can see the progression of the continuing journey to Mars. For this specific launch, NASA instituted it’s first agency-wide NASA Social that allows social media users to apply to access NASA’s specialists and centers as traditional journalists. One NASA Social participant covering both launches is Andrew Mayne, a magician and star of A&E’s Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne. Mayne’s podcast, Weirdthings.com, often covers space issues and targets some 15,000 of his more ardent fans.
“The folks at NASA really get social media,” says Mayne. “They aren’t just interested in the overall size of an audience, but how into the topic they are. That’s a mistake that’s often made [by others]—confusing hits with intensity. Our audience is super excited about where space is right now—so many cool things happening.”
NASA is also leveraging social media by expanding to its industry partners. Orion Builder, Lockheed Martin, is using social media to educate the public and policy makers about contributions to space and technology through its Engineering the Journey to Mars brand campaign. Part of that includes profiles of Orion engineers on it’s website and a public engagement campaign that calls for dance video submissions using the hashtag #MarsWalk.
“Cool technologies help us be innovative with our marketing,” says Lockheed Martin marketing specialist, Dani Hauf. “We wanted to humanize Orion and remind people that it’s a crewed spacecraft, and that people will one day be on the Red Planet.”
The public response to this move to more public interaction is creating a lot of enthusiasm. Many social media enthusiasts that keep up with NASA, or are scientists themselves, are helping to promote space exploration. There have been demonstrations at events such as Burning Man and even a panel and the-oh-so famous Comic Con in San Diego. By targeting unconventional arenas that share similar audiences for space interest NASA can continue to tell their story in a contemporary way.