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5 Lessons We Can Learn About Social Media from NASA

5 Lessons We Can Learn About Social Media from NASA (Source: pixabay.com - used as royalty free image)

Here at Geek, we’re always looking up at the stars and dreaming about the future… of web development and digital marketing. But there are plenty of other people who look to the stars and see adventure, opportunity, and science’s next cutting edge.

The astronauts, analysts, technicians, and public relations teams at NASA aren’t just inspiring because they’re exploring the “final frontier” of space – they inspire us because of the way that they’re bringing back those discoveries and sharing them with those of us who are still stuck here on earth.

Recently, Loren Grush of The Verge held a fascinating interview with Jason Townsend and John Yembrick, two of the three social media leads at NASA headquarters, about what it’s like to help operate the organization’s 510 accounts across 14 platforms.

So, what can earthbound social marketers learn from NASA? To put it in really scientific terms: tons! Here are five major pieces of wisdom from NASA’s social media team that you can put to work for your brand today:

1.) Use Multiple Channels to Share Your Content

As we’ve already mentioned, NASA operates more than 500 accounts across various platforms, tweeting, snapping, and sharing from the perspective of the Hubble Space Telescope or Robonaut, the humanoid robot working on the International Space Station.

So while NASA thrives on Twitter, they’re also making use of plenty of other platforms. Your brand should do the same. Take the time to consider your social media goals, and then decide the best channels for accomplishing them. Want to engage directly with complaints and questions? Consider Twitter and Facebook! Want to give your fans a behind-the-scenes peek into your organization? Consider picture-sharing platforms like Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram.

There are countless social channels that you can use to spread your brand narrative, increase referral traffic, and drive conversions – why not put as many to work as possible?

2.) Don’t Just Inform Your Audience – Engage Them

Social media offers a unique chance to foster a sense of community that traditional press releases or media updates can’t. Townsend put it well, explaining to Verge:

“Using the tools and all the features that we have, we’re able to take everybody along for the ride, which is very different than having something go out as a press release. [That puts you] kind of at a distance and kind of detached from the experience of what’s going on. Social media has really personalized what’s been going on and allows folks to get embedded in with it.”

So just how do you do that? The easiest way is to encourage conversation and participation, not just observation. Encourage your audience to reach out and ask questions, and be ready to answer them. Share polls and lead contests on social media, and take advantage of more diverse content, including live video.

3.) Find a Distinct Voice

As the NASA social team explains, no two accounts of theirs sound exactly alike. And, while the team communicates one way internally, they adopt a completely different voice in order to talk to the public, avoiding jargon and acronyms and “trying to break things down so they’re understandable to the general public,” as Yembrick explains.

Your social presence should shoot for the same goals. Talk directly to your audience, not above them, and make sure you have a distinct voice all your own. Don’t feel like you need to be stuffy or formal – instead, be friendly, personable, and, above all, social!

4.) Tap into “Influencers”

In addition to NASA’s centrally-controlled accounts, the organization benefits when “social media superstars” like astronaut Scott Kelly decide to post to Facebook or Twitter. And while NASA sits down and gives its team members some tricks, guidelines, and best practices, ultimately, the decision of what to share is “entirely up to them,” Townsend explains. “It’s an optional activity; there’s no requirement… It’s a much more personal journey for them to tell the story of what they’re working on, since it’s all opt-in.”

Your brand should try to involve as many personal shares and stories as possible, too. Perhaps your CEO has a dedicated Twitter following all his own. Perhaps a local celebrity is a client. Maybe you have a large and satisfied base that you can turn to for testimonials and other user-generated content. Whatever the case, try to have as many voices as possible leading the conversation about your brand on social media.

5.) Address Complaints and Concerns

NASA’s philosophy when it comes to online complaints and criticism? Don’t feed the trolls or get into “silly Internet debates” but do respond honestly and swiftly to real criticism. Your brand should adopt the same philosophy for engaging with customers online. It comes down, ultimately, to matters of reputation, service, and brand loyalty. Take pride in your organization and respect your audience. Yembrick puts it well, saying:

“We take very seriously the brand. When people see NASA, it has a very powerful meaning to it, and we take very seriously the responsibility we have... We really want to protect and keep the integrity of the agency on social media.”

Have any more questions about social media marketing for businesses? Want to talk shop? Geek would love to hear from you! Why not check us out on Facebook or Twitter to keep the conversation going!

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).