NASA putting the social back in social media

Knowing how to keep enthusiasm going among followers is an important ingredient in community engagement. I participated in last week’s #cmgrchat (Twitter chat about community management hosted by thecommunitymanager.com) with the team behind some of NASA‘s many, many, many twitter accounts (over 250 of them); @Stephist (a.k.a. Stephanie L. Smith), @VeronicaMcG (a.k.a. Veronica McGregor) and @CourtOConnor (a.k.a. Courtney O’Connor). It was a Q & A style twitter chat.

The @NASA Twitter account has 2.8 million, @MarsCuriosity 1.1 million (from 800,000 within its first week of existence), @AsteroidWatch with over 900,000. Excitement within the community management, um, community on Twitter was a buzz, I mean all a-twitter, with excitement of learning the secrets behind the space agency’s success.

A summary of the twitter chat will be posted on The Community Manager’s website. Meanwhile, here are my take-aways:

1. With over 250 Twitter accounts across NASA, this allows their voice to be more targeted towards various audiences. Reminds me of Google+’s circles feature.

2. Their strategy for building community is based upon increasing understanding and enthusiasm in space exploration and exposing “newbies to the things that made us fall in love with space exploration.”

3. They also host in-person #NASASocial events at various NASA centers to keep the social in social media. Attendees are selected randomly and these events often coincide with major missions. They also give citizen journalists access to @NASA facilities & teams to share online. “[It] Remind[s] us all of the humans behind the missions & followers“, said @Stephist. In fact, the first #NASASocial event was a way to thank ambassadors engaged with the @MarsPhoenix mission.

Participant, @TheMiddle, a.k.a Darryl Villacorta, said it best when he chimed in with “Quote of the year. ‘Events help put the social back in social media.'”

Now you know where the title of this post came from.

These in-person events have proven to be a successful way at recognizing and rewarding brand ambassadors. Many of the #NASAsocial attendees return with a small number getting into multiple events. @VeronicaMcG shared, “the fact that so many #NASASocial attendees stuck together & became community organizers was an unexpected treasure.” @ Stephist describes it as “a big family”.

4. They also focus on keeping people updated on mission news and why it matters. After all, they are a government agency fuelled by tax dollars.

5. Speaking of which, how do they deal with trolls? They accept that that they exist and answer questions with respect and “never get in the muck “. @CourtOConnor shared NASA’s chat rules; “be courteous, use respectful language, stay on topic, protect your private information.”

6. I formed an impression of a strong collaborative nature within the team. They sit close by and talk to each other when responding and use a telephone when a member is off-site.

7. They’ve found that news increases number of new followers. Sometimes it’s a “slow boil” and at other times it’s a huge influx of new followers (as what happened with the the aforementioned @MarsCuriosity account).

8. NASA’s community management team also puts creating engaging content front and center. Over 50% of tweets are @ replies ensuring two-way conversation and they make use of the power of photographs. “Few things drive RTs more than pics”, said @VeronicaMcG. “And RTs get you exposure to new audiences”. After all, you can’t grow a community without new members.

They answer questions and keep people informed and updated. They also make sure that their team doesn’t over tweet.

9. My interest was immediately piqued when someone asked about their Google+ page and hangouts. The team replied that while Google+ is a place where they’d like to devote more time, they find that they get more viewers on Ustream. Makes sense, Google+ is experiencing a bit of a rocky start but I hope to see popularity grow.

In conclusion, NASA truly knows how to keep up enthusiasm and the social aspect of social media.

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