Do you know that NASA has about 500 social media accounts across multiple networks? This means a big social media team and a lot of work!
Well, when you have the right people, you can achieve anything. Case in point, the agency has won several Shorty Awards over the years, including one for best government use of social media.
So, what makes NASA such a great social brand? And what are the lessons companies big and small can learn and apply to their own online presence? I have highlighted five in this article.
Know your customers
For most of us, the word “NASA” equates space, telescopes, shuttles, and beautiful pictures. Then, knowing that the agency has jumped on the Instagram bandwagon should not surprise you.
“Instagram has a passionate following of users who are hungry for new and exciting photos. We believe we have some of the most engaging images on and off the planet — and we can’t wait to engage with Instagrammers,” says NASA Press Secretary Lauren Worley in a press release.
This statement sums up exactly why NASA has a stellar Instagram presence. The agency understands what makes its audience there tick by offering content that they really want. The high level of engagement on posts is further proof of that successful strategy.
The same goes for what the agency does on YouTube. However, this time, the focus is more on news, trends, and what goes on behind the scenes.
Takeaway: Your clients are not uniform. The platforms that they use to connect with others say a lot about their needs and interests.
Take advantage of those connections to customize your messages. What you post on Instagram should be different from what your YouTube content.
Make it about your customers, not you
A few years ago, NASA created NASA Social, a hub for everything NASA: missions, people, and programs. When the agency organizes behind-the-scenes events (e.g., tours, news conferences, demonstrations, and interviews), social media influencers can use the site to apply for media credentials.
To be eligible, the users need to meet specific requirements. For instance, they must be active on multiple social networks, post clean content, and have a large, non-traditional audience. If selected, they enjoy the same privileges as journalists.
Imagine being able to cover the next space launch or meet your favorite astronaut. In addition, share what you saw and experienced with your network. What a great way to create advocacy for your company!
Takeaway: Your audience is your gateway to success. To create impacting campaigns, focus on building an emotional connection with your customers, which is just one way to change how people feel about products and services.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with multiple platforms
Many use social media in the same way they use the traditional media. News releases are almost all they know.
As a business owner, you need to get out of your comfort zone and reach out to your customers in non-traditional ways.
NASA understands that well. When the agency launched Orion last year, the social media team leveraged platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to generate a big buzz around the event. Social media users were also advised to use the hashtags #NASASocial and #Orion in their conversations.
The day of the launch, NASA broadcast the event on its website and Ustream in real time. The social media team also kept the conversation going wiht viewers. Further, 150 social media influencers were present on the premises, on top of regular journalists.
The result? According to Campaign US, the day of the launch saw 320,000 tweets about Orion. NASA also reached 13.3 million Facebook users and the @NASA_Orion account gained 30,000 followers in 48 hours.
Takeaway: Social media campaigns do not have to be complex to work. It all boils down to careful planning, clear and easy rules and hashtags, and taking advantage of the platforms that your customers and followers enjoy using.
Do you know that 7 in 10 Twitter users expect an answer from brands they interact with? That is something that NASA understands as well. The agency has Twitter accounts for different things: its missions, astronauts, organizations and programmes, and centers and facilities.
Many handles just post news and updates. However, you will find quite a few that respond to followers and even begin conversations with them.
For example, @MarsCuriosity does not just deliver frequent updates on the Mars Rover mission. The team also answers questions quickly.
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) December 30, 2014
The same goes for the ISS research account, NASA’s official source for research news from the International Space Station.
The staff handles are, of course, the most interesting of the list. Social media users get to learn more about the work of their favorite astronauts — and even interact with them.
.@MadiK Would go back in a heartbeat – lots of talented folks ahead of me right now though. The line is long – but it’s a good line.
— Thomas H. Marshburn (@AstroMarshburn) March 15, 2014
Takeaway: Your clients are not following you on social platforms just to hear about your latest news, products, and services. They also expect a connection with you — even as minimal as a quick answer to a question or query. Brands like NASA or Dell have used Twitter as a way to perfect the customer care experience for a long time.
It’s always about the journey
Anyone familiar with NASA has probably heard of NASA 360. Launched in 2008, the series highlights the stories behind the agency’s technologies and missions. So far, it has aired on hundreds of TV stations in the U.S. and is one of the most downloaded programmes on the NASA website.
Why has NASA 360 been so successful? First of all, you get videos with a strong focus on context and quality visuals. The content, which is also available as vodcasts, is presented in plain English. And there are also transcriptions for those who prefer reading.
The transcription for the video is here.
The second reason for the success of the programme is the use of Facebook to reach a younger demographic. Members of the social media team don’t just post videos, they also share some jaw-dropping photos and write contextualized introductions that entice you to leave comments.
The Facebook Page now has 3.7 million (talkative) fans!
Takeaway: While there are many competitors that provide similar services and/or products to yours, none has the same story as you. That’s what makes you unique.
Sharing that story with your customers will help build transparency and trust. This, in turn, will increase leads and referrals.
In 2015, visual storytelling is the best salesman available.
What other lessons do you think we can learn from NASA? Share your thoughts in the comment section below…