Nasa reaches out with social media


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To say that NASA is engaged in social media is an understatement. It uses a dozen social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube to promote and chronicle practically everything the space agency does. Full article available at

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Nasa reaches out with social media

  1. 1. NASA Reaches Out with Social MediaGenerated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-26-06:00 1
  2. 2. NASA Reaches Out with Social MediaIts not rocket science, but social media is helping the U.S. space agency engage thepublic in new and increasingly interactive ways.Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-26-06:00 2
  3. 3. NASA Reaches Out with Social MediaStation, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) publiccommunications team asked him to use Twitter to share his experiences fromspace. At first, Wheelock was dubious. “I’m a very private person in a very publicjob,” he says. “I didn’t know if I wanted to share my thoughts with the world.”But NASA officials were eager. The first U.S. astronaut with a Twitter account, MikeMassimino, proved that the public is interested. His account, @Astro_Mike, has more than1.2 million followers. Eventually, Wheelock agreed to tweet from space using the handle@astro_wheels. Today he has more than 108,000 followers.To say that NASA is engaged in social media is an understatement. It uses adozen social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTubeto promote and chronicle practically everything the space agency does. (Anoverview of NASA’s social media activities is available at Twitter alone, NASA has more than 100 accounts that it uses to post news and updatesand share its Image of the Day. A total of 1.6 million people follow its flagship account,@NASA, which amasses about 4,000 new followers daily.NASA also uses social media internally. Yammer, an enterprise microbloggingtool, helps the agency’s teams collaborate and quickly discover subject-matterexpertise among the organization’s 18,000 civil service employees and 40,000contractors.Communicating with citizens is part of NASA’s founding mandate, dating backto its creation in 1958. “Social media lets us go directly to citizens, rather thanhaving them come to us,” says Stephanie Schierholz, the agency’s Social MediaManager. “We can see what people are most interested in, how they share ourcontent, and the type of comments they add.”Some of those comments have led to changes at NASA. For example, thanksto comments posted on social media, the space agency discovered that oneGenerated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-26-06:00 3
  4. 4. NASA Reaches Out with Social Mediaof its many acronyms, EVA —  short for Extra Vehicular Activity — was a totalmystery to the public. So NASA publicists came up with a clearer substitute:“space walk.” After the change, Schierholz says, “we saw that we were reachinga much broader audience.”NASA has also convened more than 30 live gatherings, or “Tweetups,” for itsTwitter followers. One recent Tweetup was held in November at the launch ofthe Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, from the Kennedy Space Center inFlorida. There, 150 people (selected from more than 1,000 applicants) enjoyed atwo-day event that included a tour of the space center, access to speakers andfront-row viewing at the actual launch. Attendees paid their own way, and theytweeted about their experience.The space agency uses Facebook weekly, mainly to post less time-sensitive information.To share its vast collection of photos, NASA uses Flickr and Twitpic, and it operates a 24x7television service (, which is also available on YouTube and UStream.Videos are freely available at, and NASA even offers tools that enableothers to embed video in other social media sites.NASA also has a highly active blogging community. NASA Administrator Charles Boldenand Deputy Administrator Lori Garver are among the many who post regularly to keep thepublic apprised of their activities. Bolden, for example, recently blogged about his visit to acompany in Melbourne, Fla., that is collecting data related to the Mars Science Laboratorymission.As if that were not enough, the space agency also operates several RSS news feeds, hostsWeb chats, and makes podcasts available for download on Apple’s iTunes website.Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-26-06:00 4
  5. 5. NASA Reaches Out with Social MediaNASA: THERES AN APP FOR THATNASA and mobile media go hand-in-hand. The official NASA app, available for bothAndroid and iPhone smartphones, is elegantly designed to squeeze a lot of materialonto a small screen. Users can find images of space, videos, tweets from various spacecenters and research programs, as well as the history of NASA and its many scientificachievements.Search for “NASA” on Apple’s App Store, and you’ll find some 50 apps createdby a variety of third-party developers using publicly available data from NASAand others. Also, a search of the Android Market books section yields more than100 NASA-related titles, ranging from “How NASA Builds Teams” to “NASA’sNew Innovation Framework.” – K.S.Keep It SimpleWith so much social engagement, how does NASA manage it all?  “The key,”says John Hopkins, Chief of Staff for NASA’s Office of the CIO, “is to keep itsimple.”Simple, in NASA’s case, means charging the team responsible for overseeingsocial media — which includes the Public Communications office, Legal and IT— to apply existing communications policies to social media. “Why reinvent thewheel?” Hopkins says. “We don’t want to destroy the free-form nature of socialmedia by introducing a lot of new rules and regulations.”Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-26-06:00 5
  6. 6. NASA Reaches Out with Social MediaTo keep bloggers, employees and astronauts on-message, everyone who speakson NASA’s behalf receives formal media training. Once training is complete,NASA takes a hands-off approach. “If we can trust them with the space station,we can trust them with Twitter,” Schierholz says.So how is NASA doing in the social universe? By at least one measure, prettywell. NASA’s Klout Score, an indicator of social media influence, is 86. While thatmay not be as impressive as teen heartthrob Justin Bieber’s score of 100, it’sconsiderably greater than Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 63.Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-26-06:00 6
  7. 7. NASA Reaches Out with Social MediaNASA is part of a larger trend, as government and other public sector organizations quicklyadopt social media. In a recent report, management consultants McKinsey & Companyfound that an impressive 74 percent of all public administration agencies worldwideuse social technologies. The only sectors that scored higher were high technology andprofessional services.What’s more, organizations that reap the greatest benefit from social mediause the technology both internally and externally, says Michael Chui, a SeniorFellow at the McKinsey Global Institute in San Francisco and co-author of thereport, “How Social Technologies Are Extending the Organization.” Social mediaenables communities of people with shared interests to come together to shareinformation and create new ways of doing things, he says. “Social media is a farless expensive way to collaborate than the older knowledge management typeof systems,” Chui says. “And the quality of the output is better, because youhave communities of people actively and continuously collaborating to createcontent.”Astronaut Wheelock experienced the power of communities firsthand when hetook some photographs from space of forest fires in South America. He sharedthe images via Twitpic and tweeted about the need for humanity to take bettercare of our planet. The global response was overwhelming. “It was crazy,” hesays. “I didn’t realize the power of getting an idea out there and then watchingpeople run with it, share it, comment on it.”Even now that he’s back on Earth after six months on the space station,Wheelock maintains an ongoing conversation with his Twitter followers. “Inspace, my number one goal was to survive,” he says. “But my number two goalwas to share my experience with every person on the planet. We’re reaching aglobal audience that we never would have reached before.”Karyl Scott is a technology journalist and content-marketing specialist based in California.Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-26-06:00 7
  8. 8. NASA Reaches Out with Social Media Smart Enterprise Magazine View the full digital edition here »Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-26-06:00 8