NASA hosts its largest tweet-up for Atlantis launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL: NASA invited 96 people to Kennedy Space Center for a tweet-up for the lift-off of Space Shuttle Atlantis November 15 and 16.

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL: NASA invited 96 people to Kennedy Space Center for a tweet-up for the lift-off of Space Shuttle Atlantis November 15 and 16. This is the fifth time NASA has hosted a tweet-up event, but "it is by far the biggest, most involved one," said Stephanie Schierholz, public affairs specialist for NASA.

"NASA, because we're a government agency, has limited ways in which we can reach the public; we can't advertise, for example," she said. "We're always looking for new avenues to reach out to taxpayers, the people who pay for NASA, and let them know what their nation's space program is up to. Twitter is a natural outlet to use and a medium to reach people."

NASA has more than 50 Twitter accounts, including several astronauts, and several pages on Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and MySpace. Social media outreach is always in addition to NASA's traditional media outreach around launches, events, and news, Schierholz said.

Working on PR internally, NASA overall spent between $10,000 and $15,000 on the PR for the two-day event, which included tours and discussions for the participants to tweet about. Some of the events were also shown on Ustream, and NASA is using #NASATweetUp, which was in the top three trending topics on Twitter on November 15.

The new "Tweeps" for NASA signed up to participate starting on October 16, and NASA offered the experience to the first 115 to sign up. Participants had to be active on Twitter, come to both days of the program, and pay their way to Cape Canaveral, FL. Schierholz said NASA estimates the participants are reaching between 150,000 to 170,000 followers with their commentary.

"They bring a whole new level of enthusiasm for being here," she said. "The press who come to launches have been here year after year and they still find it cool, but this is that initial excitement."

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