How NASA brings excitement about outer space to social space

Jason Townsend, NASA's deputy social manager, explains how the agency builds buzz around science and discovery on social media.

How did you tee up social media around the announcement of water on Mars?
The day before the event, we had #MarsAnnouncement trending on social media. 

That morning, everyone was buzzing around what NASA was going to announce, so when we put the news out, we knew it was going to be a big hit.

We were able to communicate that to our followers on social media. For example, we took questions on Twitter with the hashtag #AskNASA. During the Mars water announcement, we hosted a TweetChat where the scientists behind the announcement answered questions. We also had some of the science team hop on to Reddit for an Ask Me Anything, where thousands of people engaged in the session.

What is engagement like, seeing as NASA has myriad social media accounts?
Between all our 500-plus social media accounts, we reach about 84 million users across all the different networks. Within that, there is a large variety of inbound messages every day. We have been averaging about 30,000 or so daily that come in across all accounts.

Is there a major event you’re planning for?
Coming up this month, we are going to have a cargo launch from Florida to the international space station that will help re-supply the station and take some science experiments up for the astronauts to work on in the orbiting laboratory.

Launches are high priority for us on social media. We try our best to turn the volume down on other NASA activities happening on those days and turn up the volume on the launch. Our plan is to drive traffic to watch the live launch broadcast, while also sharing key messages about the significance of the cargo flying to the space station.

We also post live countdown milestones to our social media account. If you’re following the launch on Twitter, you’ll receive updates from @NASA. We try to be as instant with our tweets as possible. 

For operation activities such as a rocket launch, we pride ourselves on being both accurate and timely. We’re also hosting a NASA social session for the cargo launch. We’re inviting 50 active social media users to come out to Kennedy Space Center to get a behind-the-scenes look at it and to share their experience with friends and followers.

So, it is not just NASA and the news media reporting updates, but also the social guests we invite.

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