How NASA Uses Social Media to Connect With People5 min read

NASA Social is the space agency’s social media program that engages and rewards its followers. Qualifying social media followers can enter to win access to tours and facilities by using the #NASASocial hashtag. The randomly selected winners will then be able to access exclusive events.

NASA provides VIP access to a small number of winners to its facilities. One of the events NASA hosted allowed 30 social media followers to tour the Langley Research Center in Virginia, the facility used for the Artemis program, for a behind-the-scenes look at how engineers are working on in-space assembly and supersonic flights.

Space exploration is hot these days. Astronaut Scott Kelly’s Twitter has 5.5 million followers interested in his adventures. An account highlight was when followers were abuzz after noticing some lights in a photo he shared while spending 340 days aboard the International Space Station, which many claimed to be UFOs.

The COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandate means NASA Social’s slated physical events are no longer possible, but NASA has adapted by hosting live videos on its social media channels. In a small survey of social media users, the majority (63.7%) responded they’re likely to use more social media more during their confinement at home. If the survey reflects the nationwide attitude of social media users, the world is watching NASA. And the agency’s concept of providing behind-the-scenes access to its social media followers seems like a genius marketing move. Here’s more about the NASA Social program:

NASA Social’s Social Media Strategy

NASA has accounts on most of the top social media platforms. The most popular include 36 million followers on Twitter, almost 23 million on Facebook, and nearly 60 million on Instagram. These are impressive figures, but it doesn’t look like NASA is planning on resting on its laurels any time soon.

The NASA Social program is far cleverer than many realize — in-person events and access credentials aren’t randomly given away. Instead, they’re targeted at a select number of followers. According to the NASA Social website, to qualify for an access credential or attendance, followers must:

  • Use “multiple social networking platforms”
  • Have a “unique audience” that’s different from traditional news media or NASA audiences
  • Regularly produce multimedia content
  • Reach a large number of people
  • Have an established history on social media platforms
  • Have postings that are highly visible and widely recognized

NASA is basically asking for influencers to help them grow their audience. They’re giving them access to exclusive events and meet and greets so that influencers can broadcast to their followers in their social media niches. NASA Social is taking the influencer collaboration digital marketing concept and doing it better, reaching a new and younger audience.

Engaging a New Audience

NASA Social is leveraging its exclusive footage by involving influencers with niche audiences who may not normally follow NASA’s activity. Women use Facebook and Instagram more than men, providing NASA access to a broader feminine demographic.

Then there are the teenagers who rate Snapchat and Instagram as their top two favorite social media channels. Teenagers and young adults can follow NASA on Snapchat. And even if they don’t, their favorite Snapchat accounts may be broadcasting live from NASA sometime soon. Plus, there are a number of astronauts posting to Instagram.

If NASA can engage younger generations of women through social media, they may open a whole new world of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to them. It would be beneficial since women represent a small number in science and math careers. According to UNESCO, only 35% of women go into STEM fields.

NASA Social’s social media strategy may be based on growing its audience, but it’s also transforming social media into an educational and activism tool. It takes social media beyond simply connecting with friends by providing a view into how government and technology work, doing a lot of good for society as a whole.

Other Educational Social Media Accounts

Besides NASA, other government agencies, nonprofits, and organizations are turning to social media to garner new followers and support. They include:

  • The National Park Service’s Instagram account, which consistently receives close to 50,000 likes or more for its posts of beautiful nature scenes from the country’s parks.
  • The National Cowboy Museum’s Twitter account, whose posts have gone viral since Tim the security guard took over the social media account and is learning all about how to use #hashtagInstagram.
  • TED, which shares portions of its most popular talks on Facebook to an audience of almost 15 million followers.

A New Way to Use Social Media

With shelter at home mandates in place, millions of people around the world are stuck indoors, providing NASA and other organizations with a captive audience. NASA’s educational streams are a good resource for school teachers and parents interested in enriching their children’s learning — and are also fascinating enough for adults to enjoy, too.

NASA is reaching new audiences by enlisting influencers with niche audiences by providing them with access traditional journalists receive. In reaching out to unique, niche audiences on social media, NASA is tapping into younger generations.

The NASA Social program is changing how we use social media by offering users more than just a place to check in with friends and share their experiences. The program has brought millions of people together for unique social media experiences of exploration and discovery by allowing backstage access to a day in the life of a NASA engineer or researcher. In opening its labs and facilities to the world, NASA is potentially inspiring a whole new generation of future scientists, mathematicians, and engineers.

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Sam Bowman
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Sam Bowman writes about science and tech. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.

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