A Look At NASA’s Social Media Program

Whenever I talk with new clients about social media initiatives, one of the key points is having a social media plan or strategy. Social media is a time and resource intensive effort, and if you spend the time up front developing a plan, you can distribute the work and make the overall project more effective in the long run. In this column, I’d like to take a look at how the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (aka NASA) tackles social media.

Everyone has social media channels that they prefer to use, and by creating a social media hub with links to all of the social media areas they participate in, it makes it easy for end users, and search engines to discover them. Another interesting and noteworthy point, is that NASA has chosen to divide content into different channels, by mission. For example, there is a Facebook Channel for the Ares I-X program, a Flickr channel , a Twitter channel, and a YouTube channel. What this does is give them the flexibility to cross-post the best content. The best photos from Flickr and videos from YouTube were cross-posted into the Facebook account. But the Facebook account has other pictures that aren’t in the Flickr account. There’s overlap, but each channel has unique content or value add.

Another sticking point that many organizations face when engaging in social media is controlling the message. Many organizations favor a top down, tightly controlled, output of information. In fact, the NFL and Dreamworks Animation are inserting clauses and restrictions on Twitter usage for employees. In a recent interview about how NASA uses Twitter, it was revealed there are over 100 NASA employees using Twitter. While there isn’t an official policy in place, they do ask everyone to abide by their “release of government information guidelines” when using social media.

To get the most out of social media, it’s important for information be released in a timely fashion. Creating bottlenecks of very small groups of people who are allowed to publish/approve will limit your success. Instead, set up some ground rules, and let everyone who agrees to abide by them to publish freely. When you do, you end up with interesting and unexpected results, like this TwitPic of a spent rocket booster from the Ares X-1 launch bobbing in the ocean waiting to be recovered.

Here are some takeaways that you can put into action after looking at NASA’s strategy:

  • Create accounts for each different type of platform (blogging, microblogging, pictures, and video). You may never use that service/content, but if you decide to, it’s good to already have an account in place.
  • Unless one service offers an advantage which matches your vertical market, choose the most popular service.
  • Be aware of market trends and shift accordingly, 2 years ago having a mySpace page was important, today it’s more important to be on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Give each channel its own unique content, and cross promote the best of each channel. The best pictures and videos, should always make it into your blog, Facebook page and Twitter stream.
  • Information wants to be free, set up basic guidelines of what is and isn’t acceptable with your employees, and subcontractors. Don’t require anyone to become involved, but as long as it doesn’t interfere with their job, allow and encourage engagement.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social

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About The Author: has over 10 years experience in website development and internet marketing. He has helped companies with internal search engine optimization strategies for both ecommerce and informational websites. He publishes controversial industry thoughts and observations on his blog at www.wolf-howl.com

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