NASA’s lessons for effective social media engagement

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CIOL NASA’s lessons for effective social media engagement

Just like every one of us, NASA also has its own share of social media space. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration agency doesn’t need any marketing, nor does it sell anything but it does sell inspiration, said John Yembrick, the space agency’s social media manager, speaking at the annual Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition on Wednesday morning and that’s the precise reason they are there on social media.


With more than 500 social media accounts, ranging from agency-wide accounts to those focused on specific missions, NASA has its own way of telling its stories and generate attention and interest in the work it is doing.

CIOL NASA’s lessons for effective social media engagement

“This is a golden age for NASA,” Yembrick said. “That’s not only because of the missions that we’re engaged in but because we are a part of pop culture. That’s making us relevant like never before.”


He drew attention to the New Horizons spacecraft, which last July flew past the icy dwarf planet Pluto. Yembrick convinced his NASA colleagues to post the first close-up image of Pluto’s surface on Instagram about an hour before the space agency’s press conference that discussed the flyby.“We didn’t attach any news to the image,” he said. “It was just a sneak peak.”

News about the image spread like wildfire on Twitter and Facebook, and in four days after posting the image, NASA added roughly 385,000 social media followers. Not just this, with brands like Dunkin’ Donuts and Peanuts sharing their own spins on the image—which featured a distinctive heart shape—on social media, NASA garnered, even more, attention, he said.

NASA’s story is special because it has a lesson or two for retailers and other brands in effective social media engagement with consumers.


“Wherever people are looking , NASA wants to be there.”

For Yembrick, social media has taken NASA out of its cloistered life and become a part of conversations that people are having online. It is also turning space nerds or fans into advocates, ambassadors, and even collaborators. For example, NASA’s #NASASocial program lets consumers apply to get a behind-the-scenes look at NASA’s labs, launches or other activities. The expectation is that the consumers will then share those stories on social media.

The stories that result often are far more powerful than those NASA can tell itself, he said. “I can tell you every great thing that we do but I work for NASA. When a fan or customer comes out and tells a brand’s story, that story is much more powerful,” he summed up.

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