Even for those who don’t gaze at the stars regularly and wonder about the cosmos, the landing of the Mars rover Monday was captivating. For social media and community managers, there’s a good chance they were just as enamored with the way the NASA team handled the social media outreach surrounding the landing as the discoveries Curiosity might unearth in the coming years.
Successfully executing a spacecraft landing that’s being compared to the moon landing of 1969 is pretty stunning content that generates a ton of buzz. But lessons can be learned from NASA that bring an out-of-this-world edge to your everyday social media plans. What could your team accomplish if it applied these takeaways?
1. Think big and plan well.
Few monumental social media campaigns have been planned and built without significant planning, from conceptualizing as a team to doing the after-campaign reporting. The rover hit the surface of the planet after being lowered via tether from the sky crane touchdown system, which jetted away to crash land without damaging the rover. In other words – no easy feat. But the crew pulled it off. They thought big, planned well, measured twice, and had the guts to see the project through.
2. Think like a robot to be more human.
The Curiosity Rover’s official Twitter account, @MarsCuriosity, is a stream of entertaining, yet informative tweets about its mission to Mars that rivals even the most clever accounts. For many brands, personifying a product is a stretch. But by being real and conversational, NASA has managed to humanize something that literally is not human. Imagine what being more human can do for your company?
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 6, 2012
3. Document the process.
The video of the team at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory celebrating the successful landing of the rover was nearly as publicized Monday as the first images sent back to Earth from Curiosity – and it was nearly as exciting to watch. For brands, documenting the creation and development process for products, campaigns, and events gives your connections a behind-the-scenes look they crave. Research from Performics showed that the second most common reason people Like Facebook Pages is to get insider information and special deals from companies. Chronicling the process offers a glimpse of how the companies your fans enjoy are built.
4. Make fans feel like a part of it.
As Mashable wrote, “the Internet exploded” Monday when Curiosity landed. NASA welcomed people into the excitement, from the @MarsCuriosity Twitter feed to the live stream on Ustream to Facebook updates. This mission was no closed-door event. Even a #fundNASA hashtag erupted on Twitter that called for the crowdfunding of future NASA exploration. While a community of Earthlings, if you will, banned together for this galactic event, your brand has its own community. You’re using social media to connect with community members daily, and making them feel like a valuable part of it is like gold.
5. Break the stereotype.
When most people think about rocket scientists, they think introverted brainiacs. But as now-famous Flight Director Bobak Ferdowski has proven, all is not what it seems. His starred-spangled mohawk hit the interwebs – and the meme circuit – at warp speed. You undoubtedly have people inside your organization and ideas for social media content and programs that can challenge your customers, offer new perspectives, and strengthen their connection to your company.
It will be months, even years before data from Curiosity teaches us about Mars. But companies can boldly go where they haven’t gone before to generate conversations and connections in social media that evoke excitement.