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NASA builds social empire with no budget

News, 23 November 2016

WASHINGTON, DC: NASA, the US space agency, is using social media, live video and influencers to share the wonders of space with fans all over the world – all without any advertising budget.

According to Veronica McGregor, NASA's News and Social Media Manager, the agency relies entirely on organic reach and earned media to grow its online empire.

"We do not have an advertising budget. We have never, ever done a sponsored post. We don't pay for any media at all," McGregor revealed at the Socialbakers conference in Bali, Indonesia recently. (For more details, read Warc's exclusive report: NASA shoots for the stars with social media and live streaming.)

"We are not allowed to use government funds for advertising," she added. "Everything we do is organic."

A drop in media coverage around 2008 spurred the agency to set up its own social media presence to try and reach the American public. Science simply wasn't a priority for many media outlets anymore, but Twitter offered an alternative to get the message out.

"I was using my news instincts, trying to get news directly to the public and to make up for that loss of media coverage that we were seeing," McGregor said.

In 2016, a proliferation of platforms is helping to get the message out, and all for free.

As real–time online platforms have become more common, NASA has jumped at the chance to target young people with educational content. Facebook Live, Reddit and Snapchat, among others, are bringing NASA's missions to life on social media.

"(We engage) across all kinds of platforms and we are very much trying to do more….we've been going all over the world right now with our Earth missions, sending teams to do Facebook Live with researchers as they're out there doing studies," McGregor said.

"We started doing 360-degree videos with panorama sent back from Mars by Curiosity. We took that typical NASA animation that you might see every time a mission is flying by something. We can do a pretty cool animation, but we re–projected it and put it into 360," she said.

"The first one was posted in February (and ) immediately got two million views in a very short amount of time on YouTube, then Mark Zuckerberg took it and then reposted it to Facebook as well."

Data sourced from Warc