NASA Is Proving That Space Might Be the Final Frontier for Organic Social Content

The government agency has over 500 branded channels

The moon, as seen from the International Space Station.
Alexander Gerst/NASA

In the social media galaxy, gravity doesn’t exist. At least for social media managers at the whims of algorithm changes, what’s up one day is down the next. And forget about entropy, where a social post loses its legs moments after running.

But what if we told you that there was an organization with more than 500 branded social media channels, populating those channels solely with organic content and seeing strong engagement? Impossible, you’d say. But when you have the capability to feature images that are literally out of this world, you find that the likes and the retweets are like the rockets of a space shuttle, waiting to virally blast off across the web.

No one can hear you post in space … unless you’re NASA.

NASA deputy social media manager Jason Townsend and digital engagement strategist Brittany Brown recently discussed the agency’s social media strategy, which includes traditional platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, as well as less-frequented destinations like Reddit and even SoundCloud.

Since NASA is a government agency, its social posts are all organic out of necessity, as promoting them would require use of taxpayer dollars.

Townsend said NASA leans heavily on social media management platform Sprinklr to post an average of six to eight times daily on Facebook and LinkedIn and tweet 10 to 12 times per day, except during live events—such as rocket launches, space walks and question-and-answer sessions with experts—when that figure can go as high as 25 tweets daily.

The agency also aims to post one photo or video to Instagram each day, as well as two to three Stories weekly on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, each with roughly six to 10 elements.

Townsend said NASA’s posts typically reach tens of millions of people daily across all of its platforms, generating tens of thousands of interactions (comments, replies, messages), as well as hundreds of thousands of likes per day.

“Everybody has that little bit of childlike wonderment in them,” he added. “If we can find that curiosity in every person out there and pull it out of them, then we can really engage with an audience that is interested in what we’re talking about.”

When asked if the U.S. Space Force, the new military branch proposed by President Donald Trump, gets any credit for NASA’s continued social momentum, Townsend said not really, adding that while there is “big conversation going on around Space Force,” and his team is monitoring it, questions on this topic are actually referred to a different government agency, the Department of Defense.

One impact the Trump administration has had on NASA’s social efforts: The president’s National Space Council has been bullish on a potential return trip to the moon, and content from the agency has shifted to reflect that.

Townsend said NASA’s social strategy is always evolving, regardless of which administration is in power. “We are blessed with incredible content,” he added. “At the end of the day, we make sure that content is seen by as many people as possible.”

Townsend and Brown oversee a team of “dozens and dozens of individuals,” tasked with creating, scheduling and posting to NASA’s 500-plus accounts and working under its digital services division.

“Our operations may be different from other government agencies,” Brown said, calling them “very integrated.”

NASA adapted to Facebook’s algorithm changes by focusing on Facebook Live for live events and expanding its use of Facebook Stories.

Its strategy is similar for Twitter when it comes to videos, and NASA also incorporates question-and-answer sessions on Facebook and chats on Twitter.

The organization’s treasure trove of visual content plays well on Instagram, and Brown said NASA uses Instagram Stories and IGTV to “tell longer, more lasting stories,” mapping out content that will be produced for those channels with an editorial calendar.

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