Twitter in Space: How Social Media is Saving Space Travel


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Social Media Week

Social media’s role as a news source in space travel has become even more important in recent years. Space exploration was initially driven almost entirely (at least financially) by competition, but things have clearly changed.

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Public support of space travel was massive during the 1950s and 1960s. People saw it as both an essential part of national defense, and a way to assert superiority over The Soviet Union. However, with a victory in the space race, NASA could no longer retain the political or public support it needed to fund its most ambitious ideas.

Great programs, such as the Space Shuttle, Mars Rover, and International Space Station were launched, but gone were the hopes of things like lunar bases or a manned trip to Mars. Despite many Americans believing incorrectly that NASA takes up a large part of the federal government’s total budget, it has actually continued to take up a smaller and smaller percentage since the end of the space race.

Before the rise of the internet and social media, news was far more static and one-directional. Because of this, misconceptions about NASA and the space program were able to saturate public perception. Recently, however, there has been a change in this. People are starting to take interest in space travel again, and social media has played a vital role in this.

NASA: Stellar Social Marketers

Just because the content originates from outside Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t mean that it follows completely different rules than other social marketing campaigns. For NASA and other space agencies,  social media is now an incredibly powerful marketing tool.

While they may not be using it to directly sell a specific product, they are still using it to raise awareness and support. They want people talking about, interacting with, linking to, and sharing to their content.

This is not because it actually helps or affects their mission in any way, but because it gets people excited about what they are doing, and public support is key to attaining additional government funding.

As a cause, space travel has had some fantastic success with social marketing. NASA has 14 million Twitter followers on their main account and regularly receives incredibly large amounts of interaction with their tweets, which frequently link to their content elsewhere. This kind of consistent social media performance shows that there is a high level of public interest in space travel and NASA’s scientific efforts.

Having consistently solid interaction like is a great sign of social media success, and is key to keeping your audience engaged. NASA routinely goes beyond this, however, by actively utilizing smart tactics grow their social presence such as crafting content that fits with things that people are talking about, such as this tweet from the day of last year’s Super Bowl.

Twitter: Our Galactic News Source

Social media presents an amazing opportunity for sharing pictures and real-time updates from ongoing missions in space. This brings an amazing opportunity to keep the general public connected and invested in space exploration.

However, there is another aspect of social media that has made an even larger impact on pointing the public’s interest back toward the stars.

These days, we no longer huddle around the TV with our families to hear updates on our astronauts on the evening news. Instead, we watch our Twitter feeds. Social media has taken a pursuit that could not possibly be further away from the average person and put it directly into people’s pockets. It has made it interactive and dynamic in ways never before imaginable.

Instead of some far off and disconnected idea, space travel now has a tangibility to it that was desperately needed for a long time. We don’t only have the ability to see what astronauts are up to, but we can even interact with them through social media. We can tweet them questions and have decent hope for a reply, or even a video demonstration.

 

Social media’s role as a news source in space travel has become even more important in recent years. Space exploration was initially driven almost entirely (at least financially) by competition. Each milestone achieved was driven by America and Soviet Union trying to one-up each other.

However, once America landed on the moon, this competition was substantially diminished, and continued to fall throughout the decline and eventual fall of the Soviet Union. While this brought on amazing and new types of collaboration between Russia and America, the lack of competition wasn’t very compelling to the public.

Now, however, there is a new type of space competition for people to take interest in—the private sector. With companies like SpaceX making monumental moves to advance space exploration, and Mars One making headlines for less stellar reasons, there is finally drama and competition in space travel again.

This gives people something to care about and pay attention to, and social media has been the perfect delivery system for this. Now, even failures can be great opportunities to draw more attention.

This is because, whether it is realistic or not, we have been told that we we can live on Mars someday, and people are watching hopefully.



Zachary Evans

Freelance writer,

ZacharyMEvans

Zachary Evans is a freelance writer from Boise, Idaho. He graduated from Boise State University with a degree in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing. He spends his free time playing music, writing, reading, and hoping to someday live on the Moon. Follow him on twitter: @ZacharyMEvans



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