A NASA social media manager explains how the space agency keeps its 29 million Instagram followers intrigued.

How much planning goes into covering a big NASA event?

For the 2017 solar eclipse, we started planning six to eight months in advance: how to live stream views of the eclipse on Facebook; how to get Snaps in different places for Snapchat; how we were going to turn around video clips in real time. 

How many different accounts do you check each day?

We have more than 500 social media accounts on 18 platforms. We have a dashboard that follows all of them and we look for great content to amplify using the big NASA account. We also take followers who come to the flagship accounts with an interest in something niche and funnel them to the right account for more information.

Does content have to go through a process of checks?

As long as the information is ready for public release, it’s fair game for us to do anything on social media that we think will boost it. We try to be creative with how we package and optimise everything for different social audiences. None of what NASA does is paid social media – we don’t do advertising, we don’t boost posts – so when someone retweets or posts us into their feed, that’s the ultimate gratification for us.

As a public agency using a private platform, what issues do you need to be aware of?

Every time we join a new platform, we carefully vet it and determine whether it brings a unique audience. As a government agency, we contact the platforms directly and work through the fine print, such as jurisdiction for legal issues. 

What advice would you give to other organisations about using social media?

Find what’s unique about you, put it out there and listen to feedback to make it better. I realise not everyone has access to spaceships and the universe but when it comes down to it, what we’re doing is taking what is unique to our organisation and sharing it with an engaged audience and staying engaged with them. We pride ourselves on the amount of “reply” we give folks.

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