We were honored to sit down with John Yembrick, NASA’s social media manager, at SXSW this year to discuss NASA’s leading social media programs, and what it’s like to work on campaigns that are literally out of this world.
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I’m John yeah bruh NASA I am there DC we’ve been doing it since two on social media so it’s been a kind of a slow progression to get where we are now but it’s been growing exponentially there right now we have 480 total accounts so it is going from nothing to 480 happened relatively fast and that was a little transition ship for an organization like NASA but we have such a compelling story to tell then it just made sense that beginning to be on social media reach the public directly with this content and now we’re kind of pushing them back with sticks a little bit now because every organization mission program little technology wants their own account the first account we had 2008 was mars phoenix lander and at the time it was the fifth most popular count on twitter and i could just hide from personal experience I’m an old school you know news guy that was what I kind of grew up on public relations is sending out news releases you tell your story to news media and they go out there and transmit that out to the world the success ultimately was the thing to convince people that account was you know like I said very popular on twitter and then we started going on at NASA and doing real time stuff for spacewalks real time tweets on launches and it just grew to the point where everyone kind of took notice and said this is a great way to tell our story and frankly you know we tell our store better on social media because we can tell it directly to the public we don’t have that filter of the media anymore and the amazing thing is that I think took us all by surprise which the people have been blinded and kind of isolated from the public you kind of realize wow people really love NASA and really get our content and they’re hungry for it and now we have a vehicle to feed it to one of the interesting things about NASA is that you know we made this transition from social media to mediate a social media really quickly for example we’re doing what when from NASA social but now we’re starting with credit social media followers as traditional media I don’t know any other organization does that at NASA we don’t really consider you know there’s always been this debate you know you went from print journalism to you know to radio to radio to television and I was around when they debated whether or not bloggers are really journalists NASA we’re not going to debate it social media is media and that’s how we treated it so the thing that’s told our story really really well is giving people this access and I think that’s been a highlight for me and for the agency we have people in space full time astronauts historically were been a little reluctant to beyond to do beyond social media because I think it’s just not in their culture from the very beginning we had to kind of beg people in 2008 and the first astronaut to do was Mike Massimino fame from you know the big bang theory now he just said sure why not i’ll do it and and he didn’t really know what he was getting into and of course he has like 1.2 million followers now and he’s been great his personality translated it doesn’t work that way for everybody so there’s still some challenges what we do is we try to communicate with astronauts before they fly and tell them you know this is kind of how will support you this is kind of the guidelines I think a lot of the problem we’ve had at NASA is there isn’t a good communication channel it’s kind of unknown to people so it’s our responsibility to social media team to inform not only astronauts but employees in general on kind of what best practices are what you can or can’t say because you know in government you can’t endorse products for example so if you can’t go on space J say hey watch this great movie today because there’s there are sensitivities so we just kind of try to lay all that out for people ahead of time before they fly to make them comfortable and you’ll see now more and more astronauts are tweeting and using social media space right now there’s 43 total tweeting astronauts that’s a good question i think that in the end of the day you know what we want to do we strategically look at an asset is where our people where are they getting the information from there’s lots of different tools out there in social media and a lot of things can be considered social media you know i’ll tell you the big tools that we use to communicate our google+ facebook and twitter those are the main things we put information out on our social media channels from the communication standpoint I don’t think in 35 years necessarily those are going to be the channels people are using and I think that’s okay there might be something else so we’re going to constantly be chasing whatever that is and but we take a very careful approach for two reasons one thing we don’t want to jump on something then it have the whole world shift to something else and then we kind of are always chasing it really quickly the other thing it’s difficult to bring new things online in government you can’t just start using Instagram or tumblr because you think it’s cool there’s privacy issues there’s government security issues so we have to get a government terms of services we need to get we have to work out of the privacy issues with our CIOs office so it takes time so we have to strategically think what platforms is NASA want to be on and then work an approach internally to get us online you. .