Lately, we’ve really been enjoying the new podcast from Buffer, “The Science of Social Media,” where Buffer team members chat with social media professionals from various industries and companies. Part of what makes social media so different from other marketing strategies is that it is constantly evolving, and with so many available platforms, the social strategy from one company to the next really varies. This makes it interesting to listen in to each episode and learn how social works in that person’s organization – and seeing if any of those tips can apply to what we’re doing for our clients.

One of the episodes of the podcast that really caught our attention was with John Yembrick, NASA’s social media manager. NASA has more than 500 social media accounts and reaches more than 15 million people – and the social team is close to 200 people across the agency.

John started out at NASA in a more traditional communications role, but he was excited by the conversation made possible via social media. As he points out, with a traditional media hit – even in a well-known publication – you never are certain if people are reading it and what their thoughts are, but with social media you get direction interaction with the public and real-time feedback.

John and his teammates run the flagship NASA accounts. It’s a small team of people who are largely responsible for themselves – there is not a lot of oversight or internal review for their content. To that end, he offered some valuable insight into how his team runs its social accounts, most of which can be applied to any organization.

  • Have a goal. John’s goal is to get NASA in front the widest audience possible. As a result, reach is an important stat. It can be hard to gauge success, but John and his team look at the shares they get on every post, every day. Shares mean they’re reaching more people – more new people – and it also shows that the content is connecting enough for people to take the extra step.
  • Know your general audience. John’s team covers NASA in a broad sense – there are many more social teams that detail specific launches, projects, etc. So, John and his team paint in broad strokes, sharing general information and overall research in a way that is relatable to anyone. Those interested in the details can head to the more specific social accounts for more information.
  • Know your target audience. NASA may want to reach everyone, but some segments of its audience are more important than others. For instance, NASA wants to promote science, technology, and math as a career path for girls, so it wants to engage them at a young age. In order to do that, it needs to publish content in places where it will actually reach young girls. That’s why NASA opened a Snapchat account. They also find and engage with influencers who will reach that audience, which is why you may see NASA tweet Justin Bieber or One Direction.
  • Know your brand. As a scientific organization, people expect accuracy from the NASA brand. If there is even a misplaced semicolon in a tweet, John deletes or corrects it. The team understands that NASA should look near flawless online. The team also is challenged by the fact that they are not selling a product or asking for people to spend money – they’re selling inspiration. All the content that they share serves the purpose of inspiring those that follow them.
  • Mistakes happen. Listen, even NASA makes mistakes. Once John posted a tweet that confused the moon with the sun. People noticed. John deleted it and posted a correction. Strive for perfection but understand that mistakes happen – and move on.
  • Find the right platform. Platforms are always evolving, so John and his team are always trying new things. But, some content is better on certain platforms. For NASA, a great photo will play better on Instagram. If they have an interesting soundbite, it goes up SoundCloud. Never stop learning and trying new things, but don’t force content. NASA doesn’t even have a guideline on how many posts should go out – it’s all organic.
  • Be relevant and passionate. Don’t just tout your own products or services. Social media is all about creating and participating in conversation. Find a way to be relevant and get people interested.
  • Change is slow. Social media requires that people think differently about how they communicate. This requires a cultural shift that doesn’t always happen quickly. Respect that and be nimble and flexible with how you frame content.

John’s conversation with Buffer shows the value of social media and the relevancy it has in today’s marketing environment. With the proper strategy and support, social can have a major impact for any organization. If your organization is looking to revamp or develop a social media strategy, we’re happy to help craft a plan that supports your goals and reaches your intended audience.

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