Five Things Advocacy Groups Can Learn From NASA’s Mars Curiosity
Let’s be honest: if you didn’t hear anything about NASA’s Curiosity rover landing on Mars in the early morning hours of August 6th, you probably weren’t on social media that day. Not only did Curiosity trend on Twitter for over 24 hours, but countless memes and other viral content (two words:Mohawk guy) took over the Internet even in the face of popular Olympics coverage.
As a former NASA intern currently working in the public affairs space, I couldn’t help but feel that there were lessons from Curiosity’s online phenomenon that could be applied to groups using social media for advocacy. Here were a few of my takeaways from the NASA Curiosity experience that are applicable to online community building:
- Build your community in advance: It took four years for NASA to build the online audience that would eventually buzz around Curiosity, so start building your community before you need members to take action.
- Online-to-offline engagement works: Officially known as NASA Socials, the space agency’s tweetup-like gatherings create dialogue about important topics on social networks. Similar meet ups can help galvanize a community by giving members the opportunity to meet one another in person and have a unique, participatory experience.
- Don’t be afraid of humor: One of the reasons NASA’s social media efforts are so successful is the way they embrace the inherent quirkiness of a space agency. If well-placed levity is appropriate for your community, leverage humor to tell your story while earning the captive attention of your audience.
- Balance minutia with wide-reaching content: A particular challenge NASA faces online is translating complicated jargon (remember, this is rocket science) into social media-friendly posts. There’s nothing wrong with sharing technical information to interested members of your community, but remember to include plenty of content with a broad appeal, too!
- Share perspectives: Some may be surprised to learn thatthree women are behind Curiosity’s social media voice. From my perspective, this highlights the value that multiple perspectives can bring to an online account. Instead of stereotyping that certain accounts may be more appropriate for men or women, Democrats or Republicans, take in multiple perspectives to see what new ideas the group can come up with.
If you learned anything else from the Mars Curiosity experience that relates to your work in the advocacy community, please share it with us below! Otherwise, I will simply leave you with some of my favorite Curiosity-inspired viral content: