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NASA uses social media platforms to bridge digital and physical

John Yembrick, who heads social media at the NASA space program, discussed bridging its online and its physical presence.

While social media is helping to stir digital presence and online exposure, many organizations find that their social presence is really about enhancing their exposure in the physical world as well.

At the Social Shake-Up in Atlanta in early June, John Yembrick, who heads social media at the NASA space program, talked about bridging the gap between the organization's presence online and its physical presence.

John YembrickJohn Yembrick

"Since 2008, we've been taking that online experience offline," Yembrick said. "We advertise certain events at NASA, and they are usually around high-profile things, like the Mars Curiosity landing. … We invite people to apply, sometimes as many as 1,000 … and we give them behind-the-scenes experiences that the rest of the public can't see in hopes that they will go out and share with their followers on social media on Twitter and Facebook. It really expands the reach of our content."

Yembrick said that by connecting the digital and physical worlds, NASA has boosted its exposure. So, for example, after NASA holds an event, it turns to its "ambassadors" or champions, who may post about their experiences on Twitter and Facebook. In this way, NASA allows its constituencies to spread the word about space exploration rather than evangelizing itself.

"If you bring one of your ambassadors, so to speak … these people that care about your content and want to talk about it, you have an outside influencer saying you're great," he said.

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How do metrics play into your social media strategy?
Our social media strategy takes advantage of the metrics we have to help determine what the people that consumers our content are most interested in. This not only helps us determine what content to show, and when to show it, to attract the most viewers, but it also helps us tailor our message that we deliver via social media to help promote that content and provide supporting information. For example, if we notice that a particular subject is starting to trend on social media, we can adjust our schedule to show more content related to that subject, and then use social media to promote that schedule change and provide additional information that the consumers may be interested in.
Metrics help shape our social media strategy, sometimes far too much for the good of our products. While it would be ill advised to ignore the metrics completely, many of the companies we deal with are far too locked into "approved" strategies. And that blinds them to creative approaches and new voices. The endless din of voices begin with "how did that test....?
I’m surprised more organizations aren’t taking this approach. It’s cost effective, it’s more likely to target people that are more interested than a blanket media statement, and it helps people feel that they have a larger stake in the project.