VIDEO: NASA Unveils the Social Media Mystery Behind #PlutoFlyby

When NASA lifted the veil on planet Pluto on July 14 of this year, John Yembrick and his team wasted no time pushing out the message across different social media platforms. During his opening keynote at ClickZ Live in San Francisco, Yembrick shared the social strategy behind #PlutoFlyby’s success.

NASA posted a sneak peek image on Instagram at 7 a.m., waiting an hour before officially releasing it. The first Pluto image generated more than 35,000 likes and became the most successful NASA Instagram image ever, according to Yembrick.

Beyond Instagram, NASA posted the Pluto image to Twitter and hosted a TweetChat, #askNASA, where two scientists answered 63 questions in 45 minutes. The space agency also initiated a Facebook Q&A and Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) around planet Pluto to drive engagement.

The results, in Yembrick’s own words, were phenomenal. On Twitter, NASA’s Pluto post reached around 38.6 million users with total engagements – replies, retweets and favorites – exceeding 65,000; on Reddit, the Pluto conversation is ranked the 14th top Reddit AMA of all time.

“We are very proud of our PlutoFlyby campaign,” Yembrick said during his keynote presentation. “We have seen great success on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, et cetera.”

He continued that when brands start a social conversation, they should participate in it, rather than walk away.

“It’s also important to ask for feedback,” Yembrick added. “Respond to mentions on Twitter, comments on blog and Facebook.”

Of course, NASA’s social success is not limited to #PlutoFlyby. Yembrick and his team have built sustainable success on social by leveraging other major events. For example, on Super Bowl Sunday, NASA tweeted stunning photos of supernovas throughout the day, encouraging both space and football lovers to retweet the nebula that has the colors of the team they support this Super Bowl: red and blue for the Patriots, or blue and green for the Seahawks. And in 2013, NASA initiated the hashtag #BlackHoleFriday to inform the public about black holes. The hashtag has since been used by brands such as Dunkin Donuts.

NASA also created its own reality show – NASA Social – that encourages its social media followers to share NASA news. “NASA has had great success creating brand ambassadors by inviting social fans to in-person or behind-the-scenes opportunities at NASA center,” Yembrick said.

With 500 social media accounts – most recently, NASA joined Tumblr and audio distribution platform SoundCloud – managed by employees at 10 different field centers in the U.S., Yembrick admitted that measurement is a big challenge.

“We always think about metrics work: reach, impressions, followers and retweets, et cetera, but for me, sharing is the most important metric to look at,” he said. “I don’t only look at how many people are sharing, but also who is sharing. If Justin Bieber and his female fans start following our social account, that’s my success.”

Watch our video interview with Yembrick below to know more about the success behind #PlutoFlyby, how to create sustainable success across different social platforms, and what other brands can learn from NASA’s strategy.

Homepage image via Shutterstock

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