What B2B companies can learn from NASA

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Do you know that NASA has about 500 social media accounts across multiple networks? Such an effort means a massive social media team and a lot of work…and lessons for any business hoping to make a splash in social media.

The space giant’s strategy isn’t just spray-and-pray. Rather, their posts offer a sneak peek into the tech and science to entice any sci-fi lover or wannabe astronaut.

What makes NASA such an enviable social brand? And what are the lessons that B2B companies can learn and apply to their own online presence? I have highlighted five in this article.

#1: Know your customers

For most of us, the word “NASA” brings to mind space, telescopes, shuttles, and beautiful pictures of galaxies and comets. Thanks to their access to extraordinary images, the agency has jumped on the Instagram bandwagon and attracted 2.1 million followers.

 

A sample NASA Instagram post
A sample NASA Instagram post

(Source: http://instagram.com/p/xSN50aIaEU)

The official account offers a variety of dreamy and inspiring photos. NASA also uploads some incredible videos, like the one featuring a recent solar eruption.

“Instagram has a passionate following of users who are hungry for new and exciting photos. We believe we have some of the most engaging images on and off the planet — and we can’t wait to engage with Instagrammers,” says NASA Press Secretary Lauren Worley in a press release.

This statement sums up exactly why NASA has a stellar Instagram presence. The agency understands what makes its audience there tick by offering content that they really want. The high level of engagement on posts is further proof of that successful strategy.

The same goes for what the agency does on YouTube. However, this time, the focus is more on news, trends, and what goes on behind the scenes.

Takeaway: Your clients are not uniform. The platforms that they use to connect with others say a lot about their needs and expectations. Take advantage of those connections to customize your messages. What you post on Instagram should be very different from what you post on YouTube.

#2: Make it about your customers, not you

A few years ago, NASA created NASA Social, a hub for everything NASA: missions, people, and programs. When the agency organizes behind-the-scenes events (e.g., tours, news conferences, demonstrations, and interviews), social media influencers can use the site to apply for media credentials.

To be eligible, the users need to meet specific requirements. For instance, they must be active on multiple social networks, post clean content, and have a large, non-traditional audience. If selected, they enjoy the same privileges as journalists.

Imagine being able to cover the next space launch or meet your favorite astronaut. In addition, share what you saw and experienced with your network. What a great way to create advocacy for your company!

Takeaway: Your audience is your gateway to success. To create impacting campaigns, focus on building an emotional connection with your customers, which is just one way to change how people feel about products and services.

#3: Don’t be afraid to experiment with multiple platforms

Many use social media in the same way they use the traditional media. News releases are almost all they know.

As a B2B brand or marketer, you need to get out of your comfort zone and reach out to your customers in non-traditional ways.

NASA understands that well. When the agency launched Orion last year, the social media team leveraged platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to create big buzz around the event. Social media users were also advised to use the hashtags #NASASocial and #Orion in their conversations.

 

The day of the launch, NASA broadcast the event on its website and Ustream in real time, while the social media team constantly updated dedicated accounts to keep the conversation going with viewers.

And the icing on the cake: 150 social media influencers had the opportunity to attend the event in person, on top of regular journalists.

The result? According to Campaign US, on the day of the event, people tweeted about Orion more than 320,000 times, while NASA reached 13.3 million Facebook users. The @NASA_Orion account also gained 30,000 followers in two days.

Takeaway: Social media campaigns do not have to be complex to work. It all boils down to careful planning, clear and easy-to-remember rules and hashtags, and taking advantage of the platforms that your customers and followers enjoy using.

#4: Be responsive

Do you know that 7 in 10 Twitter users expect an answer from brands they interact with? That is something that NASA understands as well. The agency has Twitter accounts for different things: its missions, astronauts, organizations and programmes, and centers and facilities.

Many handles just post news and updates. However, you will find quite a few that respond to followers and even begin conversations with them.

For example, @MarsCuriosity does not just deliver frequent updates on the Mars Rover mission. The team also answers questions quickly.

marsconvo

(Source: https://twitter.com/MarsCuriosity/status/549994993780142081)

The same goes for the ISS research account, NASA’s official source for research news from the International Space Station.

issconvo

(Source: https://twitter.com/ISS_Research/status/552436390257246210)

The staff handles are, of course, the most interesting of the list. Social media users get to learn more about the work of their favorite astronauts — and even interact with them. That kind of access can keep visitors returning for deeper insight into the NASA lifestyle.

(Source: https://twitter.com/AstroMarshburn/status/444636869913886720)

Takeaway: Your clients are not following you on social platforms just to hear about your latest news, products, and services. They also expect a connection with you, even as minimal as a quick answer to a question. Brands like NASA or Dell have used Twitter as a way to perfect the customer care experience. Always check the engagement column of your Twitter accounts to find out what others are saying about your company and don’t be afraid of interaction.

#5: It’s always about the journey

Anyone familiar with NASA has probably heard of NASA 360. Launched in 2008, the series highlights the stories behind the agency’s technologies and missions. So far, it has aired on hundreds of TV stations in the U.S. and is one of the most downloaded programmes on the NASA website.

Why has NASA 360 been so successful? First of all, you get videos with a strong focus on context and quality visuals. The content, which is also available as vodcasts, is presented in plain English. And there are also transcriptions for those who prefer reading.

The transcription for the video is here.

The second reason for the success of the programme is the use of Facebook to reach a younger demographic. The social media team don’t just post videos, they also share some jaw-dropping photos and write contextualized introductions that entice you to leave comments.

Sample post from the NASA 360 Facebook Page
Sample post from the NASA 360 Facebook Page

The Facebook Page now has 3.7 million (talkative) fans!

Takeaway: While there are many B2B competitors that provide similar services and/or products, none has the same story as you. That’s what makes you unique.

Sharing that story with your customers will help build transparency and trust. This, in turn, will increase leads and referrals. In 2015, visual storytelling is the best salesman available.

What other lessons can we learn from NASA? Let us know below or on Twitter via @b2bnewsnetwork

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Cendrine Marrouat

Cendrine Marrouat

Cendrine Marrouat is a content creator & curator, social media trainer, author, and photographer. She is also the founder of Social Media Slant, a blog helping small business owners and solo-entrepreneurs to figure out the basics of social media. "The Little Big eBook on Social Media Audiences: Build Yours, Keep It, and Win", her latest social media ebook, was awarded a 2015 Small Business Book Award in the Social Media Category. Website: http://cendrinemarrouat.com
2 comments
DanMaxwellJr
DanMaxwellJr

Thank you for sharing this Cendrine,  I'll definitely take cues from this post to help my clients better.
I think many marketers whether B2B or B2C don't spend enough time getting to know their audience. This is key for every profession. Whether one is an accountant, a Minister, a dentist or a chef, s/he needs to identify the audience their dealing with.  


Thank you again